The meaning and use of “weder… noch…”

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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 one hell of a team. Say hello tooooooooo:

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…as they will make your rejections sound much more definite. 

Weder… noch…. is the construction to reject two or more things and it is the German version of neither… nor… .

As you can see the mechanics of weder .. noch… and neither.. nor… are pretty much the same. This is similar to the pair entweder… oder… but for those two we already found out that there is big differences between German and English if you take the words separately. So let’s take a quick look at the words one by one.  Noch is mostly combined with another word to form a variation of expressions. I don’t want to get into this right now because it is too much. Weder however makes up for nochs diversity as it means… nothing. “But doesn’t it mean neither?”. No not really. It just means neither when it is teamed up with noch and this is the only time you will ever see or hear it anywhere. The English neither however is used without nor in a number of constructions that can be boiled down to 2 concepts. The first one is summarized by ‘me neither‘ so it is a negative ‘too‘. In German this works using auch nicht.

To make it more clear, here the more literal translations:

The second neither, the one of ‘neither of us’, is going to be translated into some construction with keine/keiner/keinem/keinen ect. The exact translation depends on case, gender and of course situation so the 2 examples are just some possibilities:

So just to recap weder… noch… means neither … nor… . Now we need to look at the grammar quickly. In German you usually put the words weder and noch right in front the two alternatives you want to reject. So it is:

In the last example the two alternatives are the main actions of the phrases – to want and to have. Weder and noch are in front of the verbs and the verb is just where it needs to be… in its precious second slot. So in that regard weder… noch … are a little different to entweder … oder…as these 2 don’t take up one slot all the time.

Now if you have 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 this is already it. This was our German Word of the Day Tag Team Special with weder… noch… . I hope you found it helpful and see you next time.

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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.

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