Why does "Also, nicht dass ich wüsste." have that particular word order?

Here's the full sentence:

Nein. Also, nicht dass ich wüsste.

4 Answers 4


The clause «dass ich wüsste» is a subordinated clause introduced by «dass». Therefore, the verb is in the last position.

The word «nicht» could be understood as an elliptical construction, negating whatever question this phrase is an answer to, e.g. as follows:

  • Geht sie nach Amerika?
  • Nein. Also (sie geht) nicht (nach Amerika), dass ich wüsste.

From a functional perspective, the analysis of the subordinate clause is more interesting. I think it expresses a condition of a type that does not restrict the facts expressed in the main clause, but the truthfulness of these facts. The grammar I have at hand gives the following example for this type of condition:

  • Wenn ich mich nicht irre, geht sie nach Amerika.

In this example, the condition does not restrict the facts expressed in the main clause. Her going to America does not depend on me not being mistaken. Instead, the condition restricts the truthfulness of the main clause. For clarification, the sentence could be expanded as follows:

  • Wenn ich mich nicht irre, trifft die folgende Behauptung zu: Sie geht nach Amerika.

The «dass ich wüsste» clause works in a similar manner:

  • Geht sie nach Amerika?
  • Dass ich wüsste, trifft die folgende Behauptung zu: Sie geht nicht nach Amerika.

Or, shorter:

  • Geht sie nach Amerika?
  • Dass ich wüsste, trifft diese Behauptung nicht zu.

The conjunction «dass» does not normally introduce conditional subclauses. It can be substituted by «soweit dass» or simply «soweit» without changing the meaning:

  • Also nicht, dass ich wüsste.
  • Also nicht soweit, dass ich wüsste.
  • Also nicht, soweit ich wüsste.

In any case, it must be noted that the entire clause «nicht dass ich wüsste» is highly idiomaticized, so the attempt to analyze the function of its subclause is somewhat futile.

Note also that English has a very similar phrase both in meaning and grammar, showing once again that German and English are closely related languages:

  • Not that I know of.
  • Kann man vielleicht so sehen, aber ich halte das aus prosodischer Sicht für falsch. "Nicht dass" runs together all the same as "so dass" would. Also (ha), it's easy to see that the citation form is simply nicht dass ich wüsste whereas Also could be arbitrary.
    – vectory
    Jul 1 at 20:00
  • @vectory: It seems as if you are implying that «nicht dass» forms a complex conjunction. Is there any evidence to support that point of view? I think prosody alone is not sufficient evidence.
    – mach
    Jul 2 at 7:14
  • Yes, incidently: the mere fact that conj. dass is thought to be, at leadt partially, from rebracketing the comma, "Ich glaube das: ...", "Ich glaube, dass: ...". Whereby negation would have to be distributed newly it's most reasonable that it stayed where it should be, near the collocation. But I do think prosody alone is enough.
    – vectory
    Jul 3 at 14:08
  • @vectory: Ich glaube, nicht dass deine Vermutung stimmt. 😉 I think there should be more evidence for positing the existence of a complex «nicht dass» conjunction than the prosody of one idiom.
    – mach
    Jul 4 at 18:04
  • . "Ich glaube, nicht dass deine Vermutung stimmt." – man beachte die Zeichensetzung – ist ein gant anderer Sachverhalt, quasi, ich glaube das nicht, dass ... Dabei handelt es sich wegen der Redundanz offensichtlich um eine sekundäre Entwicklung. Zweifelhaft ist allenfalls meine Annahme der vereinfachten Darstellung zur Herkunft dieser dass-Konstruktion (DWDS.de: dass), die ggf. nicht nur komplex sondern rein imaginär sein dürfte, da da ähnlich wirkt und eben nicht so einfach zu erklären ist. Es wird wohl ein voreinzelsprachliches Phänomen der Bildung definiter Artikel vorausgegangen sein.
    – vectory
    Jul 6 at 3:07

I offer a much simpler explanation:

Nicht, dass ich (davon) wüsste.

translates to I don't think, that something is case. Omitted is the part It may be nevertheless, but then I was not informed about it.

Somewhat related is the more strict answer:

Nein, das wüsste ich.

which translates to No, and I would knew otherwise.


Regarding specifically the aspect of word order:

(also) nicht, dass ich wüsste

The position of nicht in front of dass indicates that nicht is not a part of the subordinate clause. The subordinator dass is positioned at the left edge of the clause ("left sentence bracket", linke Satzklammer in popular terminology) and nicht is therefore extraneous to it. A paraphrase with the negation in the matrix clause:

Das ist nicht der Fall, soweit ich weiß.
This isn't the case, as far as I know.

As dass ich wüsste is somewhat idiomatic, let's look at a more regular example:

A: Ich werde sterben! I am going to die!
B: Nicht, wenn ich es verhindern kann. Not if I can help it.

It is clear that what is intended is something along the lines of du wirst nicht sterben, wenn ich es verhindern kann.

Finally, also again precedes and is extraneous to the rest of the construction. Semantically, it presumably references a preceding assertion by the speaker.

A: Gibt es hier WLAN?
B: Nein. Also, nicht dass ich wüsste.

In this context, also would indicate that what follows is a qualification of nein, of the assertion that there is no Wi-Fi.

  • In general, it's unusual to start a clause with "nicht". The fact that happens in this case is a big clue that there are elements being dropped.
    – RDBury
    Jun 28 at 0:08

As per my above comment:

"Nicht dass" runs together all the same as "so dass" would. Also (ha), it's easy to see that the citation form is simply nicht dass ich wüsste whereas Also could be arbitrary. – vectory 8 secs ago

N- is known to be promiscuous with function words, cp. or, nor (not or) xor (either or), neither, never ever, Ger. niemand, neben(d) (nicht ebenda oder aber nahe bei, dicht beisammen), maybe noch nicht vs. auch nicht (flat œ, och nich'), Latin neque etc. In verbs it reflects more usually as un-, Latin in- "not", but Slavic with initial n-, but u-

As we see similar diachronic developments as for not from an Old English compound phrase, the same is the case with German nicht, approximatwly not a whit. The ending could be the same as for mit "with", ich komm mit / nicht.

The ending may be introduced analogically, cp. not ever, once usage generalized.

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