Dutch/Lesson 3A

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Some more about telling time[edit]

Pm versus am[edit]

To distinguish between am and pm Dutch usually adds expressions like "in the morning" or "in the evening"

  • 7am: zeven uur 's morgens
  • 7pm: zeven uur 's avonds
  • 3am: drie uur 's nachts
  • 3pm: drie uur 's middags

Notice that each of these adverbial expressions start with 's. It is an abbreviation of the old genitive masculine of the article de: des. The nouns behind it also have an -s as ending. This too is an old fossilized genitive. Dutch no longer has a functioning system of case endings like German does, but there is plenty of relics still in daily use.

The nouns used are:

de morgen - the morning
de avond - the evening
de nacht - the night
de middag - the afternoon

Instead of "'s morgens" one can also use "'s ochtends"

Parts of the hour[edit]

We have seen that "half" is used to show the half hour, but the usage is different

  • Half twee 's middags - Half past one in the afternoon.

The quarter hours are not so hard

  • Kwart voor twee - 1h45
  • Kwart over twee - 2h15

A few minutes before or after the hour go the same way:

  • Vijf voor vier: 3h55
  • Tien over vier: 4:10

However, closer to the half hours, the half hour can be taken as reference point:

  • Vijf over half twee: 1:35
  • Tien voor half zes: 5:20

In the latter case we can also use the closest whole hour as reference point:

  • Twintig na vijf: 5:20

Numbers after a preposition[edit]

When an approximate reference to an hour is given by just a numeral after a preposition, the numeral may have an ending -en. Once again this is a relict of the case endings, a dative in this case.

E.g. the last example could also be

  • Twintig na vijven: 5:20

This is more common in sentences like

Het is even voor drieën - It's almost three o'clock
Het loopt al tegen tienen - It's running on ten o'clock
Na zessen is het bureau gesloten - After six the bureau is closed.