German Grammar Explained /

Nein, nicht or kein?

There are only three ways of negating in German: NEIN, NICHT and KEIN. Compare this to English where there are many other possibilities such as No, not, never, none, nobody, nothing...this is one of those instances where German is less complex than English!
So how do we know whether we should use nein, nicht or kein?
Möchtest du ein Bier?
Would you like a beer?
» Nein, danke!
No, thank you!
» Ich trinke nicht.
I don't drink.
» Ich mag kein Bier.
I don't like beer. (Literally: I like no beer.)
1. When do we use "nein"?
Nein is used exclusively to answer yes/no-questions, we never use it in the middle of a sentence.
Lernst du Deutsch?
Are you learning German?
» Nein.
2. When do we use "kein/keine"?
We use kein/keine before nouns:
Ich habe ein Auto. (I have a car)
Ich habe kein Auto. (I have no car)
Ich habe eine Limousine. (I have a limousine)
Ich habe keine Limousine. (I have no limousine)
3. When do we use "nicht"?
For all the rest.
For example:
  • to negate verbs: Ich trinke nicht.(I don’t drink)
  • to negate adverbs: Ich wohne nicht hier.(I don’t live here)
  • to negate adjectives: Wir sind nicht alt.(We are not old)
A good way to assimilate this is by making a few positive sentences and then negating them. This is an easy but important bit of grammar that is used in everyday speech all the time!​
For the Grammar Nerds
1. What is a verb?
A word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, such as hear, learn, or happen. 2. What is an adjective?
A word naming an attribute of a noun, such as sweet, blue, or magical.
3. What is an adverb?
Adverbs provide information about: manner: He spoke slowly. place: We met there. time: We will meet tomorrow. degree: It was quite interesting.