Could this sentence ''I didn't buy this book, but borrowed it'' be rendered as follows:
nicht kaufte ich das Buch; aber ich borgte es
I am particularly unsure how to render not buy and borrow emphatically.

I suppose such emphatic effect could be achieved by special sentence word-order, mainly via re-positing nicht and aber from their usual positions as in this normal construction 'ich kaufte das Buch nicht; aber ich borgte es'.

Could any one help with this?
Surely, alternative constructions with other emphatic devices than word-order is as much welcomed!

  • Sometimes you can find your original German construct in poems and literature. But then, it looks more like Nicht kaufte ich das Buch, ich borgte es. This construct should NOT be used in day to day life. It is only used in literature from the 19th century and before and in poems. Nowhere else.
    – Armin
    Commented May 29, 2016 at 20:32

1 Answer 1


Present perfect sounds more natural than preterite here:

Ich habe das Buch nicht gekauft, aber (or sondern) geliehen.

Ich habe das Buch geliehen, nicht gekauft.

Moving the finite verb to first position is impossible, but in present perfect, we can at least move the participle to first position. This kind of construction is used very infrequently, though, and the regular word order above is already sufficiently emphatic.

Gekauft habe ich das Buch nicht, aber (or sondern) geliehen.

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer; I think ,,sondern'', the conjunction you used, is more appropriate than ,,aber'', which I used in the question. Besides, is ,,borgen'' appropriate in this context? (you used ,,leihen'' instead.)
    – Eunice
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 9:58
  • 3
    I recomment using "sondern", and most definitely not "aber" in your examples, especially since the OP is interesten in emphasizing the difference. so "nicht... sondern" would be the construction of choice.
    – Burki
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 12:24
  • 2
    @Burki It depends on the context, and I assume that the OP described an abstract example, rather than a concrete problem. E.g., I'd use "sondern" in "Ich habe das Buch nicht gestohlen, sondern gefunden", but I'd use "aber" in "Ich habe das Buch nicht gelesen, aber durchgeblättert".
    – Uwe
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 12:40
  • 2
    @Lynnyo There may be regional differences, but at least for me, "leihen" is much more common than "borgen".
    – Uwe
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 12:42
  • 1
    Actually, I don’t find »Ich hab das Buch nicht gekauft, sondern geliehen« emphatic at all. If I had to say it twice, I would have used the participle-first construction the second time to convey more emphasis …
    – Jan
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 9:35

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