I read in a grammar text this sentence:
Wir kränkelten; krank (aber) durften wir nicht heißen.

Leaving out the focal effect of aber from consideration, I am wondering which one of the following expresses a closer meaning to the original 'krank durften wir nicht heißen' :
1. wir durften nicht krank heißen.
2. wir durften krank nicht heißen.

I am unsure whether nicht should precede krank, as in #1, or follow krank, as in #2.

1 Answer 1


Neither is impossible; in particular, since the use of heißen is already old-fashioned and poetic, another oddity doesn’t feel too strange. The neutral word order, however, is that in the first sentence:

Wir durften nicht krank heißen.

  • Thanks; did you mean that either alternative is acceptable?
    – Eunice
    May 19, 2016 at 9:47
  • Yes, for some definition of “acceptable”. :-) These sentences both sound poetic and somewhat odd. With a different verb, e.g. Wir durften nicht krank sein and Wir durften krank nicht sein, you’d have one normal and one strange sentence.
    – chirlu
    May 19, 2016 at 10:13
  • The oddness comes from the normal contemporary usage of "heissen", which goes with a name only (Ich heisse Fritz). It has, however, an aging meaning, that aligns more with "nennen" (Jemanden einen Trottel heissen)
    – tofro
    May 20, 2016 at 11:38

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