On the topic of negation in the German language. I understand that "nicht" can be used to apply targeted negation on definite nouns, i.e., the ones that come with definite modifiers. Furthermore, as a rule, "nicht" is placed prior to any element that bears this specific negating emphasis. With that in mind, here is a sentence from a youtube lesson: "Ah, ich trinke dieses Bier nicht, es sieht komisch aus". My question is why does "nicht" come after "dieses Bier"? Shouldn't it instead come before this negated definite object?


3 Answers 3


"Nicht" can apply either to a definite noun or to the verb, and when it applies to the verb it usually goes at the end of the clause. German word order can express subtleties in emphasis that are more or less impossible to express in English, especially in writing. Putting "nicht" before "dieses Bier" would be grammatically correct and have the same logical meaning, but it would place a bit more emphasis on the beer itself as something you don't drink.

  • +1 Actually I'd go as far as 'ich trinke nicht dieses Bier' somewhat implies that the speaker drinks (or would like to drink) another while 'ich trinke dieses Bier nicht' only makes a statement about that paticular beer. Commented May 12, 2023 at 22:51
  • @planetmaker That's what I noted in my own answer, btw. Commented May 13, 2023 at 2:12

This is because the V2 rule of the main clause.

Ah, ich trinke dieses Bier nicht, es sieht komisch aus.

Let me rephrase as a dependent clause so you can see how it would look like without the V2 rule applied.

Du weißt, dass ich dieses Bier nicht trinke, es sieht komisch aus.

So that nicht negates the predicate. It does it in the main clause example as well but as the V2 rule is the last word order rule applied, the nicht ends up lonely at the end.

  • But it doesn't have to be there (you make it sound like that is the case). It can negate the predicate even when it is in front of "dieses Bier". Commented May 13, 2023 at 2:14
  • If you count the accusative object as part of the predicate. In word order questions I don't for the sake of simplicity.
    – Janka
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 8:06

It is at the end because special negation was not chosen, but sentence negation (the whole predicate).

When the verb is at 2nd position, "nicht" is in the middle field. It can move around there - although there are rules before which adverbials it is positioned - and can therefore be seen at the end, although it does not have to be there.
It's more clear that it isn't special negation:

Whole predicate negated: Ich trinke nicht dieses Bier., Ich trinke dieses Bier nicht.
The noun is negated: Ich trinke nicht dieses Bier.

Why was sentence negation chosen, then? It's up to the one talking. To me, it sounds better. And it doesn't make a difference here in meaning, as long as pronounciation does not hint a contrastive meaning.

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