Obviously very important to learn and to know off hand. It is useful to say what you want just as much as it is to say what you don’t want. The Dutch for “no” is nee possibly one of the first words I learnt and openly recognised in conversation. Yes and No are always quick to pick up on and useful!

3 words are used to make something negative in Dutch; nee, niet or geen. All used differently and within different sentences. The Dutch don’t like to make things too easy. This is more complicated than the Possessives I covered yesterday but the more you stick at it it does slowly start to click.

Nee, ik drink niet – No, I don’t drink.


There are a few basic rules with negation that I think I’ve got covered let me show you;

1. Niet comes at the end of a sentence is it all negative. For example: Ik zie de man niet – I can’t see the man

However “niet” ALWAYS precedes the following


2. a preposition following a verb. For example: Hij speelt niet goed – He does not play well or Dat does ik niet graag – I don’t like to do that. Basically in English the sentence structure is flipped; he plays not good and Do that I don’t like etc.

In many sentences “niet” is combined with adjectives or verbs just like in English.

  • niet meer – no longer
  • nog niet – not yet
  • niet zo – not so
  • niet erg – not very

They way that i look at the sentence structure now with negation in mind is in two parts. The first part is formed like English and then the negative comes with the verb towards the end. For example

Ik weet dat (I know that) hij niet komen wil (he doesn’t want to come).


3. Sentences that end with an inactive verb form, infinitive or past participle have the negation directly before them. A point here i have noticed is that the standard English sentence flips around a little. Let me try and explain:

English: I had not been able to find them. negation

If we split this up into three workable sections: [I had] not been able to find {them}

Now the Dutch translation of: I had not been able to find them = Ik had hem niet kunnen vinden.

Going back to the three workable sections now in Dutch you will see that: [Ik had] {hem} niet kunnen vinden.

I’m not sure if this works out in typed formate I’ve written it out and scribbled bits in different coloured pens but what I am trying to point out is that the literal translation from Dutch would be “I had them not been able to find”

Here is a few more examples; Hij had zijn broodje niet opgegeten – He had not eaten his sandwich or He had his sandwich not eaten.

Zij wil morgen niet komen – She doesn’t want to come tomorrow or She want tomorrow not come.

This is where the word order of TIME>MANNER>PLACE is super important.


4.  Many of our English sentences negate the verb however in Dutch they negate the object using the adjective “geen”. This rule is also used for objects that can’t be counted as individuals

Some examples:

Hij heeft geen geld – He doesn’t have any/no money

Spreekt u geen Nederlands – Don’t you speak any Dutch?

Ik heb geen pen – I don’t have a pen

Ik drink been wijn – I don’t drink wine.

Its pretty intense I know and I’m not saying I have fully got my head around it. I did another little pop quiz and got 6/8 which wasn’t too bad. Spent litterally AGES trying to translate “We did not go to the beach yesterday” but I got there in the end of course! We gingen niet gisteren naar het strand. 

All in all a complex but essential element to be learning!


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p.s. My auto correct keeps changing my Dutch. Need to find out

how to use a dual language keyboard on my mac!!



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