4

Other ways of saying

Ich esse weder Äpfel noch Birnen.

appear to be

Ich esse keine Äpfel und Birnen.

and

Ich esse keine Äpfel oder Birnen.

Are both sentences correct? Is one more unusual than the other?

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  • 1
    While Thorsten Link's answer below is of course correct, I'm of the opinion that Ich esse keine Äpfel und Birnen has a slightly different connotation than Ich esse keine Äpfel oder Birnen. It may be the fact that I studied maths that the latter to me seems to allow that the person does eat either of them, depending on some condition, while the former states that the person eats neither. Oct 25, 2016 at 14:37
  • @ThorstenDittmar What sense would it make to apply a straight logical/mathemathical meaning of "oder" here?. In languages an excluding meaning of either/oder is seldom met with and languages are not logical. You don't have to look further than the use of double negations in a negative meaning sense to realize that.
    – Beta
    Oct 25, 2016 at 16:42
  • @Beta I'm not applying a straight mathematical meaning. I'm just saying that to me it feels more natural to use und to express that I don't eat either. By the way, in spoken languages or much more often means either ... or, as opposed to mathematical language, where it never means either ... or. That's one reason students have huge problems understanding that it rains or I have pizza is a valid statement and that it means I can have pizza even though it rains. Oct 25, 2016 at 18:02
  • I'm kind of leaning towards what @ThorstenDittmar says. "Bitte keine Zeitungen und Zeitschriften einwerfen!" sounds a little funny to my ear. It should be "oder". Full disclosure: I also studied mathematics. :) Oct 25, 2016 at 18:14
  • As a programmer I totally understand what you mean. Writing software for workflows it is very hard to explain to people, that if they want to write forward documents for it AND sales department to person A it translates into department = "it" OR department = "sales" as usually both at the same time are not possible...
    – Tode
    Oct 26, 2016 at 6:07

2 Answers 2

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All three sentences are totally correct in German language. I don't think there is any preference for one or the other.

Despite of mathematics language very often does not differentiate between the logical "and" and the logical "or".

I cannot even find a slight different meaning in the two sentences.

But this is nothing specific to German language. Just translate the three sentences:

I neither like apples nor pears

I don't like apples and pears

I don't like apples or pears

All sound quite correct in English language as well.

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  • @TorstenLink Hi. My question is not 100% related to this question but not worthy to ask as a new question. Is it mandatory to use the plural form when we are expressing something generally. I mean, could it be asked also this way; Ich esse keinen Apfel instead of Ich esse keine Äpfel ? Oct 26, 2016 at 6:52
  • @Ad Infinitum: You can also say ich esse keinen Apfel but it has another meaning in another context. It would be the correct answer to the phrase Warum isst Du denn im Unterricht einen Apfel?. So it means: I do not eat an apple at the moment. But imho it will never have the general meaning of I don't eat apples at all.
    – Tode
    Oct 26, 2016 at 11:21
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Ich esse keine Äpfel und Birnen.

is just short for

Ich esse keine Äpfel und keine Birnen.

2
  • Welcome to German Language Stack Exchange. Feel free to take a tour of the site. Visit the help center for unanswered questions about how it works.
    – Jan
    Oct 25, 2016 at 16:35
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    Your answer is correct, but does not really answer the original question regarding the difference in the example sentences.
    – Robert
    Oct 26, 2016 at 2:04

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