How to Say ‘No’ in German [& Use German Negation]

no in german

When it comes to saying ‘no’ in German, most of us have heard of the word nein. However there are a few other ways to express a negative response other than nein. There are also the different ways to negate a sentence, such as ‘I don’t like chocolate’ (echt?! really?!) and ‘We have no time today’.

In this post you will learn all the common ways to say ‘no’ in German, and the various ways to negate a sentence.

How to Say ‘No’ in German


Meaning: No

The direct translation to ‘no’. Just like in English, it can sound a little rude if used on it’s own. Pair it with danke (thank you) to make it sound more polite.

nein danke


Meaning: Nope / nah

Nee is a colloquial word for ‘no’ in German that is widely used in Northern and Central Germany. It sounds less abrupt than nein, and can be compared with and English ‘nope’ or ‘nah’.

Auf keinen Fall

Meaning: No way / absolutely not

For when you want to make it clear you will not change your mind. You can add gar to increase the intensity of the statement further: auf gar keinen Fall (absolutely no way / under no circumstances).

Ich gehe auf keinen Fall bei diesem Wetter rausThere’s no way I’m going out in this weather

Überhaupt nicht

Meaning: Not at all

When you need to emphasise something you can use überhaupt nicht rather than just nicht.

Ich verstehe das nichtI don’t understand that
Ich verstehe das überhaupt nichtI don’t understand that at all

Leider nicht

Meaning: Unfortunately not

If you need to say no, but you want to soften the news to someone, you can say leider nicht. It will express to the person you are saying ‘no’ to that you are doing so with regret.

Kommst du mit ins Kino?Are you coming to the cinema?
Leider nicht, ich habe zu viel zu tunUnfortunately not, I have too much to do

Lieber nicht

Meaning: Would rather not

If you want to refuse something, but really don’t want to upset anyone, one of the softest ways to say ‘no’ would be ‘I’d rather not’. Luckily German has a similar phrase for this situation: lieber nicht.

Können Sie mit Sandra reden?Can you talk to Sandra?
Ich möchte sie lieber nicht störenI’d rather not disturb her

So now you know how to say ‘no’ in German. If you’re ready to be more positive check out How to Say ‘Yes’ in German.

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