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The Placement of Nicht in a Sentence

Nicht (not) is an adverb, and as a verb modifier will fall easily into place if you observe a few basic rules. It usually comes before another adverb or adjective, but unlike the English "not," usually comes after verbs.


Ich mag es nicht, Lebensmittel zu verschwenden.

Uh, I do not like to waste food.

Caption 50, Werbung gegen Realität - Kunstprojekt Fertigprodukte

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The German sentence above states literally: "I like it not..."

Declarative sentences and questions requiring simple yes or no answers usually have nicht falling at the end of the sentence, also unlike English:


Den brauchen wir nicht.

We do not need that.

Caption 24, Cannelloni - mit Jenny

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Du weißt auch nicht?

You do not know either?

Caption 6, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren - Der Relativsatz

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Nicht falls before the last part of a separable verb and before the infinitive in a sentence with a compound verb:


Aber die Dortmunder müssen und wollen sich nicht verstecken.

But the Dortmund [team] does not have or want to hide.

Caption 12, Der Pott ist da - Der DFB-Pokal

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Nicht is placed after adverbs of chronological time such as früher (earlier), gestern (yesterday), heute (today), morgen (tomorrow), and später (later).


Rock 'n' Roll ist heute nicht mehr so seins.

Rock 'n' roll today is no longer really his [thing].

Caption 39, Andreas Bourani - Startet durch

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In contrast, non-chronological adverbs are usually preceded by nicht.


Also, das muss nicht sofort funktionieren.

So this does not have to work immediately.

Caption 11, Yoga - Sonnengruß als Aufwärmung

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Further Learning:

Just remember that nicht only comes after chronological adverbs, otherwise nicht precedes all other adverbs, verb infinitives, adjectives, and prepositional phrases. See the wonderful examples of the placement of nicht at Grimm Grammar (scroll down to the bottom of the page, don't forget to hit the Play button!), then search Yabla videos to find nicht used in different contexts!


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