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Negation in Dutch languague


Geen versus niet

The basic rule is: you use geen for a noun (phrase?), and you use niet for the predicate of the sentence (the verb-part) or the whole sentence.

Sometimes you can use both words, but then the meaning becomes (slightly) different.

You can compare the use of geen and niet with the English words 'no' and 'not'.


The first 2 with comparison with English

Ik heb geen honger (I have no appetite).
Ik heb nog niet gegeten (I have not eaten yet).

Ze hebben de katten geen vis gegeven (They have given no fish to the cats). Geen is negating vis.
Ze hebben de katten niet gezien (They have not seen the cats). niet is negating the verb zien.

Ik zing niet graag kinderliedjes (I don't like to sing childrens songs). Niet is negating graag kinderliedjes zingen.
Ik zing geen kinderliedjes (I don't sing childrens songs). geen is negating kinderliedjes.

The first 2 examples are from this page. The page is in English, but the explanation is better at the page in the next section.

Examples where you can use both words

Hij spreekt niet goed Nederlands (His ability to speak Dutch isn't very well). It suggests Dutch isn't the native language of the speaker. Niet is negating goed Nederlands spreken.
Hij spreekt geen goed Nederlands (The quality of his Dutch isn't very well). This only suggests the speaker is making a lot of mistakes, but this can also refer to a native speaker. Niet is negating goed Nederlands.

This matter is explained very well at this page, but only in Dutch.


© Henk Dalmolen
Reageer via E-mail (dalmolen@xs4all.nl)

Deze pagina is voor het laatst gewijzigd op: 1-4-2013 16:00:49