In the sentences:

1)Ist das die Professorin?

-Nein, das ist nicht die Professorin.

Here 'nicht' precedes the definite article 'die'. This is because the noun 'Professorin' is preceded by 'die'

2)Siehst du den Stuhl?

-Ich sehe den Stuhl nicht.

Here 'nicht' is placed at the end of the sentence because 'Stuhl' is the object in the sentence.

[Ref:https://resources.german.lsa.umich.edu/grammatik/nicht/ https://deutsch.lingolia.com/en/grammar/sentence-structure/negation https://www.thoughtco.com/the-position-of-nicht-1444481]

In sentence_1 why can't we place nicht at the end of the sentence as 'Professorin' is the object in the sentence .i.e. why is 'Nein, das ist die Profesorin nicht' wrong?

In sentence_2 why can't we place 'nicht' before 'die Stuhl' as the noun 'Stuhl' is preceded by definite article 'die' .i.e. why is 'Ich sehe nicht den Stuhl' wrong?

Thank you for your time and thoughs.


The "nicht" has different targets in the two words. In the first sentence the "nicht" negates the Professor. In the second sentence it negates the verb "sehen". So saying "Ich sehe nicht den Stuhl" would be mean something like "I see the not chair" which makes no sense. One could argue logically the German sentence should be "Ich nicht sehe den Stuhl" but languagre is not always logical.

  • How can it be "Ich nicht sehe den Stuhl" since the verb is not in second position?
    May 5 at 3:18
  • Would "Ich sehe nicht den Stuhl" mean "I see not the chair/ I am not seeing the chair....(but seeing something else)"?
    May 5 at 3:24

There is a subtle difference in focus between these sentences.

The sentence "Ich sehe den Stuhl nicht" is simply the negation of the statement "Ich sehe den Stuhl". It says that it is not the case that one sees the chair.

In the sentence "Das ist nicht die Professorin" says that the person is not the professor (but someone else). So the focus is on the person, not on the entire statement. Because of this, Professorin is negated, and nicht is in front of Professorin.

  • Thank you! Is there any thing similar to "whole sentence negation" or "perticular word negation" in English? Also, is the difference like: "I am not seeing the chair" to emphasize the chair(ich sehe nicht den Stuhl), and "I don't see the chair" to negate the whole sentence (ich sehe den Stuhl nicht)?
    May 5 at 3:14

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