I know that nicht shouldn’t perecede a verb and so how can I say:

I am not coming home until seven thirty.

I thought about it the following way:

Ich komme nicht bis halb acht heim.

Because I know heim should be at the end and the verb has to come second. But is this valid ?

  • 3
    BTW, the idea that nicht shouldn't precede a verb is wrong. It can't precede a verb in second position in a main clause, but it can precede verbs in other positions. In general, it always precedes that part of the sentence that gets negated.
    – dirkt
    Dec 10, 2015 at 10:32

3 Answers 3


Actually, you don't even need the negation in German, because where English uses not until, we say erst in German.


I am not coming home until seven thirty.

idiomatically translates to

Ich komme erst um halb acht heim.

Also, "heimkommen" is idiomatic to southern Germany and Austria (maybe Switzerland?) only. People further up north say

Ich komme erst um halb acht nach Hause.

  • 1
    I'd rather translate that as "Ich komme heute nicht vor halb acht nach Hause" (and yes, you are right about the north/south thing - I'm from the northern part and we seldom say "heim").
    – Axel
    Dec 10, 2015 at 10:51
  • 3
    @Axel I think there's a difference between "erst" and "nicht vor". "Ich komme erst um 8" means that I'm coming home at 8 o'clock. However, "Ich komme nicht vor 8" means that I'm coming home at some point after 8 o'clock (including 8 o'clock itself, though; and perhaps a few minutes earlier), but it's not unlikely that it'll be 9 or 10 when I arrive. So, the questions comes down to what "not until" means. I'm not a native English speaker, but I believe this is very much up to the speaker's intent, but I feel like most cases it equals "erst".
    – Em1
    Dec 10, 2015 at 11:14
  • In fact, I'm not the only one seeing this difference. Compare with the comment of Martin Büttner below the other answer.
    – Em1
    Dec 10, 2015 at 11:17
  • So we all agree on the german. Any native english speaker here who can shed some light on how to interprete the meaning of "not until" here?
    – Axel
    Dec 10, 2015 at 15:32
  • I'm not a native speaker, but I do have a degree in English linguistics. My understanding is, in the very least, that whenever I want to say "erst" in German, the correct way of saying that in English is "not until". I'm quite confident that the same is true vice versa.
    – elena
    Dec 10, 2015 at 15:44

The position of »nicht« in your sentence is correct, but you can improve style by replacing »bis« with »vor«.

You use »bis« for an action that needs a longer time and ends at a certain time:

I will work until half past seven.
Ich werde bis halb acht arbeiten.

But heimkommen (coming home; arriving home) is not an action that lasts many hours. Arriving home is a matter of a few seconds, maybe some minutes. So what you want to say is not, that coming home takes you so much time that you will finish the process of coming home at half past seven. You want to say, that you will come home at some moment before this time.

I’m not sure about this in English (I’m a German native speaker, English is a foreign language to me), but since you used »until« in you sentence, I guess this is correct. But maybe you can also replace it in this case with »before«?

I am (not) coming home until seven thirty. <-- Your sentence
I will (not) come home before half past seven. <-- Maybe also correct with same meaning?

Ich werde (nicht) vor halb acht heimkommen.
Ich komme (nicht) vor halb acht heim.

You can use present tense as well as future tense in this case. Both sentences are correct German sentences and mean exactly the same:

Without negation: You will come home at a moment that is before 7:30 (or 19:30).
With negation: You will arrive at home after this time.

  • 1
    I think there's a difference between "not before" and "not until". I think the latter implies that you will arrive at 7:30, while the former says you might arrive later than that (but not earlier). "nicht vor" seems like a closer translation of "not before", whereas "erst" as suggested by elena would closer "not until". (I might be wrong about the exact connotations of the English phrases, but there's definitely a difference between the two German translations given in the answers.) Dec 10, 2015 at 9:53

Ich komme bis halb acht nicht Heim.

There is a small test you can use is to reduce the sentence to its minimal components eliminating the Präpositionalobjekt (1) “bis halb acht”:

Ich komme Heim.
Ich komme nicht Heim.

In a normal conversation you would however use any of the options mentioned above.

(1) I’m not so good at comparing English - German grammar, I prefer to leave the term as it is.

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