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Basics 1 updated 2018-10-25 ^


Welcome to the Dutch course! Dutch is a Germanic language, with grammar and vocabulary similar to other European languages. You might recognize some words from English as well! Even so, Dutch is a language with grammatical genders. These genders have influence on endings on words, for example.

Gender and articles

In Dutch, there are three (grammatical) genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Each gender has their own definite article (‘the’): both singular masculine and feminine nouns use de and singular neuter nouns use het. For plural nouns, de is always used. The definite articles de and het don't have very clear rules for when you're supposed to use which; this will mostly be learning by heart and developing a feeling for it. However, there are some guidelines to help you along:

De words:

  1. De is always used for plural nouns
  2. De is always used for professions: de kok (‘the chef’), de leraar (‘the teacher’)
  3. De tends to be used for people with an identified gender, such as: de vader (‘the father’), de dochter (‘the daughter’)
  4. De is used for vegetables, fruits, trees and plants, names of mountains, and rivers
  5. Furthermore, de is used for most words ending on -ie, -ij, -heid, -teit, -schap, -tie, -sie, -aar, -eur, -er, and -or.
  6. Finally, de is used for written-out numbers and letters: de drie (‘the three’), de a (‘the a’).

Het words:

  1. Het is always used for diminutives. Diminutives can be recognised by their suffix; they end in -je, -tje, -etje, -pje, or -mpje.
  2. Het is always used for words consisting of two syllables and starting with be-, ge-, ver-, and ont-
  3. Het is always used for verbs used as nouns. When the infinitive form of a verb is used as a noun (e.g. 'the walking of the dog'), Dutch uses het (het lopen van de hond).
  4. Het is always used for languages and names of metals
  5. Het is also used for names of compass points: het noorden (‘the North’)
  6. Het is used for names of sports and games: het schaken (‘chess’), het voetbal (‘football/soccer’)
  7. Furthermore, het is used for words ending on -isme and -ment

Dutch speakers actually never tend to think about the gender of words. Rather than knowing whether a word is originally feminine or masculine, the only distinction that has to be remembered is the difference between the de words and het words. This is because it has grammatical consequences (in terms of possessives, question words, demonstratives, adjectives, and even relative pronouns). This is why when you learn a new noun, it is very important to memorize whether it is a de or het word.


The Dutch pronouns are as follows:

English Dutch
I Ik
You (singular) Jij (Je*)
He/She/It Hij/Zij (Ze*)/Het
You (formal) U
We Wij (We*)
You (plural) Jullie
They Zij (Ze*)

Verb conjugation

In Dutch, verbs can be recognised by the ending -en. For example, eten (‘to eat’) and drinken (‘to drink’). Verb conjugation in Dutch can get rather difficult, since there are lots of exceptions (welcome to Dutch, where exceptions are the rule!). The most basic rule is: find the stem and add the right ending to it. To find the stem of the word, you take the infinitive of the word – the basic form that you can find in the dictionary – and take off the ending, i.e. -en. So in the example of 'drinken', (to drink), the stem would be drink-. For the simple present, the conjugation is as follows:

Pronoun Conjugation Example
Ik [stem] Ik drink (I drink)
Jij [stem]+t Jij drinkt (You drink)
Hij/Zij/Het [stem]+t Hij drinkt (He drinks)
U [stem]+t U drinkt (You drink)
Wij Infinitive Wij drinken (We drink)
Jullie Infinitive Jullie drinken (You drink)
Zij Infinitive Zij drinken (They drink)

Alphabet and pronunciation

The Dutch alphabet has 26 letters – just like in English. In fact, you don’t have to learn any new letters! Hurrah!
However, there are a lot of differences and peculiarities in pronunciation. Some letters are pronounced differently, and there can be combinations of letters that may throw you for a loop. Don’t worry, we are not discussing the letters just now.

Basics 2 updated 2018-10-25 ^

Irregular verbs

In Basics 1 the regular verb conjugations have been explained. Unfortunately, Dutch also has irregular verbs. Fortunately, there are only 6 verbs that are completely irregular. There are more which aren't entirely regular, but you'll meet those in the Past tense.

These are the irregular verbs:

  1. Hebben (to have)
  2. Kunnen (can)
  3. Mogen (may)
  4. Willen (to want)
  5. Zijn (to be)
  6. Zullen (shall)

The most common of these are Hebben and Zijn, so here are their conjugations in the present tense:

Hebben Zijn
Ik heb Ik ben
Jij hebt Jij bent
U hebt/U heeft U bent
Hij/Zij/Het heeft Hij/Zij/Het is
Wij hebben Wij zijn
Jullie hebben Jullie zijn
Zij hebben Zij zijn


The way Dutch vowels sound depends on whether they are in open or closed syllables. A syllable is closed if it is in a consonant sandwich (e.g. bed, ‘bed’) and it is open if it is not (e.g. ga, ‘go’).

Dutch IPA, Notes
A [ɑ] (short), like in father. [a:] (long), like in car (Australian/New Zealand English)
B [b], like in bait. At the end of a word: [p]
C [s] or [k] depending on the vowel after the c
D [d], like in duck. At the end of a word: [t]
E [ɛ] (short), like in bed. [e:] (long), like in made. [ə], an ‘uh’ sound, like again; mostly at the end of verbs.
F [f], like in feather
G [ɣ] / [x], the infamous Dutch sound. It sounds a bit like loch (Scottish English). [g] (*goal, ‘goal’) or [ʒ] (bagage, ‘luggage’) in loan words
H [ɦ], like in behind
I [ɪ] (short), like in sit. [i] (long), like in deep
J [j], like in yard
K [k], like in kiss
L [l], like in land
M [m], like in man
N [n], like in neck
O [ɔ] (short), like in soft. [o:] (long), roughly like in bone**
P [p], like in pen
Q [k], only in foreign words and loanwords
R [ʀ], an uvular trill (rolling r in back of the throat). However, there are more ways to pronounce the r in Dutch, depending on the place in a word: [ɹ] (alveolar approximant, "tap r"), [r] (alveolar trill, “rolling r”), and [ʁ] (uvular approximant, German/French r).
S [s], like in sock
T [t], like in tea
U [ʏ] (short), roughly like future. [y] (long), roughly like new
V [v], like in very
W [ʋ], between wine and vine
X [ks], only in foreign words and loanwords
Y [j], only in foreign words and loanwords
Z [z], like in zip

Common Phrases 1 updated 2018-10-25 ^

Greetings throughout the day

As in English, Dutch has many different ways of greeting others. The most common one, which you can use all day, is Hallo.

An easy way of greeting people throughout the day, is to say the time of day and add goede- "good" in front of it - just like in English. If the time of day starts with a vowel, you squish an -n- in between (an exception being "goedendag"). As follows:

Time of day Greeting
Morgen (morning) Goedemorgen
Middag (midday) Goedemiddag
Avond (evening) Goedenavond
Nacht (night) Goedenacht
Dag (day) Goedendag

More pronunciation

Besides the letters of the alphabet, Dutch has a lot of combinations of letters that have their own sound. The most common ones are discussed below.

Dutch IPA, Notes
ch [ɣ] / [x], the infamous Dutch sound (again). It sounds a bit like loch (Scottish English). [ʃ] in loanwords, like chocolade and China. Can also sound like [tʃ], like in check.
ng [ŋ], like in long
nj [ɲ], like the Spanish ñ
nk [ŋk], the ng sound followed by a k
sch [sɣ] / [sx] at the beginning of words. At the end of a word, it sounds like [s]
tie [tsi], at the end of words
tj [c], is followed by an e, sounds like cheer
au, ou [ʌu], like in out
ei, ij [ɛi], roughly like may
eu [øː], roughly like earth or bird
oe [u], like boot
ui [œy], tricky. Roughly like house (Scottish English)

Negatives 1: Niet & Geen updated 2018-10-25 ^


In Dutch, there are two words that are used to negate things: niet and geen. They are, however, not interchangeable. And since this is Dutch, there are some exceptions to this rule as well.


Geen is used to negate a noun that, if not negated, would be preceded by een. You can say that geen translates to ‘not a’. Geen is also used if the noun is not preceded by any article, like some plural and uncountable nouns.

Dutch English
Is dat een man? – Nee, dat is geen man. Is that a man? – No, that is not a man.
Hebben zij boeken? – Nee, zij hebben geen boeken. Do they have books? – No, they don’t have books.

Note that geen can always be translated as the English word "no": That is no man. They have no books. For niet, this is almost never the case.


Niet is essentially used in all other situations:

  1. To negate verbs, thoughts, adjectives, or any other sentence elements that aren’t nouns.
  2. To negate nouns preceded by a definite article or possessive pronoun.
Dutch English
Ik ren niet. I do not run.
Hij is niet zo oud. He is not that old.
Zij hebben de boeken niet. They do not have the books.

As you can see in the last example, niet comes after the object, unlike geen. If it is used to negate an adjective or adverb, it comes directly before that word.

Questions 1: Yes/No updated 2018-10-25 ^


Turning a sentence into a question is relatively easy in Dutch. Unlike in English, where you often have to add the auxiliary verb "to do", you only have to change the word order of the sentence to form a question. For example:

As you can see, the subject and the verb switch places in a question. This is called inversion and you will also encounter it when you learn more complicated sentence structures.

Dropping the -t for "je"

When a sentence is inverted, that is, the verb comes before the subject, an odd thing can happen: if the subject is je (or the stressed form "jij"), then the verb loses the -t at the end.

This does not happen for any other subject, like hij or ze! So keep a close eye out for the combination of inversion + je.

Plurals updated 2018-10-25 ^


Dutch has four ways of making a plural, two of which are very rare.

The most common way of making a plural is noun + en. The first lesson of this skill has only these.

The second most common way of making a plural is noun + s. You'll see this in the last lesson of this skill!

The two rare ways are noun + eren, and plurals ending in -a. That last one is only used for words which come from Latin, and for all of these it's also correct to just pluralize it with -s.

As with many things in Dutch grammar, the rules for when to use which aren't very clear. There are some guidelines, but the best way to learn them is by slowly developing a feeling for it.

With that being said, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Noun + en

  1. Always maintain vowel length. If a vowel sounds long, make sure it keeps sounding long (for instance, schaap becomes schapen). If a vowel sounds short, keep it short for instance, kat becomes katten).
  2. Hard consonants become soft consonants. If the noun normally ends in an 's' or an 'f' (hard consonants), the plural replaces these with a 'z' or a 'v' respectively. For instance, muis becomes muizen.

Noun + s

  1. If the noun ends with a single vowel, you cannot just add the -s. Instead, you first add an apostrophe, and then add the -s. For instance, menu becomes menu's.
  2. There is an exception to the above rule: words ending with an -e. Those never get the apostrophe.

Stressed Pronouns updated 2018-10-25 ^

Stressed and unstressed pronouns

Dutch knows two types of pronouns: stressed (or marked) and unstressed (or unmarked) pronouns. The difference lies in the fact that stressed pronouns, as suggested, receive emphasis whereas unstressed pronouns do not. The stressed and unstressed personal pronouns that are taught in this skill are listed below:

Dutch (unstressed/unmarked) Dutch (stressed/marked) English
Je Jij You (singular)
Ze Zij She, They
We Wij We

The other personal pronouns (ik, u, hij, het, and jullie) don’t have a different stressed and unstressed personal pronoun in written language. In speaking, there are other ways to denote emphasis for these (see below).

There are also stressed forms of certain object pronouns (me/mij, je/jou) and possessives (je/jouw), but you will learn about those later.

When do we use marked pronouns?

Marked pronouns are less used than the unmarked ones, but they are important nonetheless. In some situations (such as comparisons) the meaning of the sentence forces you to emphasize the pronoun, so that it would be unnatural to use the unstressed form. This skill will demonstrate some of those cases, so that you can develop a feeling for this use of emphasis.

However, in most sentences the pronouns can be either stressed or unstressed, depending heavily on context and intonation. That is why in Duolingo exercises (which lack both of those), the two forms are usually interchangeable. The pronunciation is different though, so pay extra attention during listening exercises!

How do we emphasize the pronoun?

  1. We use the stressed pronoun, as described above
  2. When we emphasize the pronoun, we also increase our pitch
  3. We tend to slightly increase our volume
  4. In addition, the word is pronounced “longer” (its duration is stretched in comparison to that of the unmarked pronoun).

In contrast, when you’re using an unmarked pronoun, you should emphasize another part of the sentence, like the verb or the object!

Stressed vs unstressed

Dutch English
Jij moet dat doen. You have to do that. (it's not my job)
Je moet dat doen. You have to do that. (and not something else)
Zij gaan naar huis. They are going home. (while we are staying here)
Ze gaan naar huis. They are going home. (and not downtown)

Present Simple updated 2018-10-25 ^

d, t, dt?

Perhaps the most difficult thing for native Dutch speakers, is to put a -t at the end of a verb at the right time.

Especially when the verb stem ends with a -d, as is the case with houden (the stem is, of course, houd-). You will often hear natives talking about the -dt ending, but in truth this ending does not exist: if you simply follow the conjugation rules it's just stem + t.

As a refresher, the verb conjugation table for the present:

Pronoun Conjugation Example
Ik [stem] Ik drink (I drink)
Jij [stem] + t Jij drinkt (You drink)
Hij/Zij/Het [stem] + t Hij drinkt (He drinks)
U [stem] + t U drinkt (You drink)
Wij Infinitive Wij drinken (We drink)
Jullie Infinitive Jullie drinken (You drink)
Zij Infinitive Zij drinken (They drink)

Now let's replace drinken with houden:

Pronoun Conjugation Example
Ik [stem] Ik houd
Jij [stem] + t Jij houdt
Hij/Zij/Het [stem] + t Hij houdt
U [stem] + t U houdt
Wij Infinitive Wij houden
Jullie Infinitive Jullie houden
Zij Infinitive Zij houden

Another difficulty with this arises in sentences which are questions. In particular, the problem-or rather, confusion- is with the second and third person singular, jij and hij. The rules are as follows:

  1. In a question where the second person singular je/jij is directly after the verb, the verb does not get a -t
  2. The third person singular hij/zij/het always gets -t

So, at first sight you might say Houdt je vader van mij? "Does your father love me?", is incorrect; after all, je is after the verb, so it should not get a -t. However, je is not the second person singular here; it's the possessive. The subject, je vader, can be replaced with hij: Houdt hij van mij? and the rule is that the third person singular always gets the -t.

There are some more d/t/dt difficulties in other verb tenses, but those are for another skill!

Adjective Basics updated 2018-10-25 ^


Adjectives and definite articles

If an adjective comes before a noun with a definite article ("de" or "het"), it usually gets the ending -e.



An -e is also added if there is a demonstrative or possessive pronoun instead of a definite article

Adjectives and indefinite articles

If the indefinite article ”een" comes before a het-word in the singular, then the adjective does not get the -e ending.

If it comes before a de-word, it does get the ending.



The following words act like “een” in that the adjective does not get an ending when preceded by them and if the noun being described is a het-word:

Adjectives with no article

If no article at all comes before a het-word, then the adjective does not get the -e ending either.

If no article comes before a de-word, it does get the ending.

Predicate adjectives

Put simply, predicate adjectives are adjectives that follow a linking verb like “to be” that describe the subject.

The adjective “green” in “The ball is green.” is a predicate adjective.

In Dutch, predicate adjectives don’t get any ending.

Unchanging adjectives

Some adjectives don’t get any ending.

These include:

+adjectives ending in -en (this includes participles of verbs acting as adjectives that end in -en) + eigen: mijn eigen hond (my own dog) + tevreden: de tevreden katten (the satisfied cats) + gebroken: de gebroken lamp (the broken lamp) + open: het open boek (the open book) + opgewonden: de opgewonden kinderen (the excited children)

rechter (right) and linker (left) are not inflected:

NOTE: if the fact that a noun is “left” or “right” is considered a fixed attribute, then “linker” and “rechter” are usually connected to the noun.

Object pronouns updated 2018-10-25 ^

Object Pronouns

Dutch has two different object pronoun types: stressed and unstressed. The stressed is used for emphasis. The full table:

English Dutch (unstressed) Dutch (stressed)
me me mij
you (singular) je jou
you (formal) u u
him/her/it hem/haar/het hem/haar/-*
us ons ons
you (plural) jullie jullie
them (persons) ze hun/hen**
them (inanimate) ze -*

Possessives updated 2018-10-25 ^


The Dutch possessives are as follows:

English Dutch
my mijn
your (singular) je/jouw*
your (formal) uw
his/her/its zijn/haar/zijn**
our ons/onze***
your (plural) jullie/je****
their hun

Independent Possessives

Independent Possessives do not precede a noun. In English they are one word, but in Dutch you need to include de or het. Which of the two you need depends on the noun you are referring to.

English Dutch
mine de/het mijne
yours (singular) de/het jouwe
yours (formal) de/het uwe
his/hers/its de/het zijne/hare/-*
ours de/het onze**
yours (plural) -*
theirs de/het hunne

Alternative Possessive

In Dutch, there is another way of saying something belongs to someone, using the word van.

English Dutch
mine van mij
yours (singular) van jou
yours (formal) van u
his/hers/its van hem/haar/-*
ours van ons
yours (plural) van jullie
theirs van hen

Conjunctions 1: Coordinating updated 2018-10-25 ^

"Conjunction junction, what's your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses." - Schoolhouse Rock Video

Conjunctions link sentences together and describe some relationship between them. Dutch knows two different types of conjunctions, each with their own grammar rules. In this skill you will only encounter coordinating conjunctions, which link two sentences or words that are roughly of equal importance.

The common Dutch coordinating conjunctions are: en, of, maar, want and dus.

There are only five of them, so learn these by heart! In comparison, there are many different subordinating conjunctions. Those bring along complicated rules for word order in subordinate clauses and are treated in a later skill.

Coordinating conjunctions do not change the word order of the individual sentences that they link. In that regard they are very simple and used in the exact same way as their English equivalents.

Formal updated 2018-10-25 ^


A common mistake with the formal 'you' in Dutch (u), even amongst native speakers, is to capitalize the u. This should only be reserved for deities. Being polite to others is a very good thing, but addressing them as deities might be a bit too much.

So, write Heeft u een kat?, not Heeft U een kat?

Unless of course you're asking the deity of your choice whether he/she/it owns a cat.

Word Order 1: Adverbs updated 2018-10-25 ^

Adverbs and Word Order

Adverbs tell you something about the time, place or manner (the "when", "where", "why") of a verb or adjective. In this skill and the next, you will learn a handful of very common adverbs and see how they affect the Dutch word order.

Dutch word order is very flexible and very strict at the same time when it comes to adverbs. There are several different places in a sentence where adverbs can be inserted, but there are also a lot of arbitrary rules.

In most cases, the adverb comes after the verb. If the verb has an object (the person or thing that is receiving the action of the verb), then the adverb comes before or after the object, depending on whether it is definite or indefinite.

A definite object is either a definite pronoun ("me/mij", "je/jou", etc), or a noun with a definite article ("de", "het") or possessive ("mijn", "jouw", etc). Adverbs usually come after a definite object:

An indefinite object is an indefinite pronoun ("iets", "iemand", etc) or a noun with an indefinite article ("een") or no article. Adverbs always come before an indefinite object:

NOTE: It is always possible to put an adverb at the beginning of the sentence, for emphasis. This will cause inversion and is shown in the Word Order 2 skill.

Word Order 2: Inversion updated 2018-10-25 ^

V2 (Verb 2nd) Word Order

Linguists say that Dutch has a V2 word order. This means that the verb is always the second element of the sentence (except in yes or no questions and commands). If you are struggling with Dutch word order, this is the most important rule to remember!

In Dutch, just like in English, you can move words to the beginning of the sentence to give them more emphasis. However, the V2 word order requires that the verb must remain in the second place. Therefore, as another word is moved to the first place, the verb switches places with the subject. This is called inversion.

It follows the same rules as yes/no questions: if the subject is "je" or "jij", then the verb loses its -t after inversion.

Adverbs are often moved to the beginning for emphasis, but the same can be done with the object of the sentence. This will change the word order to OVS (Object-Verb-Subject), which can make a sentence very ambiguous! Furthermore, prepositional phrases and subclauses can also cause inversion, but you will see this in later skills.

Dutch word order can get extremely complicated, but don't get discouraged! People will still understand you if you mess this up.

Prepositions 1 updated 2018-10-25 ^

To live: wonen or leven?

As you will see, the verb to live has two main translations, wonen and leven. However, those two verbs do not have the same meaning.

Wonen denotes the place you reside.

Ik woon in Nederland. 
(I live in the Netherlands.)

Ik woon in een klein huis. 
(I live in a small house.)

Leven means to be alive, to exist.

Ik leef nog. 
(I am still alive.)

Questions 2 updated 2018-10-25 ^


There are two types of questions, both in English and in Dutch: open and closed.

Closed questions

Closed questions can only be answered with 'yes' (ja) or 'no' (nee).


  1. Does he work? -Yes
  2. Is she ill? -No

What you'll notice about English closed questions, is that they are often formed with an auxiliary verb like 'to do'.


  1. He works – Does he work?
  2. I kiss her – Do I kiss her?

Other times, English applies something called inversion.


  1. I will leave – Will I leave?
  2. We have done that – Have we done that?

Dutch only applies inversion to form closed questions. Example:

  1. Jullie zijn klaar - You are done
  2. Zijn jullie klaar? - Are you done?
  3. Jij zwemt - You swim
  4. Zwem jij? - Do you swim?

Open questions

Open questions normally start with a so-called interrogative pronoun like:

  1. 'who' (wie)
  2. 'what' (wat)
  3. 'where' (waar) etc.


  1. Wie is dat? – Who is that?
  2. Wat doe je? – What are you doing?
  3. Waar kom je vandaan? – Where are you from?

Conjunctions 2: Subordinating updated 2018-10-25 ^

Subordinating Conjunctions

Conjunctions connect two sentences or phrases. You already learned the basic coordinating conjunctions, such as en, of, maar, want and dus. Nearly all other conjunctions are subordinating. These introduce a subordinate clause and link it with the main part of the sentence. Subordinating conjunctions have various functions:

A subordinate clause uses a special word order, something that most learners really struggle with. Instead of using V2 ("verb second") word order, the verbs in a subordinate clause always come at the end.

If the subordinate clause is placed before the main clause (for emphasis), then the main clause will be inverted; that is, the subject and the verb will switch places.

Note that clauses which follow a coordinating conjunction (like want, of or dus) can never be moved to the beginning of the sentence.

*Of is coordinating when it means "or", but subordinating when it means "whether/if".

Zitten/Liggen/Staan updated 2018-10-25 ^

In Dutch, something cannot just be somewhere. When describing its location, it is either lying, standing or sitting there. The glass you are drinking from is standing on a table, the wine is sitting in the glass and the cat is lying on the floor. For each of these three examples, using the verb "to be" would be very unnatural in Dutch. For English speakers, this can be quite confusing! When are you supposed to use which verb?


The verb ‘zitten’ (= to sit) is used to describe the location of:

1. an object that is located inside of something else, such as a box, a bag or a cupboard (usually together with the preposition "in").

2. a person or an animal that is explicitly sitting down.


The verb ‘liggen’ (= to lie) is used to describe the location of:

1. an object that is lying on its side. Or, if it has no side, in any position where it is wider than it is tall.

2. a geographical area or feature, such as a country, mountain, city, neighborhood, park, field, etc.

3. a person or animal that is explicitly lying down, or dead.


The verb ‘staan’ (= to stand) is used to describe the location of:

1. an object that is the right way up. Or, if there is no right way up, in any position where it is taller than it is wide.

2. an object that is resting on legs or wheels, such as a table or a car.

3. text or images. These are always described as ‘standing’ on whatever surface they are written/drawn/printed/painted/displayed on.

4. All buildings use "staan", unless it's a complex of buildings or it includes some land around it. Then you can also use "liggen".

5. a person or animal that is explicitly standing up.

What about "zijn"?

There are some exceptions, where "zijn" (=to be) can also describe a location:

  1. The location of an event.
  2. The location of a person or animal that is not explicitly standing, sitting or lying down, or whose posture is unknown.
  3. If the emphasis is on the existence of the object, instead of its position.

Putting things in their place

There is also a corresponding verb for putting an object in its location for each of these verbs describing the location of an object.

Action Result of action
leggen - liggen
zetten - staan
stoppen / doen - zitten

Some examples may make this more clear:

All three verbs could be translated as "to put" in English, but they're not interchangeable!

Adverbs 1 updated 2018-10-25 ^

Dutch adverbs

Adverbs say something about a verb, an adjective or another adverb. Adverbs only have one form.

When adjectives function as adverbs, they are not inflected:

Adverbs of place

These are:

Wonen zij hier? - 'Do they live here?'

Adverbs of time

The adjectives of time:

Het is nu mooi weer - 'The weather is nice now.

Note! In an affirmative clause, an adverb of time mostly comes before an adverb of place.

Hij was gisteren hier - 'He was here yesterday

Connecting adverbs

Some adverbs are used to connect two parts. They are:

Hij snoept heel veel, daardoor wordt hij erg dik - 'He eats a lot of sweets, therefore he is getting very fat.'

Other common adverbs

There are some other, common adverbs:

Ga je ook naar het feest? - 'Are you also going to the party?'

Time updated 2018-10-25 ^

Reading the clock: half to or half past?

The Dutch read the clock as follows:

In other words, half zeven means half an hour to seven, not past seven. This is especially confusing for the British, who refer to 7:30 as "half seven".


When in English you say in the morning", or "at night" etc., you could literally translate it to in de ochtend or in de nacht. However, Dutch has a more common and shorter way of saying it: 's ochtends or 's avonds.

The 's is short for des, which is an old Dutch word meaning van de or in de. In time it was shortened to just 's. So, while in old Dutch it would be des ochtends or des nachts, we now say 's ochtends or 's nachts.


When 's morgens or anything else starting with 's is at the start of the sentence, something interesting happens with the capitalization. You might expect the 's to become 'S; however, that is not the case, as the "s" is actually the end of a word (see the explanation above). Instead, the capital skips to the next word: 's Morgens.

Capitals in dates

In English, days of the week and months of the year always start with a capital. Dutch doesn't do this. So while in English you say "It is the first Monday of July," in Dutch you say Het is de eerste maandag van juli.

Er updated 2018-10-25 ^


Introducing... the most annoying, versatile and untranslatable word in the Dutch language. The particle er gives many learners nightmares and is known to have at least five separate uses. In this skill, you will encounter only two of them. Other uses will follow in later skills.

Often, but not always, er can be translated as "there". It is used to express the existence of something:

Dutch English
Er is een probleem. There is a problem.
Er is iemand in mijn huis. There is somebody in my house.

But unlike in English, it can be combined with verbs other than "to be":

Dutch English
Er slaapt iemand in mijn bed. There is somebody sleeping in my bed.
Somebody is sleeping in my bed.

In fact, it is often necessary to include er when the subject is indefinite (i.e. doesn't point to a specific person or object). In the above example, you cannot leave it out without adding some strange, unnatural emphasis:

Dutch English
Awkward: Iemand slaapt in mijn bed. Somebody is sleeping in my bed.

Indeed, the reason behind these particular rules is emphasis: the first element of the sentence receives a special emphasis, which sounds odd when combined with an indefinite subject. That is why the subject is replaced by er, which is always unstressed. And that is also why the addition of er is unnecessary when there is already a prepositional phrase at the beginning of the sentence:

Dutch English
In mijn bed slaapt iemand. In my bed, there is somebody sleeping.

In questions with "who", it is also common to include er, although it is not strictly necessary. In this case, it cannot be translated in English.

Dutch English
Wie slaapt er in mijn bed? Who is sleeping in my bed?
Less natural: Wie slaapt in mijn bed?

Locative "er"

Finally, er can also refer to a location, as an unstressed form of "hier" or "daar".

Dutch English
Zijn we er al? Are we there yet?
Ik werk er graag. I like working there.

You will see other uses of er in the skills Numbers 2, Pronominal Adverbs and Passive Voice.

Modal and auxiliary verbs updated 2018-10-25 ^

Modal verbs

Modal verbs are used to indicate how an action is performed, in other words whether it's voluntary, permitted, etc. The following table lists the most common modal verbs:

Dutch English
willen to want to
kunnen can/to be able to
moeten must/to have to
mogen may/to be allowed to
blijven to keep (doing sth.), to stay
laten to let
komen to come (in order to do sth.)

Modal verbs are followed by the infinitive of another verb, which is placed at the end of the sentence. In Dutch, the infinitive is always the same as the plural form of the present simple (usually ending on -en). Some examples:

Several of the modal verbs have an irregular conjugation:

- willen kunnen mogen
ik wil kan mag
jij/u wil/wilt* kan/kunt* mag
hij/zij/het wil kan mag
wij/jullie/zij willen kunnen mogen

*both are possible, but in formal writing you should use the form ending on -t.

Zien, horen & voelen

These three verbs, all describing sensations, are not modal verbs, but they can behave in exactly the same way. When you see, hear or feel somebody (or something) performing an action, the infinitive comes at the end of the sentence:

Numbers 2 updated 2018-10-25 ^

Er: describing a quantity (lesson 5)

When placed before a number, “er” means of them. This is best shown in some examples:

Sometimes it doesn’t need to be translated, like in the second example. You cannot leave out “er” in the Dutch sentence, though!

Present Continuous updated 2018-10-25 ^


In Dutch, the continuous is not as common as it is in English, but it's still fairly common. There are six ways of making a continuous:

Prepositions 2 updated 2018-10-25 ^

Prepositions and Circumpositions

Prepositions come before a (pro)noun and describe some kind of relationship to this noun. They are one of the basic building blocks of language. However, Dutch also has circumpositions. These words act like prepositions, but they have two parts which can split up and come on either side of the noun. Usually the first part is a regular preposition and the second part - the postposition (similar to a preposition, but it comes after the word it refers to) - changes the meaning slightly.

For example, consider the word "naartoe". In most sentences it will split up and become:

The addition of "toe" adds some movement to the preposition "naar", which normally just describes a direction. The same is true for some of the other circumpositions, like "doorheen", "overheen" and "onderdoor", all of which show movement. You will get to practice these words in Lesson 4 of this skill.

Verbs: Present Perfect: Weak Verbs updated 2019-10-29 ^

Present Perfect: Weak Verbs

The name of the present perfect is deceiving: it describes actions that happened in the past, not those happening in the present. In Dutch, the present perfect is a very common way to refer to the past, far more so than in English. In fact, the Dutch present perfect can not always be translated as the English present perfect, or vice verse. They serve slightly different roles, as we will see below.

The present perfect in Dutch describes a past action, but from the point of the view of the present. It draws attention to the results of the action, rather than the action itself. When translating this tense to English, it is best to use either the present perfect or the past simple, depending on the context. There are some exceptions and special cases, a few of which are discussed at the end of this note.

Weak and Strong Verbs

For the conjugation of the past tense in Dutch, we can distinguish between weak verbs, strong verbs and completely irregular verbs:

Some verbs that are strong in the present perfect might be weak or irregular in the past simple, or the other way around. However, this skill only focuses on weak verbs in the present perfect. You will encounter the other cases in later skills.

How to use the Present Perfect

Dutch English
Ik heb iets geleerd. I (have) learned something.
Jij hebt hard gewerkt. You (have) worked hard.
We zijn naar huis gefietst. We (have) biked home.

Looking at the examples above, there are a few things that stand out:

When should you use “hebben” or “zijn”? That depends on the verb; the vast majority use “hebben”. Verbs that describe a motion in a particular direction often use “zijn” (as in the last example above). So do intransitive verbs (i.e. without an object) that describe a change or development (e.g. “komen”, “beginnen”, “groeien”, etc.). Lastly, linking verbs such as “zijn” itself, “worden” and “blijven” all use “zijn” as an auxiliary verb in the present perfect.

When should you use -d or -t as a suffix? That depends on the last letter of the verb’s stem. Most verbs get the -d ending, except those whose stem ends in ch, f, k, p, s or t (there are a few more, but those are highly uncommon). A word that could help you to remember these is the word 't kofschip. Another mnemonic is soft ketchup. If the stem ends on a consonant that is in these mnemonics, the participle receives a -t. If the stem already ends in a -d or -t, it does not get another one added to it. Applying these rules to the examples above gives:

Verb Stem Soft Ketchup? Participle
Leren leer no geleerd
Werken werk yes gewerkt
Fietsen fiets yes gefietst

Words that start with be-, er-, ge-, her-, ont- or ver- do not get the extra prefix ge- in the present perfect.

Translation Tips

Separable Verbs updated 2018-10-25 ^

Separable verbs consist of two parts: a prefix and a base verb. As the name implies, these can split up and move to different parts of the sentence. Whether this happens depends on the conjugation and on the word order, as explained below.

While English doesn't have separable verbs, they are somewhat similar to so-called phrasal verbs, such as: stand up, write down, fill in or hang out. Often but not nearly always, a Dutch separable verb can be translated as an English phrasal verb. Using combinations of prepositions and existing verbs, there are an almost unlimited number of separable verbs in Dutch, each with a subtle difference in meaning or connotation.

Finite verb

A finite verb is a verb that is conjugated to match the subject. I am happy, because I have seen a beautiful duck. In this sentence, am and have are finite verbs (they match the subject I), but seen is not (it is a past participle). If a Dutch separable verb is finite, then the verb is split in two and the prefix moves to the back of the sentence. For example, the verb "aanraken" (to touch) becomes:

Note that while the word "aan" can also be a preposition, in this case it's not. It is a part of the verb!

An exception to the above rule occurs in subordinate clauses (covered in the Conjunctions 2 skill). There, the finite verb is always moved to the end of the clause, so there is no need to split up the separable verb:

Infinite verb

The infinite form (or infinitive) of a separable verb is usually written as one word:

In some cases, the infinitive will also be separated. For example, this happens when it is accompanied by "te", which always comes between the prefix and the base verb. When there are multiple infinitives in the sentence, or when the infinitive is part of a subclause, you can often choose whether to split the separable verb or not.

Past participle

The past participle of a verb is mostly used in the present perfect (one of the past tense forms). In Dutch, this form is constructed with the prefix "ge-". For separable verbs, this prefix comes in between the original prefix and the base verb. It is written as one word:

Te + infinitive verbs updated 2018-10-25 ^


Sometimes, auxiliary verbs cannot be followed by just the infinitive, but need the preposition te first. This can happen in several situations.

1) Staan - Zitten - Liggen - Lopen - Hangen

The Dutch continuous aspect can be formed in several different ways. One of these is


With this construction one can specify in which position the subject is. And yes, mostly it really doesn't matter, but still we add it.

Dutch English Additional thought
Hij ligt te slapen. He is sleeping. (while he is lying)
Ze zit te lezen. She is reading. (while she is sitting)

2) Verbable

The verbable is an equivalent for an adjective derived from a verb.

It is created using the following pattern:


Verbable construction Adjective construction English
Dat is te begrijpen. Dat is begrijpelijk. That is understandable.
Valt het te repareren? Is het repareerbaar? Is it repairable?

3) Verbs always + te + infinitive

Since these verbs have little in common, you'll have to try to memorize them.


Dutch English
Hij durft te springen. He dares to jump.
Hij hoeft niet te vertrekken. He doesn't have to leave.
Ik heb niets te doen. I have nothing to do.

For hebben this isn't always the case; when it means owning something, it can be used without te. For komen, te is only necessary when it is in the sense of something being about to happen.

! In the perfect tense, the te is dropped after these verbs. (see the Modal Perfect skill)

4) Short subclauses

A short subclause is a special type of subclause. The subject is ommited. This structure also exists in English so it should not look too complicated.

Short subclause Normal subclause
Ik beloof dat te doen. Ik beloof dat ik dat zal doen.

5) Gerund after preposition

Dutch English
Zonder na te denken Without thinking
Door te springen By/through jumping

6) Nothing to do

Dutch English
Niets te zeggen Nothing to say
Iets te drinken Something to drink

Verbs: The Imperative updated 2018-10-25 ^


Dutch uses the present tense of the first person singular for the imperative. An exception is the imperative of zijn ('to be'), which uses wees (1st pers. sing. of wezen), which is an old-fashioned form of zijn.

For a more polite imperative, you use the present tense of the formal u. This form is officially also used when addressing multiple people, but hardly anyone ever actually does; the normal imperative is used instead.

An exception is when the 'command' is given in a general sense, like 'No smoking'. In this case we simply use the infinitive: Niet roken.

Demonstrative pronouns updated 2018-10-25 ^

Demonstrative pronouns

The demonstrative pronoun always points to something or someone and usually gives some emphasis. It can be used both dependent and independent.

The dependent demonstrative pronoun always has that which it points to in the same sentence. Example:

Ik wil dit boek (niet dat boek). - 'I want this book (not that one)'.

The independent demonstrative pronoun points to something which has been mentioned before or which is already known in some other way. Example:

Die is van mij. - 'That one is mine.'

Directions updated 2018-10-25 ^


To describe the direction of movement, the prepositions "in", "op" and "uit" are placed after the noun, instead of before it. In other words, they are used as postpositions. Some examples:

Note that all of these indicate a direction. Compare that last sentence to:

Here, the preposition indicates a location, rather than a direction.

These postpositions can be quite confusing, since it's easy to mistake them for part of a separable verb. In the last lesson of this skill, you get to practice with sentences such as these.

Pronominal Adverbs updated 2018-10-25 ^

Pronominal adverbs do exist in English, but they are rare and you are most likely to find them in legal texts. Here are some examples:

While these English words might not be used very much, this same construction appears everywhere in Dutch. You cannot avoid it!

What is a pronominal adverb?

Pronominal adverbs appear whenever you have the combination of a preposition and a pronoun, as long as the pronoun does not refer to a person. The pronoun is replaced by an adverb of location (here, there, etc) and the preposition is glued behind it, sometimes changing its form slightly. See the English examples above to get a feeling for this. Dutch examples will follow.

This table shows which pronouns turn into which locative (=showing location) adverbs. In the third column, you see an example of the corresponding pronominal adverb, formed with the preposition "in".

Pronoun Locative Adverb Pronominal Adverb Meaning
het er erin in it
dat daar daarin in that
dit hier hierin in this
wat waar waarin in what/which
alles overal overal in in everything
iets ergens ergens in in something
niets nergens nergens in not in anything

By far the most common pronominal adverbs are formed with er. In English these translate to preposition + it , referring back to some object that was already mentioned.

Notice that in English you can also say "What is in there?". Replacing it by there could be a remnant from when English also used pronominal adverbs!

If you are referring to specific things nearby or far away from you, you can use hier or daar to form the adverb. This corresponds to a preposition + this/that in English.

Splitting the adverb

Pronominal adverbs with 'er', 'hier', 'daar' or 'waar' are usually spelled as one word. However, in many cases they can be split up, for example by another adverb or by an indefinite object (see the Word Order 1 skill). Occasionally this is even mandatory (e.g. with an indefinite subject). Some examples:

Verbs: Present Perfect: Strong Verbs updated 2018-10-25 ^

Present Perfect: Strong Verbs

For the conjugation of the past tense in Dutch, we can distinguish between weak verbs, strong verbs and completely irregular verbs:

Some verbs that are weak in the present perfect might be strong or irregular in the past simple, or the other way around. This skill focuses on strong and irregular verbs in the present perfect.

For strong verbs, the past participle is formed with the prefix ge- and the suffix -en. As mentioned above, the vowel in the verb's stem often changes. Unfortunately there are no rules for these vowel changes. Some examples:

Strong verb Past participle
drinken gedronken
doen gedaan
zwemmen gezwommen
schrijven geschreven
lezen gelezen
beginnen begonnen

Note: words that start with be-, er-, ge-, her-, ont- or ver- do not get the extra prefix ge- in the present perfect. See the last example above.

More irregular verbs

In this skill you will also encounter a few truly irregular verbs that do not follow the pattern above. These are:

Irregular verb Past participle
zijn geweest
hebben gehad
kopen gekocht
zoeken gezocht
brengen gebracht
denken gedacht

Diminutives updated 2019-01-11 ^


Diminutives are very common in Dutch. They always end in -je, are all het-words and, depending on the phonology of the word, other letters may have to be added before it. There are quite a few possible combinations, but apart from -je there are four main ones:

  1. -tje, which is added to:
    • nouns ending in a vowel or w
    • nouns that end in a long vowel followed by l, n or r *nouns ending in unstressed -el, -en, or -er when the "e" is mute
  2. -etje, which is added to nouns ending in a short vowel followed by a single l, n, ng, m or r
  3. -kje, which is added to nouns ending in an unstressed -ing
  4. -pje, which is added to:
    • nouns ending in a long vowel followed by -m
    • unstressed -em when the "e" is mute

More complicated rules and forms exist, but the above details the basics of the Dutch diminutives.


Diminutives can be used to do the following in Dutch:

  1. express how small something is:

kat "cat" + -je = kitten

  1. express mistrust or contempt:

De kaas heeft een vreemd smaakje. = "The cheese has an odd taste."

Wat spreken die Nederlanders toch een raar taaltje. = "What a strange language those Dutch speak."

  1. express cuteness:

Wat een leuk vliegtuigje! = "What a cute (little) airplane!"

  1. express something positive:

Lekker wijntje! = "Delicious wine!"

Some diminutives are no longer necessarily regarded as diminutive forms, but are used alongside the basis words on their own:

  1. grap/grapje = "joke"
  2. kop/kopje = "cup"
  3. vraag/vraagje = "question"

Many diminutives obtain a different meaning from the basis words:

  1. de telefoon "telephone"; het telefoontje "phone call"
  2. het ijs "ice, i.e. frozen water); het ijsje "ice cream"

Simple Past 1 updated 2018-10-25 ^

Simple Past: Weak Verbs

Just like English, Dutch has a second way to describe actions in the past, beside the frequently used present perfect. The past simple (a.k.a imperfectum or “onvoltooid verleden tijd” (OVT) in Dutch) is used as a storytelling tense. It describes a past event or past situation from the perspective of the past, often as a part of a longer story. This is in contrast to the present perfect, which focuses on the results of a past action. However, the two tenses are interchangeable in many cases.

The past simple in Dutch can be translated to either the past simple or the past continuous in English, whichever sounds more natural.

For weak (regular) verbs, the simple past is formed with the suffix -de(n) or -te(n). Which one you use is determined by the same rules as for the past participle: if the verb’s stem end on a ch, f, k, p, s or t (the consonants of soft ketchup), then the simple past ends on -te(n). If not, one uses -de(n). The -n is added for plural conjugations (wij, jullie, zij).

Verb Stem Soft Ketchup? Simple Past
Leren leer no leerde(n)
Werken werk yes werkte(n)
Fietsten fiets yes fietste(n)
Willen wil no wilde(n)

If the stem already ends on a -d or -t, then it gets an extra one. For example, the verb "praten" (to talk) becomes "praatte(n)". Note that "praten" and "praatten" are pronounced the same; when listening, you need to determine the tense from context. Some more examples:

Dutch English
Ik leerde snel. I learned quickly.
Wij werkten in de bakkerij. We were working in the bakery.
Hij fietste naar huis. He biked home.
Wilden jullie ook koffie? Did you also want coffee?
De mannen praatten de hele nacht The men were talking all night.

In this skill, you will also encounter the simple past conjugations of a few irregular verbs:

--- Zijn Hebben Doen
Singular: was had deed
Plural: waren hadden deden

Reflexive Verbs and Pronouns updated 2018-10-25 ^


Sometimes, a verb needs the subject to be the object as well. These are reflexive verbs. They exist in English too: "I wash myself", "He teaches himself", etc. In Dutch, they are much more common, however.

There are two forms of the reflexive pronouns: stressed and unstressed. We don't often use the stressed form, but it's still good to know it.

English Dutch unstressed Dutch stressed
myself me mezelf
yourself je jezelf
yourself (formal zich uzelf
himself/herself/itself zich zichzelf
ourselves ons onszelf
yourselves je jezelf
themselves zich zichzelf

Verbs: Present Perfect: Review updated 2018-10-25 ^

In this skill you will practice with both weak and strong verbs in the present perfect. For extensive grammar notes, please review the previous two skills on this topic.

The Future Tense updated 2018-10-25 ^


The future tense can be formed in two ways in Dutch:

  1. gaan + infinitive, meaning "to go"
  2. zullen + infinitive, meaning "shall" or "will"

These two can also be used together, just like in English.

Zullen + infinitive is used in the following cases:

  1. when saying something will likely take place
  2. when emphasizing that something will definitely happen
  3. to promise or propose something

The conjugation:

Person Future Translation
Ik zal schrijven I will write
Jij zal/zult* schrijven You will write
U zal/zult* schrijven You will write (formal)
Hij/Zij/Het zal schrijven He/She/It will write
Wij zullen schrijven We will write
Jullie zullen schrijven You will write (plural)
Zij zullen schrijven They will write

*Both zal and zult are correct, but zal is considered informal.

Gaan + infinitive is used as follows:

  1. when expressing an intended action
  2. when something is going to take place, without expressing probability
Person Future Translation
Ik ga schrijven I am going to write
Jij gaat schrijven You are going to write
U gaat schrijven You are going to write (formal)
Hij/Zij/Het gaat schrijven He/She/It is going to write
Wij gaan schrijven We are going to write
Jullie gaan schrijven You are going to write (plural)
Zij gaan schrijven They are going to write

Comparative and Superlative updated 2018-10-25 ^

De trappen van vergelijking

The "steps of comparison", as they are referred to in Dutch, are used to turn an adjective (good) into a comparative (better) or a superlative (best). These are formed by adding suffixes to the adjective, much like in English. This process is mostly regular, with a few important exceptions.


The comparative, as the name implies, compares the properties of two objects, or of the same object in different situations or at different times. In English, the comparative is sometimes created with the adverb more. That is not the case in Dutch, where it is usually constructed by adding the suffix -er or -ere, following the standard rules for adjectives about the -e at the end. As usual, the consonant at the end of the adjective's stem might double or change, as a result of the Dutch spelling rules. If the stem ends on the letter r, then the suffix becomes -der or -dere, to make pronunciation easier. Some examples are below:


The highest step is the superlative, which compares an object with all other objects, or with all other situations or points in time. Again, Dutch does not normally use the adverb most, but adds the suffix -st or -ste. Like in English, the superlative must always follow a definite article (de or het).

Note that even though jongen is a de-word, the superlative in that last sentence becomes het snelst. The reason is that it is a predicate adjective (it comes after the noun), which does not reflect the gender (de/het) of the noun. However, it is also allowed to say:

In this case it is implied that the noun jongen is repeated after the superlative: "De jongen is de snelste (jongen)."

Graag - Liever - Liefst

Graag is an adverb, and one of those annoying Dutch words that does not have an English equivalent. It tells you that the subject enjoys performing the action that is described by the verb, often translated as "like to" + infinitive.

Strangely enough, graag has a comparative and a superlative form: liever and liefst. These mean, respectively, that you prefer doing something over something else, and that you prefer it over anything else. You can translate them as "like more to" and "like best to", or by using some form of "to prefer".

Materials updated 2018-10-25 ^


1) Adjectives

Sometimes you want to describe what stuff is made out of. To make an adjective of a material, add the suffix -en to the noun. Unlike regular adjectives, these are not declined, so they do not change depending on what word comes after. They do not get an additional -e. Here are some examples:

Meaning Noun Adjective Meaning
wood hout - houten wooden
wool wol - wollen woolen
concrete beton - betonnen made of concrete
glass glas - glazen made of glass
silk zijde - zijden made of silk

There are two exceptions to this rule: plastic and aluminium do not get the suffix -en.

However, unlike English, you cannot use the noun form as an adjective.

For example:

2) Predicative adjective

The predicative form doesn't exist for these -en adjectives. Instead, you will have to use van + noun. This is short for gemaakt van ("made of"), but the verb can be safely dropped.

For example:

This form can also appear without a predicate:

School updated 2018-10-25 ^

The Dutch school system

The Dutch law requires all children between the ages of 4 and 16 to be in school. There is a division between primary and secondary school. Almost all schools in the Netherlands are public. There are no uniforms and boarding schools are nearly non-existent.

Primary school

"De basisschool" is for children from 4 to 12 years old. In most schools, children will stay in the same class during this entire period. The teacher of the class might change from year to year. Starting at age 6, children will be taught to read and write and do basic arithmetic.

In their last year of primary school, all students do a standardized test (the CITO test). Their score determines (in part) what kind of secondary school the student can go to.

Secondary school

At age 12, children will go to a "middelbare school", technically known as "voortgezet onderwijs" (literally: continued education). There are secondary schools of different levels:

At many schools, students only decide after their first or second year (a so-called "brugklas") at which level they want to study. After graduating at a certain level (passing the standardized final exams), it is possible to continue at a higher level (typically taking an additional year).

Students have some freedom to choose what classes to take in secondary school, allowing them to start specializing in a topic of interest as early as age 14 or 15. They must choose one of four profiles or sectors, with a focus on natural sciences, life sciences, humanities or economics. This choice will affect their options for post-secondary eduction.

Pronouns relative updated 2018-10-25 ^

Relative pronouns

A relative pronoun refers back to a person or object that already appears elsewhere in the sentence: The man who is walking his dog. The hat that the man is wearing.

In English, the relative pronoun can often be left out. In Dutch, however, this is not possible; the relative pronoun is an essential part of the sentence. Each pronoun has certain rules for its usage, which differ significantly from English, as can be seen in the examples below.

Die: refers back to a de-word.

Dat: refers back to a het-word.

Preposition + Wie: refers back to a person.

Waar + preposition: refers back to an object. See also the Pronominal Adverbs skill.

Wat: refers to a whole sentence, to an indefinite pronoun ("alles", "iets", "niets", etc.) or to an adjective that is used as a noun.

Wiens: a possessive reflexive pronoun, equivalent to the English "whose". This form is slightly archaic and is mostly being replaced by "van wie". Originally it could only refer to masculine nouns.

Simple Past 2: Strong Verbs updated 2018-10-25 ^

Simple Past: Strong Verbs

For strong verbs, the simple past is fully irregular and needs to be learned by heart. In case of a singular subject, we use the stem of the verb with the vowel changed. For plural, the suffix -en is added. Note that the vowel change is sometimes different from the past participle. For example:

Verb Past Participle Simple Past Singular Simple Past Plural
Lezen gelezen las lazen
Zwemmen gezwommen zwom zwommen
Spreken gesproken sprak spraken
Liggen gelegen lag lagen
Kijken gekeken keek keken

This skill also includes some verbs that are even more irregular: not only the vowel changes, but also some of the consonants. Some examples:

Verb Past Participle Simple Past Singular Simple Past Plural
Zeggen gezegd zei zeiden
Kopen gekocht kocht kochten
Zien gezien zag zagen
Mogen gemogen* mocht mochten
Moeten gemoeten* moest moesten
Houden gehouden hield hielden
Weten geweten wist wisten
Komen gekomen kwam kwamen

*These forms are not commonly used. See the Modal Perfect skill for an explanation.

Passive voice updated 2018-10-25 ^


The passive voice is used to describe actions from the point of view of the object of the verb: "I am being seen." or "The book has been read". This way, the subject (the person who is seeing me, or who has read the book) is eliminated from the sentence.

In Dutch the passive is constructed using the past participle (also used in the present perfect) and an auxiliary verb. There are two different auxiliary verbs used in the Dutch passive: worden for the dynamical passive voice and zijn for the stative passive voice. This distinction does not really exist in English, but it roughly corresponds to the different tenses, as explained below.

Worden (lesson 1)

The dynamical passive voice is constructed with the auxiliary verb worden, to describe ongoing actions. In the present tense, this refers to things that are going on right now, that will happen in the near future, or that happen repeatedly. In English this often translates to the continuous aspect. For example:

But in some cases, especially recurring events or general truths, the present simple works as well:

In English one can also use the informal "get"-construction for the dynamical passive voice:

Note: The subject, who performs the action, can still be added to the sentence using the preposition door.

Zijn (lesson 2)

The stative passive voice is constructed with the auxiliary verb zijn, to describe the state of things after something has been done to them. This corresponds to the perfect aspect: the action has been completed, it lies in the past. There are several ways to translate this to English, the most natural one being the present perfect passive:

However, it is also possible to use the past simple, or in some cases, the present:

Werden (lesson 3)

Whereas the perfect perfect in the passive voice is constructed with zijn, the past simple uses werden (i.e. the past tense of worden). A lot of the time, this conveys a *continuous aspect.

The Impersonal Passive Voice (lesson 4)

Unlike English, Dutch can also use the passive voice with intransitive verbs: verbs that do not have an object. In this case, the place of the object is taken by that versatile and infuriating little word, er. The advantage is that one can use a verb to describe an action without any subject or object. The disadvantage is that there is simply no good way to translate this construction literally into English. For example:

This means that someone, somewhere, is walking. Who and where should be derived from context, the sentence only states that walking is what is happening. The best we can do in English is to use the gerund (a noun created from a verb with the suffix "-ing"):

Another option is to introduce an undetermined subject:

In other cases, it might be best to completely change the structure of the sentence.

The impersonal passive voice is used a lot in Dutch, and finding an English translation is always awkward. It can be used both with worden and with zijn as an auxiliary. If you are confused, do not be afraid to use the hints.

Conditional updated 2018-10-25 ^


The conditional is very similar to the Future tense in how it's made. However, instead of the present tense zullen, we use its past tense: zouden. The conditional is used to refer to hypothetical situations.

Person Conditional Translation
Ik zou schrijven I would write
Jij zou schrijven You would write
U zou schrijven You would write (formal)
Hij/Zij/Het zou schrijven He/She/It would write
Wij zouden schrijven We would write
Jullie zouden schrijven You would write (plural)
Zij zouden schrijven They would write

In addition to meaning "would" on its own, "zouden" can carry other meanings in combination with certain modal verbs.

"zouden" + "moeten" gives you "should".

"zouden" + "kunnen", literally "would (+) be able to", gives you "could".

Conditional vs. the Simple Past

Like in English, it is sometimes possible to use the simple past in a conditional construction, rather than the official "zouden" (would). Note that Dutch does not have a subjunctive mood anymore (If I were...).

The past perfect/pluperfect updated 2019-02-20 ^


The pluperfect, or past perfect, is used when referring to something that happened in the past, before something else which also happened in the past. In Dutch, it's made exactly like the present perfect, except with the simple past tense of hebben or zijn.

Person Past Perfect Translation
Ik had geschreven I had written
Jij had geschreven You had written
U had geschreven You had written (formal)
Hij/Zij/Het had geschreven He/She/It had written
Wij hadden geschreven We had written
Jullie hadden geschreven You had written
Zij hadden geschreven They had written
Person Past Perfect Translation
Ik was gevallen I had fallen
Jij was gevallen You had fallen
U was gevallen You had fallen (formal)
Hij/Zij/Het was gevallen He/She/It had fallen
Wij waren gevallen We had fallen
Jullie waren gevallen You had fallen
Zij waren gevallen They had fallen

Present Participle updated 2018-10-25 ^

The present participle of a verb is a form that can be used as an adjective or an adverb. It tells you that the corresponding noun is performing a certain action at the moment (in the case of an adjective) or that the action is performed alongside the main verb of the sentence (in the case of an adverb). Some examples will make this more clear:

In English, the present participle ends on -ing. This is a very common form, which is also used in the present continuous (I am walking), as a gerund (I like walking) and in various other constructions. In Dutch, however, the participle is far more rare and only used as an adjective or adverb.

The Dutch present participle is formed by adding -d or -de after the infinitive. When used as an adjective, it follows the standard rules for adding -e at the end:

Suffixes updated 2018-10-25 ^

Why waste a good word when you can use it to make some other words? Just like English speakers, the Dutch love adding suffixes to derive new words from the ones you already know. In this skill, you will encounter some of the most common ones. In fact, you have already come across many of them! Think about:

Unfortunately there is usually no one-to-one correspondence between Dutch and English suffixes. Practice is the only solution! Below you'll find a table with common Dutch suffixes.

Suffix from to English de/het
-heid adj. noun -ness/-y/-dom/? de
-ing verb noun -tion/-ment/-ance/? de
-lijk noun adj./adv. -ly/? -
-ig noun adj./adv. -y/? -
-loos noun adj./adv. -less -
-baar* verb adj./adv. -ble -
-s adj. noun indefinite het

*not taught in this skill

The s-form of an adjective

If an adjective follows an indefinite pronoun (like "iets" or "niets"), it gets the ending -s. This is a remnant of the old genitive case. In the last lesson of this skill, you will get some practice with this. A few examples:

Modal Perfect updated 2018-10-25 ^

Something strange happens in Dutch when you want to use the present perfect or past perfect in combination with an auxiliary verb (such a "willen", "kunnen", "laten", etc). Instead of using the past participle (formed with the prefix ge- and suffix -d or -t for regular weak verbs), the infinitive is used. That is why this quirky grammar rule is known as the "vervangende infinitief" in Dutch, or the replacement infinitive. Snobby linguists might refer to it as the infinitivo pro participio (infinitive instead of participle).

Dutch English
Ik zie haar. I see her.
Ik zie haar dansen. I see her dance.
Ik heb haar gezien. I have seen her.
Ik heb haar zien dansen. I have seen her dance.

This last sentence is in the past tense, yet none of the verbs use a past tense conjugation! That can be very confusing – if you are not aware of the construction. Note that "zien" acts as an auxiliary verb in the last sentence, whereas it is the main verb in the third.

The rule does not apply to auxiliary verbs that use "te"+infinitive, such as "proberen". Only the verbs that you learned in the Modal skill are affected. One exception is the odd modal verb "hoeven", which does use the replacement infinitive.

Past Participle updated 2018-10-25 ^

The past participle of a verb is the form most commonly used in the present perfect. However, it can also have the function of an adjective:

When used as an adjective, the past participle has a passive meaning. In other words, the corresponding noun ("potato") is the object of the verb ("to cook"), not the subject. This is a difference between the present and past participle (in addition to the difference in tense!).

In Dutch, the past participle can be used in exactly the same way:

If the verb is weak (i.e. regular, like "koken"), then the past participle ends on either -d or -t (see: Present Perfect 1). In this case, it might get the extra ending -e as an adjective, like in the example above. This follows the standard rules of adjective declension:

However, if the verb is strong (i.e. irregular, such as "snijden" = to cut), then the past participle ends on -en (see: Present Perfect 2). In this case, the adjective never gets the ending -e:

The form "gesnedene" does not exist!

Feelings 2 updated 2018-10-25 ^


Gezellig is a famous Dutch word. It owes its fame to being impossible to literally translate into English; it's a feeling which simply doesn't exist as such. There are many words which approximate the feeling ("nice", "cozy", "pleasant", to name but a few), but none of them are quite sufficient.

Gezellig is the feeling of having a good time with other people. Whether these people are friends, family, acquaintances or total strangers is unimportant. It's a warm, positive feeling. When in English you can say 'I had a good time', in Dutch you can say Het was gezellig or Ik vond het gezellig.

History updated 2018-10-25 ^

These last five skills contain a lot of words that are specific to the Netherlands and Belgium. They are supposed to teach you a bit about the Dutch and Belgian cultures, rather than the language. We advise you to keep Wikipedia and/or a map handy so that you can easily find out what these sentences are about.

Dutch history is pretty exciting! It's full of wars, exploration, (state-sponsored) piracy, slavery, oppression and drama. The sentences that you will find in this skill offer only a tiny slice of the rich history of the Low Lands. Note that Dutch people are very proud of their history, yet they do not like to be confronted by the uncomfortable bits. There is still a lot of denial.

Grammar tip: when talking about historical events, we typically use the simple past tense!

(Dutch) Holidays updated 2018-10-25 ^

These last five skills contain a lot of words that are specific to the Netherlands and Belgium. They are supposed to teach you a bit about the Dutch and Belgian cultures, rather than the language. We advise you to keep Wikipedia and/or a map handy so that you can easily find out what these sentences are about.

Dutch Geography, Landmarks & Infrastructure updated 2019-02-20 ^

These last five skills contain a lot of words that are specific to the Netherlands and Belgium. They are supposed to teach you a bit about the Dutch and Belgian cultures, rather than the language. We advise you to keep Wikipedia and/or a map handy so that you can easily find out what these sentences are about.

Dutch Baking, Food and Snacks updated 2019-02-20 ^

These last five skills contain a lot of words that are specific to the Netherlands and Belgium. They are supposed to teach you a bit about the Dutch and Belgian cultures, rather than the language. We advise you to keep Wikipedia and/or a map handy so that you can easily find out what these sentences are about.

Belgian Culture updated 2019-02-20 ^

These last five skills contain a lot of words that are specific to the Netherlands and Belgium. They are supposed to teach you a bit about the Dutch and Belgian cultures, rather than the language. We advise you to keep Wikipedia and/or a map handy so that you can easily find out what these sentences are about.

57 skills with tips and notes