In my exercise book, i’m doing excercises using nicht. One of the exercises I put,

Wir haben am Freitag das Examen nicht.

Is this correct? On the answers in the book it says the correct answer is

Wir haben nicht am Freitag das Examen

I am wondering if the wrote is correct, since nicht comes after the object of the verb. Why is this one different?

  • 2
    My understanding is nicht goes before the thing it's negating, and at the end if it's negating the verb or the whole sentence. So the nicht can go in several places but there will be some changes in meaning. However, nicht would not go in front of das Examen since you'd use kein Examen in that case.
    – RDBury
    Aug 30 '20 at 5:52
  • These aren't complete sentences. Add more context to your question please. Aug 30 '20 at 11:29
  • 2
    @RDBury: You're almost right. "Wir haben am Freitag kein Examen." is generally correct, though especially with the definitive article used here, you could say "Wir haben am Freitag nicht das Examen, sondern ...", that is, if you want to point what will take place instead on Friday. Aug 30 '20 at 12:13
  • 3
    @O. R. Mapper -- You're right, good point. Even with out the sondern you could probably say nicht das Examen if everyone already knew what exam was being talked about but people were speculating about what might happen on Friday. kein Examen means there will be no exam at all which is a bit different than saying a specific exam won't occur.
    – RDBury
    Aug 30 '20 at 12:55

nicht comes after the object

It's irrelevant what nicht comes after. It only ever leads the item it negates. But main clauses follow the V2 rule, and that adds an extra complication if the predicate is negated. Look at a dependent clause to see it:

Ich weiß, dass wir am Freitag das Examen nicht haben.

Wir haben am Freitag das Examen nicht.

In the main clause, the finite verb haben is moved from its default position at the end to V2 position. But nicht keeps sticking to the end.

If you negated not the predicate but another item, no such lonely nicht appears.

Ich weiß, dass wir nicht am Freitag das Examen haben.

Wir haben nicht am Freitag das Examen.

You may negate wir, and das Examen as well. Or even multiple items.

Nicht wir haben am Freitag das Examen nicht, sondern die andere Klasse.


Both variants are possible depending on the context. Your variant fits better for a continuation like

wir können also einen Ausflug machen

while the second would easily continue with

sondern erst am Montag.

Note, that Examen in German denotes a set of exams for completing a degree; for a single one Prüfung would be more appropriate.

  • 1
    I was wondering about Examen here. Textbooks tend to be really fond of using cognates, even to the point of using them in place of a more common or appropriate words.
    – RDBury
    Aug 30 '20 at 6:32

The commonly used phrase would be:

Am Freitag haben wir kein Examen.


Am Freitag findet kein Examen statt.

  • 2
    Welcome to German.SE. This would be your entire comment? Can you please make it a full answer then and additionally delete your introduction? Aug 31 '20 at 13:59

Both variants are correct German sentences, but they differ in meaning. The place where you put nicht constitutes which part of the sentence (or even the whole statement) you are going to negate.

So the preferred answer depends on what you are intending to communicate.


It really depends on the context and what you want to emphasize/which part of the sentence you want to negate.

If for example someone claimed the exam is on Friday and you wanted to object to that, you would say:

Wir haben [nicht am Freitag] das Examen, sondern am Samstag.

If there are different points on the agenda, for example the exam and a speech. And someone claimed that the exam is on friday and you onbject:

Wir haben am Freitag [nicht das Examen], sondern den Vortrag.

The sentence

Wir haben [am Freitag das Examen nicht]

sounds odd at first. Without context, the "nciht" just feels misplaced. But one example where it would sound a bit better might be:

Wir haben [am Freitag das Examen nicht], es fällt aus.

But even then you would probably rather say:

Das Examen am Freitag fällt aus

not really using "nicht".

Sadly I cant tell you the exact rules about this but this is what a native speaker would likely do. Hope this helps get a kind of feeling for the use of "nicht" in this respect.

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