I use to always write nicht at the end of a sentence when I have to negate something

  • As much as possible at the end of the phrase.

Sie fanden den Schlüssel gestern nicht.

  • But I learnt that sometimes it has to be ahead the second part of the verb:

Sie will nicht arbeiten.

Es fiel ihm nicht auf

  • Or even before an attribute of a subject:

Wir freunen uns nicht auf den Abend

  • And even sometimes ahead an item if the negation is on it only.

Er liest nicht die Zeitung

I understand that nicht can't be at the end of a sentence when we have trennbare Verben:

Er sieht jetzt nicht fern

But why can't we have it at the end here for instance:

Ich muss diesen Termin absagen. Which becomes Ich muss diesen Termin nicht absagen.

And not Ich muss diesen Termin absagen nicht.

Therefore, what is the rule to know where to write the negation in a sentence?

  • 1
    Stick to English, its often the same. I must cancel the appointment not sounds weird. He is reading the paper not, He did not notice
    – Alex
    Mar 14, 2016 at 8:30
  • 2
    @Alex: This is not really helpful for someone whose native language isn’t English.
    – chirlu
    Mar 14, 2016 at 9:01
  • 3
    @chirlu *is English not... :D
    – Alex
    Mar 14, 2016 at 9:14


Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.