3

Which of these sounds more natural?

Ich glaube nicht, dass er morgen kommt.

Ich glaube, dass er morgen nicht kommt.

Follow-on question, is there are rule of thumb to say when you should negate in the main clause or the subordinate clause?

  • Fixed your word order. – Ingmar Jun 11 '17 at 18:21
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    This is in no way different in any language I know... – tofro Jun 11 '17 at 19:32
  • @tofro, then how is it? – Carsten S Jun 12 '17 at 12:40
  • @CarstenS This is meant to say we're on (or maybe beyond) the limits of being off-topic and I fear this question needs to be closed. – tofro Jun 12 '17 at 13:18
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    @tofro, if I have a question about the German language, how do I know whether the answer would be the same as for all other languages if I do not already know the answer for German? – Carsten S Jun 12 '17 at 13:26
6

How is that any different from the English

I don't think he'll come tomorrow

vs.

I think he won't come tomorrow

... ?

  • 2
    +1 for not spoonfeed the OP. – Ad Infinitum Jun 11 '17 at 20:23
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    Parallel constructions in different languages need not be used in the same way. The upvotes are pathetic. – Carsten S Jun 12 '17 at 12:39
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    So, how is the English use any different from the German one? – Ingmar Jun 13 '17 at 14:34
2

While a logical analysis will say that the two sentences actually have a different meaning (with the second implying the first for a consistent speaker, but not the other way around), the first sentence will usually be understood to mean the same as the second and the first is indeed more common.

1

Ich glaube nicht, dass er morgen kommt.

Ich glaube, dass er morgen nicht kommt.

mean two different things. The first means you have doubts about him coming tommorow. The second means you have no doubt he's not coming tomorrow.

  • 2
    This is not quite correct. The second means that the speaker believes that he will not come tomorrow but not that he is sure about him not to come. – RHa Jun 11 '17 at 19:05
  • As a mathematician, I agree. But this does not correspond to normal language use. – Carsten S Jun 11 '17 at 19:08
  • What RHa says. Believing that not X is not the same as being sure that not X. – sgf Jun 14 '17 at 23:17
1

Ich glaube nicht, dass er morgen kommt.

This is a somewhat neutral way to express that you don't think he will come.

Ich glaube, dass er morgen nicht kommt.

This puts some emphasis on the fact that he will not come tomorrow. It may be used if he was expected to come (e.g. if he usually comes every day) but for some reason he will (probably) not come tomorrow.

1

In general (not talking about the verb "glauben") Janka's answer is right. Negating the main clause or the subordinate clause has a different meaning:

Das Buch war so schwer, dass sich das Regalbrett nicht bewegte.

(If the book had been lighter the bookshelf would have moved.)

Das Buch war nicht so schwer, dass sich das Regalbrett bewegte.

(If the book had been heavier the bookshelf would have moved.)

Indeed there are certain groups of people also applying this rule to the word "glauben" - the same way "Janka" explained it.

I especially observed this in Internet forums about religious topics. The people there will understand the two forms exactly in the way Janka described it:

"Ich glaube nicht, dass ..." is interpreted as: "I don't have any opinion about this" in such forums while "Ich glaube, dass ... nicht ..." is interpreted correctly.

Even native speakers often don't understand each other in such forums because they are not aware about the fact that negating the main clause changes the meaning of the sentence.

When you don't know who you are talking to and you negate the subordinate clause (although most Germans would negate the main clause) you can be sure everyone understands you perfectly.

Edit

When combined with an adverb most Germans would understand the two variants differently:

Ich glaube fest, dass er morgen nicht kommt.

I am 100% convinced: He will not come tomorrow.

Ich glaube nicht fest, dass er morgen kommt.

Maybe he will come tomorrow. However I am not 100% sure about this.

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