The meaning and use of “weder… noch…”

Hello everyone, high five smileys

and welcome to our German Word of the Day Tag Team Special.
This time we will have a look at the meaning and grammar of a really important combination. Say hello to:

weder… noch…

 

Suppose you have a bad day and you are grumpy as hell. People might offer you things to make you feel better and yet this is just making you even grumpier. If you know what I mean, then you will find lots of joy with weder… noch… . They’re every true nay-sayer’s dream and  they will make your rejections sound much more definite.

Even without translation, you might have guessed it  from context… weder… noch is the German version of  neither… nor. So it’s the perfect answer to entweder … oder… (either … or)  – well, if you don’t like either of the alternatives.  And as far as structure goes, weder noch works pretty much the same as neither nor. So we can use it to negate two nouns like here:

But it also works for negating two full sentences, like here:

And if you look closely at the last example, you will actually see something REALLY strange. Both languages are using the same sentence structure here. And actually, it’s the GERMAN version. Like… in German, the verb always comes in position two, no matter whether we’ve already had the subject or not. English is different in that you usually put the subject before the verb.

  • Gestern habe ich…
  • Yesterday, I have

But not in case of neither… nor. Instead of saying this:

  • Neither, I want to… nor, I can to…  NOPE

English says this:

  • Neither do I want to… nor can I…
  • Weder will ich… noch kann ich…

​So it puts the verb second (or add the helper “do” there).
And in German, both weder and noch count as position 1 and the verb comes after.
That’s actually different to entweder … oder, where it’s up to us.

Cool.
So now we know what the combination weder noch means and that it’s pretty much the same as neither nor.  That doesn’t apply to the words by themselves, though.
Noch is actually super common by itself and quite the range of uses. I’ve got an entire article about it and it’s really really really long. I’ll leave a link below if you want to see something really long and hard… ahem… 
Weder
kind of makes up for noch’s complexity because by itself it means… nothing.
“Wait, so it doesn’t actually mean neither?”
Exactly. You will only see weder in the combination with noch. And the big question now is how to translate neither.

How to translate “neither”

Shut up, headline. I just said said that.

So, the English neither as a standalone can be boiled down to two concepts.
The first one is about “joining a negation”. The best example is “me neither‘” which is basically “Me also not“.  And that’s exactly how it is said in German. We say auch nicht.

And while we’re at it… this is also how German says “not either”. Which expresses the same stuff basically.

Cool.
The other idea of  neither is a negation of two (or more) things in one go. An example is ‘neither of us’ and in German, this neither is translated to keiner. Or keine. Or keines. Or keinem. Or keinen. Or keiner… oh wait, we already had that. So yeah… we have to go through the motions of gender and case with these endings…

And that’s pretty much it. Well, actually, let’s look at a few more examples for weder … noch. Just as a recall.

I guess we should also mention that weder noch can be used as a standalone answer. Like here:

  • “Gehst du zur Arbeit oder zur Universität””
    Weder noch. “
  • “Are you going to work or to university?”
    Neither of the two.”

Oh and should you ever feel the need to reject more than two things simply add nochs to your sentence:

  • Ich mag weder “Star Wars Episode 1”, noch “Der Weiße Hai 2”, noch “Matrix 2”, noch “Matrix 3”, noch….

And that’s all for today. Hooray.
This was our look at the meaning and use of weder noch. If you want to check how much you remember and if you’ve understood everything, you can take the little quiz we have prepared. Well, you will be able to take it once I’ve finished it. It is Friday, the 17th of January 2020, Emanuel is sitting at his desk working. Grinding the Germ… oh wait, it’s actually finished :).
And of course, if you have any questions about weder noch, just leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to clear things up.
Hope you liked it and see you next time.

 

further reading:

for members :)

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Manni
Manni

Emanuel, what does “Willst du lieber was trinken?” mean?

Anonymous
Anonymous

It means, do you want something to drink.
Do you love something to drink.

Baconeta
Baconeta

I would say prefer, not love

Janet
Janet

Your English is correct! You can also, and perhaps more logically, say “I go neither to work nor (to) University”. Both work for me. The “to” is optional at least in speech, but gives a nice emphasis and balance to the sentence.

One correction though. As “neither” is already negative, you omit “don’t” and say “I like neither chocolate nor ice cream.” The Japanese, who are very literal with yes (agree to sentence content) and no (disagree) may otherwise think you do like both!

Cheers.

Jo
Jo

Hi Emanuel! I keep coming back and re-reading these posts over and over – they’re so useful! Especially for the tricky words like noch and doch… I’m surprised there are only a couple of comments on this one – you usually get heaps, especially for funky words like noch. So even though the post is like over a year and a half old, I figured I’d comment, hope you don’t mind!

One interesting difference between English and Deutsch I notice with your examples is that “neither” can only be used if there are only two possibilities. So we don’t say, “I tried three types of beer in that bar and neither one was tasty.” You could say “Can you believe that bar only had two kinds of beer?! I tried both types, and neither (one) was tasty.” If there’s more than two, you’d have to say something like “none of them were tasty”.* Likewise, the dishes example is fine, but just be aware that saying “neither of us” implies only two people involved, otherwise you’d say “none of us”.
(*As an aside, here I would say “none of them were” rather than “none of them was”, but if you want to check out a big online argument, Google “none of them were none of them was”…)

This applies equally when neither is in a neither-nor construction. So your last example with the form “weder-noch-noch-noch…” doesn’t translate directly. The following does not work: “I like neither “Star Wars Episode 1″, nor “Der Weiße Hai 2″, nor “Matrix 2″, nor “Matrix 3″, nor…”. In this case, we’d just say “I don’t like “Star Wars Episode 1″, or …” (Note that usually I’d use “or” if I wasn’t using “neither”. There’s nothing wrong with “nor”, as in “I don’t like A, nor B, nor C…” and it’s probably a regional thing as to whether “or” or “nor” is used. It sounds a bit quaint to me – I’d probably only use “nor” here if I wanted to sound kind of poetic or dramatic or literary.)

berlingrabers

This is a little tangential to the post, but how good does something have to taste to be “lecker”? I think I was taught that “lecker” was similar to “delicious” (looooong ago, so it might not actually be a teacher’s fault), but it seems to me that the bar is a little lower for “lecker.” “Tasty” seems more like it, but the example you give (and I think I’ve seen and heard others like it) makes it seem like “lecker” is almost a baseline description of something worth eating/drinking. Just curious about that – it’s one of those places where I feel like there’s a cultural difference even though the meaning isn’t that hard to translate.

Also, I agree with Jo about pretty much everything in her comments.

Shofi Nisa

Hello, I just started to learn German and find your article was really helpful :D
As my teacher said that “weder” take the first position, so instead of “Ich mag weder Schokolade noch Eis”, we have to say “Weder mag ich Schokolade oder Eis.”
Where we actually put the “weder “? Is it on the first position or anywhere before the “something” we want to emphasise? Is this rule strict?
Vielen Dank!

Anonymous
Anonymous

I just read your noch article and came back to this one i read earlier. Now i have noch a question. Based on the additional sense of noch.
Is the noch here like: I like neither/weder this and ADDITIONALLY/noch this… etc.
(I reject this and additionally i reject this too)
Or am I totally imagining things.

alokgarg47

What would be the right way to express the english short answer “Neither!”
Something one would answer for a question asking whether I want this or that?

Dict.cc gives one translation of Neither (thanks) to Weder noch (Danke).

Thanks