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How to Say No in Dutch

Categories: Education,Latest News

One of the most important words to know and use in any language is the word no, of course. Dutch is no exception. Once you know how to say no in Dutch, you’ll notice that it will save you a lot of frustration and time! On top of that, there is something great about saying no. Paradoxically enough, once you know how to say no, it can bring you to the things that you really want, and this is always a big gain.

Let’s start with the short version. Ja is yes, and nee is no in Dutch. But do not stop reading because there is much more to discover! Let’s make sure that your nee really works in effective ways.

Make sure that you overcome this obstacle first

Here is a great question.… nee is quite easy to say, right? It is almost like no in English, so probably you will not need to study for hours and hours to remember it. And yet… many people find it difficult to use nee in everyday life situations, and chances could be high that you are one of them… You may fear that others will not like you anymore if you say nee, or you are afraid that now, all of a sudden, people see you as a brutal monster. Somehow, it could feel that there is a certain risk or danger once you start using the word nee….

Therefore, the first obstacle to use nee with elegance and grace could be a psychological one. Here is something that could be important to know. Although Dutch people find it difficult to say nee now and then, saying nee is important in Dutch culture. It shows that you are honest. Depending on your culture and personal beliefs, you may believe that Dutch people will like you more if you say ja all the time, but the contrary is true… Dutch people need to hear nee a couple of times coming out of your mouth in order to respect you.

Some people believe that if you say ja all the time, it means that you are friendly, but not in Dutch. If Dutch people find out later that your ja was actually nee, then soon enough, they may qualify you as being dishonest and not worthy of any trust.

Oops… some things can still be tricky!

For example, if Dutch people give you food – a raw herring, for example – and ask you: vind je het lekker? (do you like it?), then make sure you give your real opinion if you don’t like it. Feel free to say: sorry, ik vind het niet zo lekker. In most cases, Dutch people will appreciate your honesty and get the idea that they know you a little better now. It will help you to give you things in the future that you do like!

So once again, nee is no, and if you like to stay polite, you can do it in two different ways:

  • You add that you are sorry if you feel the need to apologize. Vind je de haring lekker?
  • Nee, sorry
  • If people offer you something you do not like, simply add dank je wel. For example: wil je dubbelzoute drop? (do you like extra salty licorice?) Nee…. Dank je wel!

However, with some people, you need to be clear somehow. You can repeat the word nee in a very loud voice: Nee, nee, nee! Or if you like, you can also say: absoluut niet! Or even better: nee, absoluut niet!

By the way, how would you interpret ja nee! What would you think? Is it yes or no? This is a construction that Dutch people often use, certainly in casual conversation. Ja means: yes, I have heard what you just said and then nee means: my answer is no! In this construction, it is the last word nee that really counts!

There are, of course, some more advanced ways to say no…. just like in English. Have you noticed that geen often denies things as well? Here are some examples:

  • Ik wil geen warm bier
  • Ik heb geen miljoen euro
  • Ik drink geen alcohol

Geen works like no in English. The constructions go like this: I want no warm beer, I have not a million euros, I drink no alcohol. Niet works like not in English. Here are some examples:

  • Ik werk niet (I work not)
  • De koffie is niet warm (The coffee is not warm)
  • Niet later, maar nu (not later, but now)

Once you start to see the difference between geen and niet and understand that it is like no and not in English, you can already start operating on higher levels! However, if your native language is English, make sure you also understand the next thing…

If you like to say: I don’t sleep, then make sure that you think instead: I sleep not, and then you’ll have the right Dutch construction… Here are some other examples:

  • I don’t work I work not Ik werk niet
  • I don’t run I run not Ik ren niet
  • I don’t analyze I analyze not Ik analyseer niet

Can you see that in Dutch, we do not use this ‘complex’ do not construction? Certainly, if English is your native language, you may never have given this a second thought, but as a matter of fact, this construction is quite unique and only exists in English.

Also, if you like saying things like: don’t work, think: work not instead. Here are some other examples:

  • Don’t run run not ren niet
  • Don’t eat eat not eet niet
  • Don’t analyze analyze not analyseer niet

Are you ready to give it a try? Do you think that it is too much? Or do you think you can handle it? Certainly, it could take some time to get used to it, but remember: it is always great to stretch your mind a little!

When you are ready to go one step further, check out the Dutch Brainwash. This masterclass is a tried-and-true program that has the power to revolutionize your Dutch. Aside from tripling your vocabulary in minutes, the Dutch Brainwash has some unique claims to fame. This course is designed to be tailored to the individual desires of its students. Meaning you won’t be learning tired phrases from your textbook written in 2003 about where to buy a CD-ROM. The seven-day intensive course allows you to create your own sentences about anything you please.

Albert Both

Talencoach / Dutch Flow Now