3

In English, these two are different concepts:

You don't have to read the book.

You must not read the book.

But in German, I believe the same sentence would work for either one.

Du musst das Buch nicht lesen.

Reading this sentence in isolation, I would suppose it meant "You don't have to read the book." Is there a way to force an interpretation of "You must not read the book."? Would you have to use dürfen for that? Maybe like:

Du darfst das Buch nicht lesen.

5

Indeed, the pairs are:

  • nicht müssen = do not have to
  • nicht dürfen = must not

Maybe you can remember this more easily by understanding that with müssen and dürfen, nicht applies to a different part of the statement than not for must:

  • In German, nicht negates the modal verb.
  • In English, not negates the action subject to the modal verb.
  • 1
    it may be easier to think of 'not being allowed [to]' instead of 'must not' when it comes to translating. This is just an advice for Beginners you will get used to. – Tom-Oliver Heidel Feb 17 '17 at 9:48
3

German and English are closely related languages, but their negation logic for auxiliary verbs works differently, although cognates work almost the same in positive commands.

Commands

  • EN: S V INF O
    DE: S V O INF
    • You [do] have to read the book.
      Du hast das Buch zu lesen.
      Du musst/sollst das Buch lesen.
    • You must read the book.
      Du musst das Buch lesen.

Negation

    • You have to not read the book. S V ¬INF O
      Du hast das Buch nicht zu lesen. S V O ¬INF
    • You ?have not to read the book.
      Du ?hast nicht das Buch zu lesen.
    • You do not have to read the book. S ¬V INF O
      Du hast das Buch nicht zu lesen. S V O ¬INF
      Du darfst das Buch nicht lesen. S V O ¬INF
      You may not read the book. S V ¬INF O
      = You may not read the book. S ¬V INF OYou ?do not may read the book.
      Du darfst nicht das Buch lesen. S ¬V O INF
    • You do not have to read the book. S ¬V INF O
      Du brauchst das Buch nicht [zu] lesen. S V O ¬INF
      You need not read the book. S V ¬INF O
      You do not need to read the book. S ¬V INF O
      Du ?brauchst nicht das Buch [zu] lesen. S ¬V O INF
    • You must not read the book. S ¬V INF OYou ?do not must read the book.
      Du ?musst nicht das Buch lesen. S ¬V O INF
      Du musst nicht das Buch lesen. S V ¬O INF
    • You must not read the book. S V ¬INF O
      Du musst das Buch nicht lesen. S V O ¬INF
      Du brauchst das Buch nicht [zu] lesen. S V O ¬INF
      You do not need to read the book S ¬V INF O
    • You must not read the book. S V ¬INF OS ¬V INF O
      Du darfst/sollst das Buch nicht lesen. S V O ¬INF
  • This is all true but the context is important here as always. E.g: If the boss in an office tells the cleaning lady "Sie müssen mein Bürozimmer heute nicht putzen" or "Sie brauchen meinen Schreibtisch nicht zu aufräumen" this really means that she shouldn't do this. Surely it would be wrong if she did – Beta Feb 17 '17 at 7:16
1

Yes, as you write "must not" would become "darfst nicht". Contrary to "must" and "may", both "müssen" and "dürfen" have proper infinitives and can be used normally in questions and negations.

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