Les 1 ~ Lesson 1
Eenvoudige Gesprekken ~ Simple Conversations
|• Simple conversations|
|• Grammar: Pronouns: I,me etc.|
|• Polite and clitic forms|
Grammatica 1-1 ~ Introduction to Dutch grammar 
Children learn their mother tongue without knowing the parts of speech such as verbs, nouns and phrases. However these are helpful for anyone attempting to learn a second language from a book or a website. Of course the children have it right: the best way to learn a language is to listen to a mother tongue speaker and simply repeat. But such a speaker may not always be available to you. This book will try to compensate this by addition of audio files, but that is still a cumbersome substitute. We do recommend that you use them as much as you can. Firefox seems to give easier access to them than other browsers.
The main lessons Dutch/Lesson 1, 2 etc. concentrate on introducing points of grammar, although there are exercises, sound files etc. Lessons 1A, 2A etc. concentrate more on practice, pronunciation drills, more conversation etc. As of June 30 2009 they are still in construction.
English speakers will find many strong parallels between their language and Dutch. Where possible we will try to point out the similarities and exploit them.
However, as noted in the introduction, Dutch grammar is more complex than English grammar, and identifying the meaning of words in a Dutch sentence is difficult without understanding the clues to word function that come from the grammatical rules. The basic lessons of this textbook are set up to first introduce the parts of speech, and then bring in the rules that govern these. Pay particular attention to sentence word order as you progress through the lessons.
Using Wiktionary 
Throughout the texts and in the vocabulary lists there are blue links that take you to the Dutch version of our sister project Wiktionary. Of course the layout is in Dutch and you may not immediately understand everything, but that is not a disaster. If you want to learn a language you also should learn to be a bit of a detective: you often need to get the gist of something with a few pieces of the puzzle missing. Don't let that scare you off! Here are a few useful pieces:
- There usually is an English translation of a word under the heading Vertalingen, marked Engels
- There may even be a geluidsopname (sound recording) or a phonetic description under Uitspraak. If you can: listen to the pronunciation a few times: it will help you remember the word and become an active speaker.
If you are really lost use the interwiki link to the English version (or any other language you know) as back up, but don't give in to it too easily!
- We strongly encourage you to use the links to expand your vocabulary. First guess what a word means, then click!
Some words will be. Try to hover your mouse over such words.
Gesprek 1-1 ~ Vrienden: Jan en Karel 
Read the following conversation. Use the hover method to see an instant translation of a certain word and try to piece together the meaning of the story. Once you have an idea of the gist of the story you can open up the drop down box and read the translation to see if you were right. When learning a new language it is very important to be able to deduce meaning from limited information, because you will often not know all the words used. Picking up their meaning from context is an important skill.
You will also see that Dutch sometimes strings words together a bit differently than English. Dutch word order is quite different and a difficult aspect of the language.
- Jan: , Karel! ?
- Karel: Hoi! , gaat het . met ?
- Jan: Dank je, met mij gaat het goed. .
- Karel: Tot ziens, Jan!
Dutch pronunciation varies with region and speaker, but the following gives a reasonable idea:
- 'jɑn.kɔmt.'ka.rəl.ɔp.'stra.'te.ɣə(n) zə.zɛɪn.vrin.də(n)
- dɑŋ.kjə,mɛt.mɛɪ.'ɣat.ət.'ok.xut. tɔ.'tsins
Grammatica 1-2 ~ Forms 
Clitic forms 
Notice the difference between "Hoe gaat het met je"? and "En met jou?". Both translate literally into with you, but there is a difference in emphasis. Jou carries emphasis, je does not. In Dutch, there are often two forms of the same pronoun: a strong one and a weak ('clitic') one. The clitic forms cannot have emphasis and the vowel in a clitic is often reduced to a neutral 'schwa' [ə] or omitted entirely.
In colloquial English the same thing can be heard at times: seeya! instead of see you!. In Dutch the reduced forms are quite common in the spoken language and some of them have gained acceptance in the written language as well.
Polite forms 
The above conversation was between two good friends. It utilizes the familiar form of the personal pronoun (je, jou) where English uses you. However, Dutch also has a polite or formal form of the personal pronoun for the second person (you), u. Many languages have this distinction. It is e.g. comparable with Sie in German, vous in French, usted in Spanish, Вы in Russian, or anata in Japanese. When to use one or the other is not always easy to decide. Someone unknown, particularly if older, is generally u, an old friend typically je, jou. The latter roughly corresponds with the 'first name basis' in English. Notice the use of u in the conversation below.
Regional forms 
In the South of the area where Dutch is spoken (Flanders mostly), people do not distinguish between familiar and polite forms, instead they use yet another pronoun gij (clitic: ge, object: u). It is used much like you in English for both singular and plural. In the North gij is only encountered in archaic phrases like: gij zult niet stelen - thou shalt not steal. This course is mostly based on northern usage as this is most widely accepted, including in Suriname and the Antilles, but some important differences will be pointed out.
Gesprek 1-2 ~ De handelaars 
Push the button and listen to the following text. It is recommended to first just listen.
Please read the following conversation. It is a bit more formal than the one before. If you are not sure of the meaning of a word, hover your mouse over it, if it is underlined. A translation will pop up.
- Meneer Jansen: , De Vries!
- Mevrouw De Vries: Goedendag, Jansen!
- Meneer Jansen: ?
- Mevrouw De Vries: , u . met u?
- Meneer Jansen: goed.
- Mevrouw De Vries: meneer Standish? u ? . u
- Meneer Jansen: Engeland? . Is ?
- Mevrouw De Vries: . Hij . , meneer Jansen!
- Meneer Jansen: Tot ziens, mevrouw De Vries.
Have you figured out the gist yet? Then open the translation box to see if you were right:
Go back to the pronunciation, close your eyes and see how much you understand now. You may have to repeat the process a few times.
Grammatica 1-3 ~ Introduction to pronouns 
A pronoun is a short word that takes the place of a noun previously mentioned in the sentence, paragraph, or conversation.
Recall: Kent u meneer Standish? Bent u hem al tegengekomen?
Hem refers back to meneer Standish. It is a pronoun that stands for (pro- !) meneer Standish.
There is a variety of pronouns like personal, possessive, relative and indefinite ones. Let's look at the personal pronouns first.
Personal pronouns 
Personal pronouns are quite familiar in English: They are words like I,you,he,she,we,you and they.
At least this is the case for the subject (nominative case). As object (accusative) some of them are different: me,you,him,us,you,them. Compare:
- I see you.
- You see me.
Notice how I turns into me when used as an object. You remains the same.
Much like in English ik (subject) turns into mij as object in Dutch, whereas je remains the same in both roles:
- Ik zie je.
- Je ziet mij.
The system in Dutch resembles the English one quite a bit, after all the languages are close relatives:
- As in English there are three persons in Dutch grammar: first (I), second (you) and third (he)
- As in English there is a distinction in number between singular (I) and plural (we).
- As in English there are gender distinctions in the third person singular (he, she, it)
- As in English there are case distinctions between subject and object (he, him)
Nevertheless the Dutch system is a little more involved, as we have seen there are:
- familiar and polite forms: je versus u.
- weak (clitics) and strong forms: je versus jou.
In addition there are
- regional differences: (jij/jullie - u) (North) versus (gij) (South)
- a growing rift between how inanimate and animate nouns are treated
In English he and she are reserved for animate nouns -usually persons- and this is increasingly the case in Dutch as well, certainly in Northern usage.
In English all inanimate objects can be referred to as it. However, in Dutch this is only true for het-words (neuter gender) and that leaves two thirds of all nouns uncovered.... We will revisit this awkward problem later.
Subject case (nominative) 
Object case (accusative) 
- As you see not all pronouns have clitics and some of them (shown in parentheses) are not used in the written language.
- The pronouns in italics: hij, zij (sing.), hem, haar, hen and hun are increasingly reserved for persons and animate objects. For inanimate objects these pronouns usually get replaced either by demonstrative pronouns (see lesson 4) or by a special kind of adverb, the pronominal adverb (see lesson 8)
- *In speaking, many Dutch speakers use the dative form hun instead of the accusative hen. This is because the hen form was artificially created by the grammarians of the past  In the spoken language hen is seldom used and speakers increasingly avoid the issue by opting for the clitic ze.
Exercises 1-1 
Woordenlijst 1 
You have already encountered quite a few words above. Now make sure you own them! Listen to their pronunciation, sort the table by English and read back to Dutch, check the pronunciation again. Click on the blue link to go to the Dutch wiktionary and try to figure out what you may. If you do not understand, follow the interwiki link to go to the English wiktionary.
In short: there are many ways to use this table and you can try one thing one day and come back another to try something different.
|Dutch word||audio file||English translation|
|de appendix||appendix (help·info)||appendix, supplement|
|het bezoek||bezoek (help·info)||visit, attendance|
|(het) Engeland||Engeland (help·info)||England|
|het Nederlands||Nederland (help·info)||Dutch|
|de vriend, vrienden||vriend (help·info)||friend, friends|
|de handelaars||handelaar (help·info)||business people, businessmen, tradesmen, merchants (pl.)|
|het gesprek, gesprekken||gesprek (help·info)|||conversation, conversations|
|de grammatica||grammatica (help·info)||grammar|
|de les||les (help·info)||lesson|
|de straat||straat (help·info)||street|
|de woordenlijst||woordenlijst (help·info)||word list|
|de woordenschat||woordenschat (help·info)||vocabulary|
|op straat|| op (help·info)
|on (in) the street|
|tot ziens||tot ziens (help·info)||goodbye (lit: see you again)|
|uit Engeland||uit (help·info)||from England|
|Met mij gaat het goed||I am fine (lit: With me goes it well)|
|goedendag!||goedendag (help·info)||Good day (greeting)|
|(de) dag!||dag (help·info)||(Good) day! Hi! Hello!|
|En met jou?||jou (help·info)||And how are you? (lit: And with you?)|
|Hoe gaat het met jou (u)?||How are you (lit: How goes it with you?)|
|gaan||gaan (help·info)||to go|
|het gaat||it goes|
|is op bezoek||bezoek (help·info)||is visiting|
|tegenkomen||tegenkomen (help·info)||to meet, come across, encounter, run into|
|komt ... tegen||comes across , runs into, meets|
|bezoeken||bezoeken (help·info)||to visit|
|maar||maar (help·info)||but, however|
|ook||ook (help·info)||also, too, as well|
|dank je, dank u.||thank you;|
|het||het (help·info)||it (pronoun)|
|mevrouw||mevrouw (help·info)||Ms., Miss, or Mrs.|
|al||al (help·info)||already, yet|
|mooi||mooi (help·info)||beautiful (in this case, 'nice' or 'fine')|
Your turn! Building vocabulary 1 
When learning a language you need to start building up your vocabulary. There are various ways of doing that. One is to study the above conversations well. Often words are easier to remember when put in context. But there are other ways. Wiki adds a few methods to the range of possibilities. One is the hover method. Just hover your mouse over. We will add vocabulary building exercises to each lesson to make it easier for you to memorize it all.
You may want to study some example conversations from world literature in Voorbeeld 1.
- "Dutch" by Jan G. Kooij in The world's major languages edt. Bernard Comrie ISBN 0-19-520521-9 Oxford University Press 1987