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How to say No in German in
3 ways other than nein

How to say NO in German

Obviously, the most common way to say no in German is nein.

Everyone knows that!

It’s even simpler than saying thank you in German

But did you know these other ways native Germans like to use?

1. “Nee” and Nö” (nope)

We often use these two words colloquially when we talk to friends.

Wollen wir ins Kino gehen?
Nö, ich bin zu müde.

Do we want to go to the movies?
Nope, I’m too tired.

Kennst du den Mann?
Nee, den habe ich noch nie gesehen.

Do you know that man?
Nope, I’ve never seen him before.

2. auf gar keinen Fall (absolutely not)

Bist du in Paul verliebt?
Auf gar keinen Fall!

Are you in love with Paul?
Absolutely not!

3. nie und nimmer (never ever, no way)

Möchten Sie Fallschirmspringen ausprobieren?
Nie und nimmer! 

Would you like to try skydiving?
Never ever!

The problem is that German is a very straightforward language, and sometimes just saying no may sound unpleasant and rude.

So how do you say no in German and still remain polite?

How to say no in German if you want to sound polite

Let’s say your friend wants to borrow your laptop for a night.

Well, you don’t want to give it out but you really can’t say no to a friend…

Now did you see how I began the sentence above?

I began by using the word well, because it’s a word that prepares one for a negative response, yet taking away the weight of rejection that the word ‘no’ causes.

In German, a word with similar use is nun.

Let me show you how it works…

Kann ich heute Abend deinen Laptop haben?
Nun, es gibt einige Dinge, die ich tun wollte.
Wie wäre es, wenn du Michael fragst? 

Can I have your laptop tonight?
Well, there are some things I wanted to do.
How about you ask Michael?

You see – simple and not exactly as shattering as a plain nein (no).

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That aside, now assume your best friend has a funny pair of shoes and you don’t like how they look.

You know what to say when she asks, right?

Magst du übrigens meine Schuhe?
Nun, ich denke sie sehen aus wie Fische.

By the way, do you like my shoes?
Well, I think they look like fish.

Of course you wouldn’t say that to your friend, but you get the point.

The other word (like nun) to say no in German without sounding harsh

The other word you could use instead of nun is naja.

Let’s put it to the test and see how well it fits…

Kann ich heute Abend deinen Laptop haben?
Naja, es gibt einige Dinge, die ich tun wollte.
Wie wäre es, wenn du Michael fragst? 

Can I have your laptop tonight?
Well, there are some things I wanted to do.
How about you ask Michael?

What about the second example?

Hey, diese Schuhe wurden gestern geliefert.
Sie sind schön, nicht wahr? 

Naja, ich denke sie sehen aus wie Fische.

Hey, I got these shoes delivered yesterday.
They are nice, right?
Well, I think they look like fish.

Other ways of saying no in German without sounding rude

Leider

If you were to look up leider as a direct translation, it would mean ‘unfortunately’.

It can also, however, be used as a polite form of saying no in German.

Look at the following example:

Kann ich mein Auto hier parken? 
Leider ist dieser Parkplatz für Mercedes-Autos reserviert.

Can I park my car here? 
Unfortunately, this parking space is reserved for Mercedes cars.

Tut mir leid

Similarly, tut mir leid directly translates to I’m sorry.

As a way of saying no in German, it is normally followed by an explanation so that the respondent doesn’t feel unhappy.

Let’s take an example of your friend asking you to join him for a party for instance:

Kommst du an diesem Wochenende zu dieser großen Party?
Es tut mir leid, aber ich habe bereits andere Pläne.
 

Are you coming to that big party this weekend?
I’m sorry, but I already have other plans.

Lieber

This is another word which gives an alternative instead of agreeing to the asked request.

It’s the German equivalent of rather, and an example you can use to understand it is when someone asks if you’d like some tea and you reply that you’d rather have coffee instead.

Let’s look at an example:

Möchtest du am Samstag spazieren gehen?
Ich würde lieber schwimmen gehen.

Would you like to go for a walk on Saturday?
I would rather go swimming instead.

You can also combine it with ‘nun’ to make it even more polite.

Nun, ich würde lieber schwimmen gehen.

Just like in English, what’s most important is to explain why you would not agree to something.

Otherwise you don’t want to just say nein when someone offers to buy you a drink, otherwise they may never offer you anything else.

 

You may also look at:

>>> Love quotes in German

>>> Days in German

>>> Months in German

If you liked this article, I can help you learn German the easy way with many more funny examples.

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