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Dutch Negation Rules: How to Say No in Dutch

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The word nee (“no”) is crucial in any language. It allows you to express your desires, clarify things, and even talk about your experiences. Saying no may sometimes be viewed as rude, insensitive, or socially disruptive, but it’s simply a necessary part of life and of society. 

Luckily, the Dutch are quite direct and are not afraid of using some true Dutch negations. While we may sometimes sugarcoat things, honesty and the Dutch directness triumph over being vague or fake.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about negation in the Dutch language: 

  • The basic Dutch negation rules
  • Common negative words with lots of examples 
  • Negative questions and their matching negative answers

Ready? Let’s go!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Dutch Table of Contents
  1. The Basics of Dutch Negation – Using Niet (“Not”)
  2. Some Important Negation Rules
  3. More Negative Words
  4. Negative Questions
  5. How DutchPod101 Can Help You Learn More Dutch

1. The Basics of Dutch Negation – Using Niet (“Not”)

A Woman Holding Out Both Hands in Front of Her to Indicate No or Stop

How to say no in Dutch…

A. When to use niet

The most basic way to make a Dutch sentence negative is to simply add the word niet (“not”). For example:

  • Ik ben niet moe. (“I am not tired.”)
  • Hij woont niet hier. (“He doesn’t live here.”)
  • Wij werken niet. (“We don’t work.”)
  • Ik werk in Amsterdam, niet in Rotterdam. (“I work in Amsterdam, not in Rotterdam.”)

Because this word is so crucial to negation in Dutch grammar, it’s important that you know exactly when to use it. The Dutch use the word niet in the following cases:

  • To negate any element that is not a noun, such as verbs, adjectives, or thoughts.  
    • Verbs: Ik fiets niet. (“I don’t cycle.”)
    • Adjectives: Zij is niet oud. (“She is not old.”)
    • Thoughts: Ik denk niet dat ik mooi ben. (“I don’t think I am beautiful.”)
  • To negate nouns that are preceded by a definite article or a possessive pronoun.
    • Definite article: Zij is niet de burgemeester van Amsterdam. (“She is not the mayor of Amsterdam.”)
    • Possessive pronoun: Dat is niet mijn auto. (“That’s not my car.”) 

So you now know when to use niet, but where does it go in a sentence? 

B. How to use niet 

A Woman in a Yellow Long-sleeved Shirt Thinking

Do you know where to place the word niet?

The position of niet in a sentence depends on what you’re negating. 

In case of an adverb or adjective, niet is put right in front of it:

  • Adverb: Zijn auto is niet snel. (“His car isn’t fast.”) 
  • Adjective: Mijn kat is niet dik. (“My cat isn’t fat.”) 

In most other cases, the word niet comes after the middle part of the sentence, where you usually find the time, manner, and place:

  • Time: Zij was vorige week niet op werk. (“She was not at work last week.”)
  • Manner: Ik kon door het drukke verkeer niet op tijd op het werk komen. (“I could not get to work on time because of the busy traffic.”)

However, regarding the “place” of the sentence, the situation is a bit different. The word niet usually comes before it when the place indicates a direction:

  • Place [direction]: Wij gaan niet naar Breda. (“We are not going to Breda.”)

However, if you want to stress that something isn’t (or will not be done) a certain way, but rather another way, then you have to put niet in front of the time, manner, and place:

  • Ik rijd niet met jou naar huis vandaag, maar met hem. (“I’m not driving home with you today, but with him.”)

These cases also relate to the fact that the word niet always goes before a preposition:

  • Ik kom niet uit Frankrijk. (“I am not from France.”)
  • Zij woont niet in Rotterdam. (“She doesn’t live in Rotterdam.”)

2. Some Important Negation Rules

A Woman Holding Out a Palm to Say No or Stop

Learn how to say no in Dutch with these important Dutch negation rules.

A. Negation with the word geen (“none”)

Another common way to make a negative sentence in Dutch is to use the word geen (“none”). Here are a couple of situations where you would use this Dutch negation word:

  • When negating a noun that would have needed the word een (“a” / “an”) in a positive sentence. 
    • Zij heeft geen baan. (“She doesn’t have a job.”)
  • When negating plural and uncountable nouns that do not have an article in front of them.
    • Ik heb geen boeken bij me. (“I don’t have any books with me.”)

Geen is always connected to a noun. And as you can see, it always comes before the noun.


B. How to use the verbs “to be” and “to have” in negative forms

Two of the most essential verbs in Dutch are zijn (“to be”) and hebben (“to have”). Unfortunately, both of these verbs are irregular. This makes it imperative to learn not only their conjugations, but also how they work in the context of a negative sentence. 

Let’s have a look at them in the present simple tense:

SubjectHebben conjugation Dutch (“to have”)Zijn conjugation Dutch (“to be”)
Ik (“I”)heb (“have”)ben (“am”)
Jij, u (“You” casual, “you” formal)hebt (“have”)bent (“are”)
Hij, zij, het (“He,” “she,” “it”)heeft (“has”)is (“is”)
Wij (“We”)hebben (“have”)zijn (“are”)
Jullie (“You” plural)hebben (“have”)zijn (“are”)
Zij (“They”)hebben (“have”)zijn (“are”)

Let’s start with some examples of sentences using the verb hebben in negative form: 

  • Ik heb geen auto. (“I don’t have a car.”)
  • Wij hebben geen haast. (“We are not in a hurry.”) 
  • Zij heeft geen kwade bedoelingen. (“She has no bad intentions.”)

As you may have noticed, when using the verb hebben, we use the negation word geen. This is logical, as hebben is mostly used when talking about possessions (and therefore nouns).

Now have a look at some Dutch negations with the verb zijn

  • Ik ben niet moe. (“I am not tired.”)
  • Zij is niet jarig. (“It’s not her birthday.”)
  • Wij zijn niet naar Frankrijk op vakantie gegaan. (“We did not go on holiday to France.”)

As you can see, we use niet when negating this verb. This is because zijn is mostly used to describe something about one’s identity, feelings, or situation. Therefore, prepositions, adjectives, and adverbs are often used in these sentences.

C. Negative Dutch expressions

You now know the basic Dutch negation rules. Let’s now go over some essential negative statements that will come in handy when traveling in the Netherlands.

Nederlands (“Dutch”)Engels (“English”)
Ik heb geen tijd.“I don’t have time.”
Ik weet het niet.“I don’t know.”
Ik begrijp het/je niet.“I don’t understand it/you.”
Ik heb geen pen.“I don’t have a pen.”
Ik vind het niet leuk.“I don’t like it.”
Ik heb geen idee.“I have no idea.”
Ik heb geen zin.“I do not feel like it.”
Ik weet niet waar ik ben.“I don’t know where I am.”
Ik ben het niet met je eens.“I don’t agree with you.”
Geen probleem.“No problem.”
Het maakt niet uit.“It doesn’t matter.”


3. More Negative Words

Below is a table of the most useful words and phrases for performing negation in the Dutch language. For your convenience, we’ve provided a couple of examples for each word.

A Guy Flexing with One Strong Arm and One Weak Arm

Feel strong using these Dutch negation words.

Nooit (“Never”)
  • Jij bent nooit op tijd. (“You are never on time.”)
  • Ik heb jou nooit leuk gevonden. (“I have never liked you”)
Niemand (“Nobody”)
  • Niemand weet mijn geheim. (“Nobody knows my secret.”)
  • Hij heeft vandaag niemand gezien. (“He hasn’t seen anyone today.”)
Niets (“Nothing”)
  • Zij heeft niets gepland voor deze zomer. (“She has nothing planned for this summer.”)
  • Ik heb zondag helemaal niets gedaan. (“I have done nothing this Sunday.”)
Nog niet (“Not yet”)
  • Ik ben nog niet klaar. (“I am not ready yet.”)
  • Hij is nog niet afgestudeerd. (“He hasn’t graduated yet.”)

Nog niet is used to make a negative sentence nicer and not so abrupt.

For example, if someone asks: 

Is de bakkerij open?(“Is the bakery open?”)

You could say:

Nee, de bakkerij is niet open. (“No, the bakery isn’t open.”)

But that would be quite abrupt. It’s nicer to say: 

Nee, de bakkerij is nog niet open. (“No, the bakery isn’t open yet.”)
Nergens (“Nowhere”)
  • Ik kan nergens zo lekker eten als in dit restaurant. (“Nowhere can I eat better than in this restaurant.”)
  • Hij gaat nergens naartoe. (“He is going nowhere.”)
Niet meer (“Not anymore”)
  • Hij werkt niet meer bij mij op kantoor. (“He no longer works at my office.”)
  • Ik ben niet meer verliefd op jou. (“I am no longer in love with you.”)
Niet eens (“Not even”)
  • Hij komt niet eens naar mijn feestje! (“He doesn’t even come to my party!”)
  • Ik ben niet eens uit geweest zaterdagavond. (“I didn’t even go out on Saturday night.”)
Niet altijd (“Not always”)
  • Ik ben niet altijd aan het werken. (“I am not always working.”)
  • Onze kat is niet altijd even aardig. (“Our cat is not always that nice.”)
Noch … noch … (“Neither … nor …”)
  • Noch ik noch mijn vader houden van bier drinken. (“Neither I nor my dad like to drink beer.”)
  • Ik eet noch vlees noch vis. (“I don’t eat meat nor fish.”)


4. Negative Questions

Do you know how to make a question negative in Dutch? Below, you’ll find information on how to do this for both open-ended and closed-ended questions! 

A. Negative Open Questions

An open question starts with an interrogative word (who, what, where, how, etc.). These questions require at least a simple sentence as a reply; you can’t just answer with “yes” or “no.”

There’s a special structure used for questions like this. The question word comes first, the conjugated verb second, and the subject third: 

Question word + Verb + Subject + Niet

Let’s have a look at two simple examples:

  • Waarom lach je niet? (“Why don’t you laugh?”)
  • Wie gaat er niet? (“Who’s not going?”)

Got it? Then let’s move on to some more complex negative questions and their possible negative replies. 

Wat
(“What”)
Wat ga jij morgen niet doen? (“What aren’t you going to do tomorrow?”)Ik ga morgen niet bij mijn ouders op bezoek. (“I’m not going to visit my parents tomorrow.”)
Waarom
(“Why”)
Waarom is je vriendin niet bij jou? (“Why is your girlfriend not here?”)Mijn vriendin is niet hier want ze is op vakantie. (“My girlfriend is not here because she is on holiday.”)
Waar
(“Where”)
Waar ben jij nog nooit geweest? (“Where have you never been to?”)Ik ben nog nooit in Marokko geweest. (“I have never been to Morocco.”)
Wie
(“Who”)
Wie wil jij niet meer zien? (“Who don’t you want to see anymore?”)Ik wil mijn ex vriendje Pieter echt nooit meer zien. (“I never want to see my ex boyfriend Pieter again.”)

B. Negative Closed Questions

Another common type of question Dutch people use is the closed question; these are the questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Questions like these have a different word order, with the verb coming first:

Verb + Subject + Niet

For example:

  • Kom je niet? (“Aren’t you coming?”)
  • Werkt hij niet? (“Doesn’t he work?”)

As you can see here, the subject and verb are inverted to create yes-or-no questions. 

Remember that when jij or je (“you”) follows the verb, the -t at the end of the verb is dropped:

  • Ga je morgen niet naar school? (“Are you not going to school tomorrow?”)
    • Instead of: Je gaat morgen niet naar school. (“You are not going to school tomorrow.”)
  • Heb je vandaag niet met je oma gepraat? (“Didn’t you talk to your grandmother today?”)
    • Instead of: Je hebt vandaag niet met je oma gepraat. (“You didn’t talk with your grandmother today.”)

The answer for these questions is simple: Nee. (“No.”)


5. How DutchPod101 Can Help You Learn More Dutch

A Woman Holding Out Her Palm, Which Has NO Written on It

You now know How to say no in Dutch.

In this guide, you’ve learned all about Dutch negations, from the basics of negation in Dutch to more advanced rules. You’ve also picked up a few useful words for negation and have a better idea of how to use them. 

Do you already have a favorite Dutch negation word or negative sentence? Or do you still feel like you need some help with the Dutch negation rules?

If you’re feeling stuck, remember that DutchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and other free resources to help you master this and many other parts of the Dutch language.

Would you like to practice with your own private teacher? Then make use of Premium PLUS MyTeacher service and get personal one-on-one coaching. Through interactive exercises, pronunciation advice, and personalized feedback, you’ll really master those Dutch negative sentences and questions! 

Start saying no in Dutch like a native with DutchPod101!

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