Two main forms for negatives – nicht and kein


There are two main ways of constructing negatives in German – using nicht or kein:

Das verstehen wir nicht. We don’t understand that.
Er hat kein Auto. He doesn’t have a car

Here are both forms in more detail.

nicht in more detail

When to use nicht

Nicht is used in negative constructions with adjectives and verbs:
Der Wein war nicht teuer. (adjective) The wine was not expensive.
Es funktioniert nicht. (verb) It doesn’t work.

It is also used with nouns connected to a definite article or possessive:
Das ist nicht der Sohn von Paul. (def. art.) That is not Paul’s son.
Das ist nicht meine Tasche. (possessive) This is not my bag.

nicht can negate more than one word

nicht can negate a whole sentence or only a part of it:
Ich komme morgen nicht. I won’t be coming tomorrow.
Er fährt nicht mit seiner Frau nach Paris. He is not going to Paris with his wife.

In the first sentence nicht refers to the whole sentence (‘I won’t come’), in the second only to one part (‘his wife’). It is understood that he will go to Paris, but not with his wife.