From Spiegel Magazine:

(a) Zamperini, gespielt von dem Briten Jack O'Connell, beschwört seine beiden Kameraden, nicht die Hoffnung zu verlieren.

Does "nicht" negate "die Hoffnung" or the whole phrase "die Hoffnung zu verlieren"? If it negates "die Hoffnung", then according to Toscho's answer here, it would mean "not lose this hope (but lose another hope", which doesn't make much sense. But if it negates "die Hoffnung zu verlieren", shouldn't the sentence rather be the following?

(b) ... beschwört seine beiden Kameraden, die Hoffnung nicht zu verlieren.

  • The positioning of the "nicht" depends on what the writer wants to convey. Let's wait for the native speakers on what they have to say. This is somewhat tricky. – DerPolyglott33 Jan 29 '15 at 20:52
  • Die Beispiele im verlinkten Beitrag von Toscho sind, muss ich leider sagen, weitgehend falsch. "Die" kann besonders in diesem Kontext niemals ein Demonstrativpronomen sein (wie z.B. "diese Hoffnung"), außer es wird phonetisch betont und/oder der Hoffnung wurde zuvor ein besonderer Gegenstand zugewiesen: "Ich hoffe, sie ruft mich heute noch an" — "DIE Hoffnung kannst du begraben". "Die Hoffnung nicht verlieren" bezieht sich in der Regel auf eine Gesamtsituation, in der Hoffnung nicht mehr besonders realistisch ist. – Martin Schwehla Jan 31 '15 at 0:45

Both versions are fine, means the same and I'd go ahead and guess that people use simply what comes to mind first.
The reason why both orders work without creating too much of a difference in the "no-focus" is that "die Hoffnung nicht verlieren" is essentially a phrasal verb, just like "Fahrrad fahren". There is a "die" in there but it's not meant to refer to a specific hope. No one would ask

Oh, which hope?

just because you said "die". It's just "the hope" in general. Without "die" on the other hand it would sound like losing "some" of the hope you have.


"nicht die Hoffnung zu verlieren" emphasizes the noun, whereas "die Hoffnung nicht zu verlieren" puts strain on the verb. So you could continue the sentence in the first version (this is just made up):

...nicht die Hoffnung zu verlieren, aber die Scheu vor entschlossenem Handeln

and in the second:

...die Hoffnung nicht zu verlieren, sondern neue zu schöpfen.

Somehow the first version sounds stronger to me, the other one more gentle. But this might be individual.


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