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Note: I'm new to this site and my German skills are at a fairly low level since I'm only self-studying it whenever I have a large chunk of free time, so my apologies if this has already been asked. I did try looking through some appropriate tags and searching first.

On a whim, I wanted to write this sentence in German.

I like your music, although I do not know it very well.

The first bit - the independent clause - is clearly "Ich mag Ihre Musik", but I'm having trouble figuring out the dependent clause. My "candidates" for the appropriate translation are:

  • obwohl ich nicht sie gut kenne.
  • obwohl ich nicht gut sie kenne.
  • [Possibly some other phrasing, with a difference placement of "nicht"]

At least "intuitively" the first usage makes the most sense (based off of some cursory reading about adverbs and word order), but I'm very confused about whether or not my (first) ordering of the words is actually correct, and if the "nicht" is placed correctly.

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Just as a tip, such as your example, I tend to think of "nicht gut" as a phrase together and tend to keep these two words next to each other in a sentence, e.g. Das schmeckt mir nicht gut, or Du siehst nicht gut aus. – Eichhörnchen Jul 10 '14 at 0:23
up vote 9 down vote accepted

You need to ask what is being modified by the adverb and the rule is to put it as closely as possible to the modified word (or phrase).

Let's start with a main clause:

Ich kenne sie gut.

There would be two possibilities for nicht. Either you'd like to say "It's not me who knows it well" or you'd like to say "I don't know it well". Note, in German there's no "do-structure", so you'd say "I know it not well".

The two different ideas would be phrased as:

Nicht ich kenne sie gut.
Ich kenne sie nicht gut.

In a subordinate clause the same rule applies. The only difference is that the verb is moved to the end of the sentence. The rest maintains as before.

..., obwohl nicht ich sie gut kenne.
..., obwohl ich sie nicht gut kenne.

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Thanks - this was very helpful! – Maroon Jul 9 '14 at 10:10

"Obwohl ich nicht sie gut kenne" would imply that it is someone/something else whom you know well, instead of her (for example, "..., obwohl ich nicht sie gut kenne, sondern nur die Cover-Versionen von XY.").

"obwohl ich nicht gut sie kenne." has the wrong word order "sie" must be before "gut"). But if you correct that word order. keeping the "nicht" in front of the "gut", you get the correct sentence:

..., obwohl ich sie nicht gut kenne."

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The only correct order would be:

"obwohl ich sie nicht gut kenne"

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Well, OP now knows the correct order for this particular sentence, but does your answer help to understand the rules? – Em1 Jul 9 '14 at 9:54

The correct phrase would be a mix of both your translations:

obwohl ich sie nicht gut kenne.

There is also a similar question you might want to look at here

Here are some external references (taken from the other question): and

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Thanks. Would this be because we are emphasizing (in a sense) that I don't know it well? – Maroon Jul 9 '14 at 9:39
If you leave out gut the position of nicht would not change. – Pasoe Jul 9 '14 at 9:43
Alright... I shall do a bit of reading and figure out how that works. Thanks for the link. – Maroon Jul 9 '14 at 9:43

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