Dutch/Lesson 20

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Les 20 ~ Lesson 20

Uitroepen! ~ Exclamations!

<< Les 19 | Les 20 | Les 21>>


As in most languages Dutch exclamations are often idiomatic rather than grammatical and are best learned one by one. Often exclamations are not even complete sentences. The intonation is very similar to the English one: there is a very strong emphasis on the most important syllable in the utterance.

Exclamative pronoun[edit]

The pronoun "wat" can be used to start een exclamation, e.g. with an adjective:

Wat prachtig! - How beautiful!
Wat zonde! - What a pity! ("Wat Jammer" can also be used)

As in English it can be combined with an indefinite article:

Wat een prachtig gedicht! - What a beautiful poem!

Inversion for emphasis[edit]

As we have seen one reason for inversion is to emphasize a certain word. Similarly it can be used to create an exclamation out of a sentence. Often the personal pronoun "me" is added as an indirect object to emphasize that the sentence portrays something the speaker is strongly affected by:

Dat was een teleurstelling - That was a disappointment
About this sound Was me dát een teleurstelling! - Wow, that was quite a disappointment!
Dat is een verrassing - That is a surprise
About this sound Is me dat een verrassing! - What a surprise that is!

Such constructions can also occur with the infinitive used as a noun, e.g. schrikken - being shocked

Dit is schrikken - This is a shock
About this sound Is me dat schrikken! - What a scary experience! What a shock!


There is a vocative particle "O!" as in English. It can be used with people's names, but it is not used much. It indicates a strong emotion, e.g. after terrible news:

Jan heeft kanker - John has cancer
O, Jan! O, wat verschrikkelijk! - O, John, o how awful

A different particle is usually written as "oh" and pronounced [ɔ] rather than [o]. It expressed indignation or admiration:

Oh, mam, dat mag Bartje toch niet - Aw, mom, Bartje is not allowed to do that, is he?
Oh, wat een mooi vuurwerk! - Ooh, what a beautiful fireworks!

Surprise is sometimes uttered with "tjonge"

Tjonge! Wat een verrassing - Wow! What a surprise!