Negation – Nem…Van or Nincs?

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NEM…VAN AND NINCS

Take a look at these sentences and you’ll see what I mean, but first a small summary:

nem…van/vannak = is/are not
>expressing existence

nincs/nincsenek = there is/are no, there isn’t/aren’t any
>expressing something, someone is not to be found somewhere

POSITIVE SENTENCES:
Az autó a garázsban van. – The car is in the garage.
Az autók a garázsban vannak. – The cars are in the garage.
A labda a strandon van. – The ball is on the beach.
A labdák a strandon vannak. – The balls are on the beach.

NEGATIVE SENTENCES WITH NINCS:
Az autó nincs a garázsban. – There’s no car in the garage.
Az autók nincsenek a garázsban. – There are no cars in the garage.
A labda nincs a strandon. – There’s no ball on the beach.
A labdák nincsenek a strandon. – There are no balls on the beach.

NEGATIVE SENTENCES WITH NEM…VAN:
Az autó nem a garázsban van. – The car is not in the garage.
Az autók nem a garázsban vannak. – The cars are not in the garage.
A labda nem a strandon van. – The ball is not on the beach.
A labdák nem a strandon vannak. – The balls are not on the beach.

See what I mean? And the positive sentences are no problem. A positive existence or whereabouts is simply expressed with van, vannak which, however, can be translated in English as: is, are / there is, there are.

SUMMARY:
van = is, there is
vannak = are, there are
nincs = there is no, there isn’t any
nincsenek = there are no, there aren’t any
nem…van = is not
nem…vannak = are not

This is a problem only in present tense. In any other tense and mood you use the same forms for both existence and wherebouts.

PAST:
volt, voltak = was, were / there was, there were
nem volt, nem voltak = wasn’t, weren’t / there was no, there were no

FUTURE:
lesz, lesznek = will be / there will be
nem lesz, nem lesznek = won’t be / there won’t be

CONDITIONAL:
volna, volnának = would be / there would be
lenne, lennének
nem volna, nem volnának = wouldn’t be / there wouldn’t be
nem lenne, nem lennének

IMPERATIVE:
legyen, legyenek = (let) be / (let) there be / (there) should be / had better be
ne legyen, ne legyenek = don’t be / (there) shouldn’t be / had better not be

A few examples for the sentences above in other tenses and moods:

Az autó a garázsban lesz.
The car will be in the garage.
Az autó nem lesz a garázsban.
The car won’t be in the garage.

A labda a strandon legyen.
The ball had better be on the beach.
A labda ne legyen a strandon.
The ball had better not be on the beach.

Negation – Nincs, Nincsen

NINCS

This negative word is used if something doesn’t exist or something is not to be found somewhere. It also has a plural form: nincsenek. Equivalent:

SING: nincs, nincsen = there is no / there isn’t any
PLUR: nincsenek = there are no / there aren’t any
POSSESSION: nincs, nincsenek = have no / don’t have any

For explanation, watch the examples:

Nincs/Nincsen házam.
I have no house. I don’t have a house.

A tárcám nincs a széken.
My wallet is not on the chair.

Nincsenek könyveink.
We have no books. We don’t have any books.

A fiúk nincsenek az osztályban.
The boys are not in the classroom.

Note that nincs, nincsenek are only irregular in present tense.

Present tense: nincs/nincsen, nincsenek
Past tense: nem volt, nem voltak
Future tense: nem lesz, nem lesznek
Conditional: nem volna/lenne, nem lett volna, nem volnának/lennének, nem lettek volna
Imperative: ne legyen / ne legyenek

Nem volt házam.
I had no house. I didn’t have a house.

A tárcám nem lesz a széken.
My wallet will not be on the chair.

Nem voltak könyveink.
We had no books. We didn’t have any books.

A fiúk nem lesznek az osztályban.
The boys won’t be in the classroom.

Double negation is possible with nincs, too:

Nincs egy vasam se. – I haven’t got a red cent. / I’m broke.

Sometimes you can use single negation with sincs which is a combination of se + nincs!

Fogalmam sincs. – I have no idea.

Még tiszta zoknim sincs!
I don’t even have a pair of clean socks!

Nincs also expresses the English NONE:

-Van kerti törpétek? –Nincsen.
-Do you have any garden gnomes? -No, we have none.

-Van kerti törpétek? –Egy sincs.
-Do you have any garden gnomes? -No, we have none.

egy sincs/egy sincsen = none, not a single one