I'm having trouble with negation in some sentences.
To my understanding "nicht" comes after verbs and before nouns.
However, what am I supposed to do when there are other elements, such as adverbs or subjects involved.

For example, my book states that is

Ich mache die Übungen nicht!

which means the subject would precede "nicht".

In that case, if I wanted to say

You are not coming with us.

should it be

  1. Du kommst mit uns nicht. or
  2. Du kommst nicht mit uns.

And why?

  • 1
  • Possibly even dupe. If you go through all the questions, you might get the answer to your question. On a side note, "Ich mache nicht die Übungen" would be correct, too. Means the same, but technically has a slight difference in meaning that is so subtle that it is negligible. Anyhow. It's a tricky topic.
    – Em1
    May 18, 2017 at 6:54
  • Thanks for the reply, so, while saying "Ich mache die Übungen nicht!", I am negating the verb like "I am NOT doing the exercises" but saying "Ich mache nicht die Übungen" would equal "I am doing NOT the exercises". Would my logic apply here? Also, both "Du kommst mit uns nicht". or "Du kommst nicht mit uns." are essentially the same right? May 18, 2017 at 11:43
  • It is fair to say that "nicht" in German is usually placed like an adverb. For example, you can replace it with adverbs such "schnell" (quickly) or "langsam" (slowly) and still obtain a grammatically correct sentence.
    – shuhalo
    May 18, 2017 at 11:55
  • Then I assume all those 4 sentences are correct :) May 18, 2017 at 11:59

2 Answers 2


Instead of trying to explain the nicht at the end by "sometimes it follows a verb", I find the following two rules easier to remember and more accurate.

Rule 1:

A modifying adverb like nicht or auch always comes directly in front of the part of the sentences it modifies. It can modify a phrase, a verb, an object, etc.

Rule 2:

Verbs normally come at the end of a phrase (in reverse order compared to English). However, in a main clause, the conjugated verb at the very end moves to second position, and everything else stays where it is. That includes nicht, auch and everything else etc. that is a part of this phrase.

You can see this if you compare the word order in main clauses and subclauses:

..., weil ich die Übungen nicht mache.
Ich mache die Übungen nicht.

If nicht doesn't negate a verb or a phrase with a verb, there's no difference:

..., weil ich nicht die Übungen, sondern die Zusatzaufgaben mache.
Ich mache nicht die Übungen, sondern die Zusatzaufgaben.

It gets more interesting in longer phrases with verbs, or separable verbs:

..., weil du nicht mitkommst.
Du kommst nicht mit.

..., weil du nicht fernsiehst.
Du siehst nicht fern.

..., weil du nicht spazieren gehst.
Du gehst nicht spazieren.

Here nicht must negate the phrase as a whole, it's not possible to negate just the conjugated verb in the phrase, neither in a subclause nor in a main clause:

..., weil du mit nicht kommst. (wrong)
Du kommst mit nicht. (wrong)
..., weil du fern nicht siehst. (wrong)
Du siehst fern nicht. (wrong)
..., weil du spazieren nicht gehst. (usually wrong)
Du gehst spazieren nicht. (wrong)

  • The second rule is a bit confusing at first, but this is a good way to come to a valid result.
    – Em1
    May 18, 2017 at 14:57

Even though there are a lot of good resources on the Internet covering this question, having hundreds of questions about the position of nicht is clearly evidence that this is a difficult topic. Hence I'm trying to elaborate on these specific examples.

Best way, I think, is coming from the positive statement.

Ich mache die Übungen.

This is easy, isn't it? I'm doing exercises. No doubt about that.
Now I can negate the whole sentence (or the statement, for that matter) by adding nicht to the end of the sentence. Think of it as stating the positive statement, and then negating it at once.

[Ich mache die Übungen] nicht.

I wouldn't say that you're negating the verb. You might say that you're just negating the phrase "die Übungen machen" (as opposed to the whole sentence including the subject), but that doesn't make any difference anyway.

What's for sure is that nicht precedes or follows the part it's negating immediately. Coming from that point of view, it must be either the noun phrase "die Übungen", the verbal phrase "mache die Übungen" or the whole sentence "Ich mache die Übungen nicht".
Now, we can drop the former one because when negating the noun, nicht precedes the noun. I'm afraid but that's basically language feel. But try thinking of it this way:

Ich mache [nicht A] [sondern B].

But (and this is a big one) when putting nicht between the verb and the noun you can negate both, verb and noun.

Ich mache nicht die Übungen, sondern lese sie nur.
Ich mache nicht die Übungen, sondern die Zusatzaufgaben.

I'm sorry the examples aren't that great.

Obviously, such a sentence needs context. If you ever merely say "Ich mache nicht die Übungen", you shouldn't be suprised if the other person responds with "Sondern?".
Whereas when saying "Ich mache die Übungen nicht", it's just the fact of you not doing the exercises.

Now, everything's different with the second example.

*Du kommst mit uns nicht.

That one is a bit awkward. It'd be okay if it were:

Du kommst mit uns nicht mit.

There you have a part of the separable verb mitkommen at the end of the sentence, and you negate the verb. Mitkommen => nicht mitkommen.

The sentence

Du kommst nicht mit uns.

might need more context. If you're not coming with us, with who then? If you're not coming with us, then what?
But this is also an acceptable way of negating the whole statement, "Du kommst" => "Du kommst nicht.", with "mit uns" just being kinda an addendum. In the end, it's just an prepositional phrase that is not required.


*Ich mache. => Incomplete
Du kommst. => Complete

To cut a long story short, the only correct way is your second sentence.

You can also negate the subject, but I'm dropping this for the sake of shortness. giggle

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.