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I have recently come across the following sentence:

Warum dürfen wir den Apfelkuchen nicht essen?

I was wondering if placing "nicht" before "den Apfelkuchen" is correct:

Warum dürfen wir nicht den Apfelkuchen essen?

Can anyone tell me why or why this is (in)correct?

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1 Answer 1

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Both are correct but can mean a different thing. Rule of thumb: the nicht is placed in front of the thing negated, which also gets the focus because of that:

Warum dürfen wir den Apfelkuchen nicht essen? – Weil er noch heiß ist.

Warum dürfen wir nicht den Apfelkuchen essen? – Weil ihr erstmal euer Gemüse essen sollt.

Warum dürfen nicht wir den Apfelkuchen essen? – Weil der für Omas Kaffeekränzchen ist.

These examples are a bit constructed because the question already asks for the right thing, but I think you get the difference in meaning.

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    Strictly speaking, the answers to Q2 and Q3 are also valid to Q1. And the answer to Q1 and Q3 are also valid to Q2. — That being said, as an answer for beginners your simplication is fair enough.
    – Em1
    Sep 26, 2017 at 7:40

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