The Position of 'Nicht' in German Sentences

Where you put 'night' in a sentence is easy

Night
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In German, the position of nicht (not) in a sentence is actually quite simple and straightforward. You just have to keep in mind a few points and nicht will fall right into place.

Nicht as an Adverb

Nicht is an adverb, so you will always find it either before or after a verb, adjective or fellow adverb. It usually precedes an adverb or an adjective, but it likes to settle after conjugated verbs. (So think the opposite of English.)

For example: Ich trinke nicht meine Limonade. (I'm not drinking my lemonade.)

Nicht and Declarative Sentences

On the other hand, nicht likes to travel all the way to the end of a sentence at times. This happens most often with declarative sentences. For example:

A sentence with just a subject and verb: Sie arbeitet nicht. (She is not working.) 

A sentence with a direct object (mir): Er hilft mir nicht. (He doesn't help me.) 

The same applies with simple yes/no questions. For example: 

Gibt der Schüler dem Lehrer die Leseliste nicht? (Is the student not giving the reading list to the teacher?)

Nicht and Separable and Compound Verbs

With verbs, nicht will bounce around a bit depending on the type of verb. 

  • Nicht will be positioned right before a verb prefix in a sentence containing a separable verb. For example: 
    Wir gehen heute nicht einkaufen. (We are not going shopping today.)
  • Nicht will be positioned right before an infinitive or infinitives that are part of a verbal combination. For example: 
    Du sollst nicht schlafen. (You should not sleep.)
    Du wirst jetzt nicht schlafen gehen. (You are not going to sleep now.)

    Nicht and Adverbs of Time

    The adverbs of time that have chronological logic to them will usually be followed by nicht. These are adverbs such as gestern (yesterday), heute (today), morgen (tomorrow), früher (earlier), and später (later). For example: 

    Sie ist gestern nicht mitgekommen. (She did not come along yesterday.)

    Contrarily, adverbs of time that do not have a chronological logic to them will be preceded by nicht. For example: 

    Er wird nicht sofort kommen. (He will not come right away.)

    With all other adverbs, nicht is usually positioned directly before them. For example: 

    Simone fährt nicht langsam genug. (Simone doesn't drive slow enough.)

    Rules of 'Nicht' in Summary

    Nicht will usually follow: Adverbs that can be organized chronologically.

    Nicht will usually precede:

    • adverbs of time that cannot be organized chronologically
    • all other adverbs
    • verbs
    • separable verb prefix
    • verb infinitives
    • adjectives
    • prepositional phrases
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    Your Citation
    Bauer, Ingrid. "The Position of 'Nicht' in German Sentences." ThoughtCo, Nov. 10, 2017, thoughtco.com/the-position-of-nicht-1444481. Bauer, Ingrid. (2017, November 10). The Position of 'Nicht' in German Sentences. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-position-of-nicht-1444481 Bauer, Ingrid. "The Position of 'Nicht' in German Sentences." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-position-of-nicht-1444481 (accessed December 18, 2017).