Take the 2-minute tour ×
German Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation. It's 100% free, no registration required.

When do I use "na" or "nicht" in German?

For example, na gut vs nicht gut, is there a difference? Which is grammatical?

Na klar vs nicht klar, are both grammatical?

share|improve this question
1  
They aren't related at all. While, e.g., nicht klar means unclear, na klar is approximated by of course! or sure!. –  chirlu Jul 9 '13 at 19:12

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The examples you listed have a different meaning. na is not a negation but an interjection.

na klar means: sure

while na gut means: if it can't be helped or something.

from Wiktionary:

ein sehr nuancierter, kontextabhängiger, floskelhafter Ausdruck der Zustimmung, der Überraschung, der Verwunderung, des Zweifels, der Skepsis, der Ablehnung, der Ungeduld, des Ärgers, der sanften Drohung, der Ermahnung, der Entrüstung, der Missbilligung; er dient weiterhin der Schaffung einer Denkpause oder Gesprächspause, um die Aufmerksamkeit, die Spannung zu erhöhen oder das Nachfolgende herauszustellen

share|improve this answer
1  
Well, in spoken Bairisch and maybe other southern dialects "na" is used for the word "nein". –  Christian Graf Jul 9 '13 at 20:16
2  
But it isn't nicht, and is pronounced in a different way (long a). –  chirlu Jul 9 '13 at 20:35
    
Bavarian "na" is just a homophone but has nothing to do with the word asked here. –  falkb Jul 10 '13 at 6:42

"na" isn't a negation. It doesn't mean "no" in any way. "na" doesn't change the meaning of what you say, it just changes the tone. It mostly acts like a reinforcement of its succeeding words. You can always leave it out, it's somewhat redundant.

"nicht" instead has a very clear semantic meaning, it negates the succeeding word.

share|improve this answer
1  
sorry but i have to disagree on leaving it out... you can't leave out na in na gut because it significantly changes the meaning from good to reluctant agreement –  Vogel612 Jul 9 '13 at 20:42
    
@Vogel612: sounds like nitpicking, given that in this case you'd have to assign negativity to "oh" in English such as in "oh well", which conveys pretty much the same meaning as "na gut" does in German. It's a fair point, but "reluctant agreement" still isn't the same as an objection (which indeed could be filed under outright negativity). –  0xC0000022L Jul 10 '13 at 1:16
1  
I don't think that "na gut" is always reluctant. It comes down to how you say it and I have used "Na gut" in contexts where I agreed to a proposed alternative but I was totally fine for me. Also, I can say "gut" in a way, that it sounds very reluctant... maybe by adding the "exhale of discontent" or something. –  Emanuel Jul 10 '13 at 11:01

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.