Kein vs Nicht



Guten Tag!

Ich habe eine frage, bitte....

What is the difference between using "nicht" and "ken"? Can they be used interchangeable?

Ich bin nicht müde  --could you use "kein" here?

I understand that kein can be used when there is an indefinite article, but there are lots of examples where it is used and no article would be necessary. 

On another note,being successful with the grammar really means we need to know the gender of nouns very well. Often we are presented with vocab with no gender attached. Usually I look it up myself and then add it to the vocabulary tool--but it would be great if every noun that was presented was with the gender.



Hi Elizabeth,

'Nicht' is 'not' in English and is used as such. "I am not interested" = "ich bin nicht interessiert"
'Kein' is 'no' in English and is used as such. "I have no interest" = "ich habe kein Interesse"




It might be more problematic if the object is a noun rather than an adjective (müde).

For example in English I might say "I haven't any sisters", or "I have no sister(s)", both being acceptable.

But would  "Ich habe keine Schwester" and "Ich habe nicht eine Schwester"
(or "Ich habe nicht Schwestern") be equally acceptable in German?

From my experience so far (up to module 4) I suspect the latter might look a bit stilted, or possibly just wrong. Any thoughts?

(I hope I've got the endings right!).



I think that "nicht" has the connotation of being the negative state of something, whereas "kein" refers to the lack of having any of something.  If you are talking about something that can be counted, and you don't have any, then "kein" would be used.  If you are talking about whether some state is true or false,and it is false, then use "nicht".  Paul, please correct me if I'm wrong.  Ich weiß nicht ob dieses ist richtig oder falsch.  Ich habe kein Idee ob dieses ist richtg oder falsch.


Hi Peter,

In general to negate thoughts, verbs, adjectives, and elements of the sentence, like nouns with definite article you use "nicht".

For adjectives that go with the verb "sein" like "müde sein = "being tired", "hungrig sein" = "being hungry", "gemein sein"= "being mean" you will use "nicht". "Ich bin nicht müde"

For negating a noun preceded by a definite article (der/die/das) or a possessive pronoun (mein/dein/etc) you use "nicht"
 "Ist er der Mann?" = " Is he the man?" "Nein, er ist nicht der Mann" = "No, he is not the man"
 "Er ist kein Mann" is also correct but means "He is not a man"

For negating a noun preceded by no article or ein/eine/einen you use "kein/keine/keinen.
"Ich habe heute Zeit" becomes to "Ich habe heute keine Zeit".
"Ich habe eine Schwester" becomes "Ich habe keine Schwester". "Ich habe nicht eine Schwester" expresses a different meaning.
"Ich habe nicht eine Schwester" is " I don't have one sister" in the meaning of "I did not even have a sister ". Germans are more likely to say "Ich habe nicht einmal eine Schwester"




Thanks Paul and Bikeophile, I think that clears it up.

I probably need to practice to consolidate it now.

David K

David K

In 7.6.

Nik must not eat mussels. Nik darf keine Muscheln essen.

It seems as if by Paul's rules above this should be "Nik darf Muscheln nicht essen."

Although by Paul's second post I guess "keine" is indicated because Muschein  has no article?

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