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Lesson Transcript

Michael: How do you say "no" in Dutch?
Atie: And how is it used?
Michael: At DutchPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation, Hilda Gerrits asks her daughter, Guus Gerrits, if she was seeing her friends. She asks her,
"Did you meet with your friends?"
Hilda Gerrits: Heb je met je vrienden afgesproken?
Hilda Gerrits: Heb je met je vrienden afgesproken?
Guus Gerrits: Nee, ik heb niet met ze afgesproken.
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Hilda Gerrits: Heb je met je vrienden afgesproken?
Michael: "Did you meet with your friends?"
Guus Gerrits: Nee, ik heb niet met ze afgesproken.
Michael: "No, I didn't meet [with them]."

Lesson focus

Michael: In this lesson, we will be studying ways to say no in Dutch. We will be focusing primarily on two words. These are
Atie: geen
Michael: and
Atie: niet
Michael: The word
Atie: nee
Michael: is also used often in Dutch, but generally in response to "yes" or "no" questions. It can even stand on its own as a reply. For instance, if someone asks their friend, "Are you angry?"
Atie: Ben je boos?
Michael: the friend could answer, simply, "No," or
Atie: nee.
Michael: That's all you really need to know about this word for the time being. Now, let's focus on the other two words I mentioned earlier. I think it's safe to assume that, if you're listening to this, you're familiar with English. As you have some knowledge of the language, this means I can tell you a great way to remember how these two negating Dutch words are used — by equating them with English words. The English word "not" can be equated with the Dutch word
Atie: niet
Michael: and, conveniently, they both start with an "N" and end with a "T," which makes this even easier to remember. The other word,
Atie: geen
Michael: compares to the English "no," as it relates to quantity. It carries the same meaning as the word "none." A sentence like "There are no bananas left" or
Atie: Er zijn geen bananen meer,
Michael: is an example of the use of this word. Another good way to remember this word is to relate it to the Dutch word
Atie: een
Michael: meaning either, "one," "a" or "an." It always indicates the singular or that there is one of something. If you put a "G" in front of it, it then denotes "zero" or "none." So, for instance, you could say
Atie: Ik heb een jas.
Michael: meaning, "I have a coat," or you could say
Atie: Ik heb geen jas.
Michael: meaning, "I have no coat." An important point to remember is that, while
Atie: een
Michael: cannot be used before a plural, the word
Atie: geen
Michael: can. For instance, one can say,
Atie: Ik heb bananen.
MIchael: or "I have bananas" and one can say,
Atie: Ik heb geen bananen.
Michael: which means "I have no bananas."
The way in which I've explained these principles up to this point is not the formal way of explaining Dutch negation. However, by using mnemonic tricks like these to help you remember which word is which, it will also help you to remember when and how to use them in a sentence. In order to be more technical, let me explain the word
Atie: geen,
Michael: because it relates to measurable quantities, and is used in relation to objects. To be more specific, these objects mustn't be specific! Let me explain in a less creative way. This means that the word comes before an object that starts with an indefinite article,
Atie: een
Michael: We've already discussed how, when this happens, all you have to do is put a "g" in front of that word. But what if there is no article at all before an indefinite object? In that case, one can make a sentence like "I have no shoes" or
Atie: Ik heb geen schoenen.
Michael: Additionally, this word comes before objects that are preceded by numbers such as
Atie: een, twee
Michael: and
Atie: drie.
Michael: For instance, one could say,
Atie: Ik heb geen twee schoenen.
Michael: which means "I don't have two shoes." Sometimes pronouns can be indefinite too, and can precede some of these as well. Indefinite pronouns are ones such as:
Atie: andere
Michael: which means "other;"
Atie: enkele,
Michael: which also means "some," and
Atie: een paar
Michael: which means "a few." Here's an example of how to use a negation before one of these. In this case, we are using:
Atie: een paar
Michael: as the indefinite pronoun which we are going to negate. The negation is, "I don't have a pair of shoes" or:
Atie: Ik heb geen paar schoenen.
Michael: Did you notice how, again, all we had to do was add the "g" to the front of the word
Atie: een?
Michael: Pretty convenient, that little rule. There's another like this, but I'll tell you more about that later. And, while on the subject of rules, the general rule for using the word
Atie: niet
Michael: is in order to negate a phrase. Let's look at some more specific rules for where to place it in a sentence. One of these is that it precedes adjectives and adverbs. So, take an adjective like
Atie: leuk
Michael: which means "fun" or "entertaining," and put it in a sentence like this, meaning, "The book is fun:"
Atie: Het boek is leuk.
Michael: And then let's negate it by saying,
Atie: Het boek is niet leuk.
Michael: Now let's try it with an adverb. The adverb we will use is
Atie: graag
Michael: meaning "gladly" or "eagerly" and the sentence is
Atie: Ik zou die film graag zien.
Michael: meaning "I would really like to see that movie." Let's negate the sentence:
Atie: Ik zou die film niet graag zien.
Michael: Now it means something like "I'd hate to see that movie." Simple, right? We're not done though. If there is a preposition in the sentence, then you will usually find this word in front of the preposition. Let's negate this sentence, which means, "I live in Amsterdam:"
Atie: Ik woon in Amsterdam.
Michael: The preposition is
Atie: in
Michael: so the negating word comes before it, like this:
Atie: Ik woon niet in Amsterdam.
Michael: Now, because we know that
Atie: geen
Michael: comes before nouns that have no definite article, it's easy to remember that this word can relate to a noun with a definite article. Consider this sentence that means, "She has the book in her bag:"
Atie: Ze heeft het boek in haar tas.
Michael: In this sentence, the definite article is, of course,
Atie: het.
Michael: When negating this sentence, the word
Atie: niet
Michael: replaces the prepositional phrase that tells us where the book is. The negative sentence then sounds like this:
Atie: Zij heeft het boek niet.
Michael: You will have noticed that, in this case, the word we are discussing comes at the end of the sentence. The placement of this word depends on what we are negating. In this instance, it is at the end of the sentence because it usually gets put where time, place, or manner would be situated in the sentence. It also often gets put before possessive pronouns, as in the sentence:
Atie: Dat is niet mijn boek.
Michael: which means "That is not my book." The possessive pronoun in this sentence is "my" or
Atie: mijn.
Michael: The last thing I will mention about this word is that it often negates the main verb in a sentence as well. Here's an example:
Atie: Ik kan dit niet doen.
Michael: It means, "I can't do this" and the verb is, of course, "do" or
Atie: doen.
Michael: And there you have it — the two most prevalent negating words in Dutch and how they work. As you can imagine, knowing how to use these two words is extremely important because they are used so often.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Hilda Gerrits says "Did you meet with your friends?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Atie as Hilda Gerrits: Heb je met je vrienden afgesproken?
[Recall 2]
Michael: Now let's take a look at our second sentence.
Do you remember how Guus Gerrits says "No, I didn't meet [with them]."
(pause 4 seconds)
Atie as Guus Gerrits: Nee, ik heb niet met ze afgesproken.
Michael: In his reply, Guus uses the word
Atie: nee.
Michael: As I mentioned before, this is the version of "no" that one uses when answering "yes" or "no" questions.
Michael: In this lesson, you learned about the two words in Dutch that are used most often to show how to negate something. These are
Atie: geen
Michael: and
Atie: niet.
Michael: We can use
Atie: geen
Michael: to negate quantities and other measurable things. This word is generally used to negate objects in a sentence. The word
Atie: niet,
Michael: on the other hand, is used to negate parts of a sentence that are not nouns, such as verbs, certain prepositions, and thoughts.
Michael: I promised earlier that I would tell you about another convenient negation rule. This one requires no more than the addition of a single letter to the beginning of a word in order to convert it to the negative. The letter, in this case, is "n." It can be attached to the front of these three words:
Atie: iets, [pause] iemand, [pause] ergens,
Michael: The first word,
Atie: iets
Michael: means "something" and can be used in a sentence like
Atie: Ik heb iets gekocht.
Michael: which means "I bought something." In order to negate this sentence, all we have to do is add the letter "n" to the front of the word
Atie: iets
Michael: like this:
Atie: Ik heb niets gekocht.
Michael: Now it means: "I didn't buy anything." You can apply the same principle to the other two words. As I said, it's a very convenient rule.
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: One final note - people sometimes think that Dutch is a negative concord language, but it's not. What "negative concord" means is that a second negation is used to reinforce a negation already present in a sentence. American slang sometimes incorporates the double negative such as in the example, "That ain't no horse." Double negation also appears commonly in Afrikaans, which is closely related to Dutch.
There are examples of double negation in the Dutch language, but these are exceptions rather than the rule. They're generally only found in certain dialects and also in informal language.


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Atie: Doei!
Michael: See you soon!