DIE DOPPELTE VERNEINUNG: How to double-negate a sentence in German

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It is true that negation is an act of refusal, rejection or denial but what is more true is that when it is done twice in one sentence, it becomes an approval or a yes. Find out how!

Content in this post
1. The meaning of doppelte Verneinung
2. Doppelte Verneinung with adjectives
3. Doppelte Verneinung with adverbs
4. Doppelte Verneinung with prepositions
5. Doppelte Verneinung with nouns
6. Doppelte Verneinung with pronouns
7. Doppelte Verneinung with verbs
Table of content for german double-negation

Doppelte Verneinung or double negation as translated in English, is a grammatical construction which involves the use of two negating factors in one sentence to affirm the positive or opposite of the expression. It is used in other to avoid explicitly admitting yes. This is often done with the negative particle (nicht or keinerlei) or the negation article (kein, keine etc.) together with either a negative adjective, adverb, preposition, nouns, pronoun or even verb.

In German, the two negating factors cancel out each other like the mathematical expression xy/x =y or (-) x (-)= + where both x and minus sign cancel out each other. Hence, it is very important for one to be mindful when negating a sentence so as not to undo the actual intent of their statement.

Doppelte Verneinung with adjectives

Together with the negation particle nicht, negative adjectives can be used to make a positive remark. These adjectives are usually those with the prefix un-, ir-, des-, in-, miss– or the suffix –los and those that naturally have negative meanings. Some examples of such adjectives are listed below

Doppelte Verneinung = BejahungEnglish translation
nicht arbeitslos = beschäftigtnot jobless = employed
nicht bargeldlos = zahlungskräftignot cashless = cash-rich
nicht hoffnungslos = hoffnungsvollnot hopeless = hopeful
nicht desinteressiert = interessiertnot uninterested = interested
nicht desorganisiert = organisiertnot disorganized = organized
nicht desorientiert = orientiertnot disoriented = oriented
nicht destruktiv = konstruktivnot destructive = constructive
nicht ineffizient = effizientnot inefficient = efficient
nicht irrational = rationalnot irrational = rational
nicht irreal = realnot unreal = real
nicht irreführend = freimütignot misleading = straightforward
nicht irreleitend = ehrlichnot deceitful = honest
nicht irreligiös = religiösnot irreligious = religious
nicht missgünstig = freudvollnot jealous = content
nicht missmutig = fröhlichnot moody = cheerful
nicht unbequem = bequemnot uncomfortable = comfortable
nicht unfähig = fähignot incapable = capable
nicht unglaublich = glaublichnot unbelievable = believable
nicht unglücklich = glücklichnot unlucky = lucky
nicht uninteressant = interessantnot uninteresting = interesting
nicht unsicher = sichernot unsure/uncertain = sure/certain
nicht unsichtbar = sichtbarnot invincible = visible
nicht hässlich = hübschnot ugly = pretty
nicht schmutzig = saubernot dirty = clean
nicht traurig = glücklichnot sad = happy
nicht verrückt = vernünftignot crazy = sane
Contrasting list of negative adjectives with doppelte Verneinung to their positive forms
1. Diese Maschine ist nicht ineffizient.This machine is not inefficient.
2. Mein Kleid ist nicht schmutzig.My gown is not dirty.
3. Der Mitarbeiter ist nicht unfähig.The colleague is not incapable.
4. Ich bin nicht mehr arbeitslos.I am no more jobless.
Sentences of doppelte Verneinung mit adjectives

Doppelte Verneinung with adverbs

Adverbial sentences can either be double-negated with nicht or a negative adverb or adjective in order to imply the positive. For example; nicht selten = oft. See below for more of these adverbs.

nie/niemals + nicht = immernever + not = ever
selten + nicht = oftbarely/rarely + not = often
kaum + nicht = einfachhardly + not = easily
List of negative adverbs with doppelte Verneinung
1. Maria ist selten nicht zu Hause.Mary is barely not at home.
2. Warum bist du nie unglücklich?Why are you never unhappy?
Sentences of doppelte Verneinung mit adverbs

Doppelte Verneinung with prepositions

The prepositions ohne and zu are used with nicht or kein– to double-negate a sentence with either positive nouns and or negative adjectives.

Doppelte Verneinung = BejahungEnglish translation
nicht ohne = mit
z.B nicht ohne Probleme = mit Probleme
not without = with
e.g not without problems = with problems
nicht zu = mit
z.B nicht zu Unrecht = zu Recht
not without = with
e.g not without wrong = with wrong
Contrasting list of negative prepositions with doppelte Verneinung to their positive forms
1. Das Zimmer ist nicht zu dunkel = Das Zimmer ist hell.

2. Sara erzählt ihre Geschichten nicht ohne Wahrheit = Sara erzählt ihre Geschichten mit Truth.

3. Sara erzählt keine Geschichte ohne die Wahrheit = Sara erzählt Geschichten mit Wahrheit.
The room is not too dark = The room is bright.

Sara doesn’t tell her stories without truth = Sara tells her stories with Truth.

Sara doesn’t tell any story without the truth = Sara tells stories with truth.
Sentences of doppelte Verneinung with negative prepositions

Doppelte Verneinung with nouns

Another way to double-negate a sentence is with the negating factor nicht or kein– and a negative noun. These negative nouns can either be naturally occurring or substantives of negative adjectives. Some examples are;

Examples of negative nouns in German
1. Ich will keine Unehrlichkeit = ich will Ehrlichkeit

2. Sei bitte nicht der Kriminelle.
I don’t want dishonesty = I want honesty.

Please don’t be the criminal.
Sentences of double-negation with negative nouns in German

Doppelte Verneinung with pronouns

In addition to the above ways of double negating a sentence in German, sentences can as well be double-negated using certain indefinite and distributive pronouns that connote the negative. These pronouns are either combined with themselves or negative adjectives and not nicht. Examples of such pronouns are listed below.

1. Nirgendwo ist unsicher, wenn man nicht alleine ist.

2. Du sagst niemandem nichts.

3. Keiner war unintelligent, als er etwas verstehen konnte.

4. Nichts wird uninteressant, wenn ich glücklich bin = alles wird interessant, wenn ich glücklich bin.
Nowhere is unsafe when one is not alone.

You are telling nothing to nobody.

No one was unintelligent when he could understand something.

Nothing becomes uninteresting when I am happy.
Sentences of double-negation with negative pronouns in German
nirgends/ nirgendwo
none/ no one
Examples of negative pronouns in German

Doppelte Verneinung with verbs

This is done with certain verbs that are naturally negative in meaning because they are used to make a decline or rejection of a request. Hence, to make the positive out of them, they are either negated with nicht or with a negative indefinite or distributive pronoun. Examples of such verbs are;

nicht ablehnen = annehmen
nicht verweigern = akzeptieren
nicht aufhören = weitermachen
nicht abstoßen = akzeptieren
not deny = accept
not reject = accept
not stop = continue
not repel = accept
Examples of negative verbs in German
1. Ich lehne nichts ab = Ich akzeptiere alles.

2. Ich lehne es nicht ab = Ich akzeptiere es.

3. Der Mann verweigert niemanden.
I am denying nothing.

I am not denying it.

The man rejects nobody.
Sentences with doppelte Verneinung with negative verbs

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