What is the difference between noch nie and noch nicht and simply nie?

Is this related to whether I expect the negation to change in the future or not?

  • noch is already related to expect that the negation changes in the future, isn't it?
    – c.p.
    Oct 29, 2013 at 13:07
  • Yes, c.p., that's correct.
    – elena
    Oct 29, 2013 at 13:18
  • 5
    @c.p., @elena: Not it's not. I often say "Ich habe noch nie geraucht." and I'm not expecting a change to this in the future. The noch rather implies, that in another instance (another person, another thing) the negation is true. For example I could say "Ich habe schon Alkohol getrunken, aber ich habe noch nie geraucht." Or I might say: "Du rauchst ja schon, seit du 12 bist. Aber ich habe noch nie geraucht."
    – Toscho
    Oct 29, 2013 at 14:40
  • Interesting point, @Toscho. I didn't think of that.
    – elena
    Oct 29, 2013 at 15:06

2 Answers 2


Adding to this... The difference is akin to that between grammatical tenses.

"nie" is an unqualified never. At the time in question, the action has not previously occurred.

Ich habe nie geraucht. (I never smoked)

You'd use this form to plainly state a fact.

"noch nie" is a stronger statement than the above, never before.

Ich habe noch nie geraucht. (I haven't smoked ever before)

Just like in English, this is slightly ambiguous. It can either be an emphatic denial of having smoked ever before, or you'd say it to make a point that while you've never smoked before, you may be about to now.

"noch nicht" means not yet. During the time period in question, the action has not been performed. It could have happened prior to it, and it could very well happen later. In fact, there is an implication that one is amenable to performing the action.

Ich habe noch nicht geraucht. (I haven't yet smoked)

This is what you'd use to express that you haven't yet smoked this morning (say). You're almost certainly a smoker, and you'll probably smoke again.

For the sake of completeness:

Ich rauche nicht (I don't smoke)

A negation; you may or may not have smoked in the (distant) past, but you don't (want to) now.

"nie nicht" or "noch nie nicht"

This means you're a Bavarian. I've always taken it for granted that you just ignore the nie, but perhaps the Bavarian dialect is more subtle than that.


It's the difference between "I have never" and "I haven't yet".

If you have never, for instance, been to Brazil, you can say both:

"Ich war noch nicht in Brasilien."

"Ich war noch nie in Brasilien."

Both work fine. "Noch nie" places more emphasis on the fact that you've never been there.

If, however, you make a statement that is true only for a given scope of time, you can't use "noch nie":

"Ich habe (heute) noch nicht gefrühstückt."

"Ich war (dieses Jahr) noch nicht in Brasilien."

  • Oh I see. So are "noch nie" and "nie" the same, can can be used interchangeably?
    – fdierre
    Oct 29, 2013 at 14:24
  • 1
    It can be used interchangeably, but it isn't. See, my comment on your question.
    – Toscho
    Oct 29, 2013 at 14:41
  • 1
    @Toscho: since it seems that the difference between "noch nie" and "nie" also plays a part, I updated my question... Thank you for your comments/answers so far!
    – fdierre
    Oct 29, 2013 at 14:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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