When to use “nein”, “nicht” or “kein/e”

When to use “nein”, “nicht” or “kein/e”

In English, “no” is “no” but in German, we have three different ways to say “no”. After reading this article you will know when to use “nein”, “nicht” and “kein/e” and you can also practice your knowledge with the free worksheet.

In German, we have three possibilities to express the “no” of something. To do so, we use “nein” (no), “nicht” (no) and “kein/e” (no). As you can see, all of them are translated with no in English and therefore it might be a bit tricky to understand when to use which.



You can use “nein” if you want to give an answer to a question as for example:

Q: “Wollen wir morgen Pasta essen?”

A: “Nein. Ich will lieber Pizza essen”



We use “nicht”, when we like to express the negation of a verb or an adjective. In English, we do so with “don’t” or “isn’t/aren’t” which is put before the verb or respectively the adjective. In German, the “nicht” follows the verb and therefore you only know if a verb is actually done or not until you listen to what happens after it. Now, if you ask a question which starts with the verb and you would like to state that the verb is “nicht”, then the “nicht” stays at the same position where you would have put it in the first place and you simply move the verb to the first position of your sentence.

If you want to negate an adjective, the “nicht” is written before it. To gain a better understanding, please check the following examples:



Ich spiele nicht, sondern lerne für den Test. (I do not play but study for the test)

Singen die Kinder nicht in der Schule? (Don’t the children sing in school?)

Morgen arbeitet mein Vater nicht, wenn er krank ist. (My father does not work tomorrow if he is sick.)



Die Kinder sind nicht klein. (The children aren’t small.)

Die neuen Autos sind nicht schön. (The new cars aren’t beautiful.)

Meine Freundin ist nicht neu in der Klasse. (My friend is not new in the class.)



In German, we use “kein” or “keine” if we want to say that a noun is not there. “Kein” and “keine” refer to the nouns of the gender as you can see in the following.

Now, in the plural form, there are no indefinite articles (as like as in English) because “ein” or “eine” always refer to a single one which contradicts the idea of plural. However, one needs to find a way to express negation for plural and since it shares the same definite article as female singular “die” it will mostly do the same as female singular in German grammar and this also applies here.


der ein Mann kein Mann
die eine Frau keine Frau
das ein Kind kein Kind
die / Autos keine Autos


Now, after reading this article you should be aware of when to use “nein”, “nicht” and “kein” or “keine” and how to integrate them into a sentence. Now, the time has come to practice your knowledge with the free Worksheet – How to negate in German.

Bis bald!



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