Afrikaans/Lesson 01

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Lesson One: The Basics #1 — Les Een: Die Grondbeginsels #1

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Welcome to Afrikaans Lesson One. This course will focus heavily on translation and reading in order to further your knowledge in a shorter span of time. In far later lessons, we will start the lesson with the dialogues, but for now, we shall start with the grammar of the language. The chapter vocabulary section is where one can find the stress markers of words that appear throughout the lesson. Still, if you still need to practice basic Afrikaans pronunciation or need to get familiar with the idea of stress markers, we recommend using the Pronunciation page. This lesson will cover similarities between English and Afrikaans, the use of articles, subject and object pronouns, and infinitive and present tense verbs.

I. Similarities Between English and Afrikaans

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As both Afrikaans and English stem from the West Germanic family, obvious similarities exist in syntax, vocabulary and word formation. This fortune allows for Afrikaans to be a simple language for English speakers to grasp.

Spelling Comparison

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Apart from direct cognates, spelling patterns can be ascertained too. Though none of these rules are etched in stone and each word should be studied carefully, these commonalities definitely make acquiring certain Afrikaans words much easier. Any word here indicated with a stress marker does not need immediate attention is not necessary, while some without a stress marker will reappear latter in this lesson.

  • The English suffix, -tion, often translates to the Afrikaans suffix, -sie.
    • Examples: poˈsisie (position), ˈaksie (action), konˈdisie (condition)
  • Some monosyllabic Afrikaans words containing the letter, g often correspond to an English, y. This trend continues with the particularly noticeable Afrikaans adjectival suffix, -ig.
    • 'G' Examples: geel (Yellow), dag (day), weg (way), vlieg (to fly), oog (eye)
    • '-ig' Examples: ˈheilig (holy), ˈsonnig (sunny), ˈysig (icy), ˈbesig (busy)
  • Some Afrikaans words beginning with sk-, are akin to English, sh-.
    • Examples: skip (ship), ˈskaduˌwee (shadow), skoen (shoe)
  • If there are words that are the same in both languages, an English hard c is usually equivalent to an Afrikaans k with few exceptions:
    • Examples: kamoeˈflage (camouflage), kalaˈmari (calamari)

II. Determiners: Articles

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The definite article in English is the, which in Afrikaans, is die.

  • "Die man." ('The man.'); "Die kind." ('The child.'); "Die rivier in die woud." ('The river in the forest.')

English's indefinite article, a/an both become ʼn (pronounced as [ə]) in Afrikaans. Whenever a sentence begins with the indefinite article, the spelling rule associated declares that the noun, proper noun or adjective that directly follows must be capitalized.

  • "ʼn Vrou." ('A woman.'); "ʼn Tafel." ('A table.'); "ʼn Seun en ʼn meisie." ('A boy and a girl.')

III. Pronouns: Subject and Object

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A. Subject Pronouns (Nominative Case)

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Person English Afrikaans English Afrikaans English Afrikaans
Singular Plural Formal
1st Pers.
2nd Pers.
3rd Pers.

Afrikaans, like English, follows a simplistic SVO (Subject - Verb - Object) word order. The subject of a sentence refers to who/what is doing an action.

  • I know him. → Ek ken hom.

Though the subject rules are essentially the same as in English, there are two things to note on formality of conversation:

  1. When in an informal context, julle and hulle can be shortened to jul and hul.
    • They talk to him. → "Hulle praat met hom." is the same as "Hul praat met hom.", though the latter is more informal. (NOTE: speak/talk topraat met)
  2. The formal, u (pronounced as [œ]), functions like a plural, but refers to both singular and plural. This form is used to show respect and is used toward one's superiors (a boss or teacher, for instance), to a stranger, to older people or to the Christian God. When in reference to the Christian God, it is capitalized as U.

B. Object Pronouns (Oblique Case)

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Person English Afrikaans English Afrikaans English Afrikaans
Singular Plural Formal
1st Pers.
2nd Pers.
3rd Pers.

The object of a sentence describes who/what the action is directed towards. Unlike German or Russian, Afrikaans, like English, does not distinguish between the Direct Object (Accusative Case) and Indirect Object (Dative Case). Thus, all objective pronouns remain the same.

  • I know him. → Ek ken hom.

It should be noted that every plural object pronoun (including u) is the exact same as its subject form.

  • She forgets you. → Sy vergeet u.
  • He understands them. → Hy verstaan hulle/hul.

IV. Practicality: Greetings and Phrases

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Afrikaans greetings are used in the exact same contexts as English ones, though with more attention to formality. When in an informal context, you might greet someone with a "haai" rather than a "hallo" or a "goeiedag". For instance, goeienaand is used when greeting a person during the evening while goeienag is used when leaving; No different from English.

A small thing to note is that the 'Good [x]' forms below exist as one word when posed as an interjection/greeting (Good afternoon! = Goeiemiddag!), but the form becomes two words when talking about a good part of the day (It was a good afternoon.' = "Dit was ʼn goeie middag.").

English Afrikaans Notes
hello halˈlo
hi haai
goodbye totˈsiens Literally a compound of "tot" ('till') + "sien" ('to see')
good day ˈgoeieˌdag A compound of "goed" ('good') + "dag" ('day')
good morning ˌgoeieˈmôre A compound of "goed" ('good') + "môre" ('morning', 'morrow')
good afternoon ˈgoeiemidˌdag A compound of "goed" ('good') + "middag" ('midday', 'afternoon')
good evening ˌgoeieˈnaand A compound of "goed" ('good') + "aand" ('evening'). Note the extra n in goeienaand.
goodnight ˈgoeieˌnag A compound of "goed" ('good') + "nag" ('night')
How are you? Hoe gaan dit (met jou/u/julle)? Though this phrase can be shortened informally to "Hoe gaan dit?", the phrase in full is "Hoe gaan dit met jou/u/julle?", this dependent on person and formality.
I'm fine Dit gaan goed (met my) The phrase is a direct answer to "Hoe gaan dit?", the ending depending on formality again.
My name is... My naam is...
(many) thanks (baie) ˈdankie
please asseˈblief
pleased to meet you ˈaangeˌname ˈkennis The phrase is literally translated as "aangenaam" ('pleasant') + "kennis" ('knowledge')

In later lessons, the different given forms in the notes will be expounded on and will make sense to the learner (eg. Why Good becomes Goeie). For now, just learn the forms as given.

V. Verbs: The Infinitive, Present Simple and Present Continuous

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The Infinitive

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The infinitive, sometimes referred to as the verb's 'dictionary form', is formed in English by adding 'to' before the verb's present participle. The infinitive is the form of a verb without a subject or specific tense.

  • to walk, to sleep, to eat.

In Afrikaans, the infinitive form is formed by adding 'om te' before the participle.

  • om te loop, om te slaap, om te eet.

The Present Simple and Present Continuous

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Fortunately, Afrikaans has extremely simple conjugation. If you look at every present form in every countable person, you will notice that the verb and its participle NEVER change. There is no direct distinction between verb forms of the present simple or present continuous.

  • I (am) eat(ing) an apple. → Ek eet ʼn appel.
  • I (am) sleep(ing). → Ek slaap.

However, it must be noted that there are literal ways to describe the continuous, and we shall cover it in future lessons. Another thing to know is that there are two very common verbs that deviate completely from the conjugation's common ruleset: "om te wees" ('to be') and "om te " ('to het'), which we'll cover in the next lesson.

Person English Afrikaans English Afrikaans
Present Simple Present Continuous
1st Pers.
I walk
ek loop
I am walking
ek loop
2nd Pers.
you walk
jy/u loop
you are walking
jy/u loop
3rd Pers.
he/she/it walks
hy/sy/dit loop
he/she/it is walking
hy/sy/dit loop
Present Simple Present Continuous
1st Pers.
we walk
ons loop
we are walking
ons loop
2nd Pers.
you walk
julle loop
you are walking
julle loop
3rd Pers.
they walk
hulle loop
they are walking
hulle loop

VI. Chapter Vocabulary

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This is the chapter's main vocabulary. By the next chapter, you should well know these words as they are all quite common. Still, one should take note of the example words used in the grammatical explanations and try to keep them in mind as they will appear in the exercises too.

Nouns and Adjectives Verbs and Adverbs Conjunctions and Prepositions Numerals: 0 - 10
English Afrikaans English Afrikaans English Afrikaans English Afrikaans
apple ˈappel to be om te wees (pres. is) also ook zero nul
boss baas to eat om te eat and en one een
boy seun to forget om te verˈgeet in in two twee
child kind to have om te hê (pres. het) on op three drie
day dag to live; to reside om te woon four vier
forest woud to see om te sien five vyf
friend vriend to sleep om te slaap six ses
girl ˈmeisie to think om te dink seven ˈsewe
icy ysig to understand om te verstaan eight agt
man man here hier nine ˈnege
mister; sir meˈneer no nee ten tien
madam; missus meˈvrou yes ja
night nag very; much; many baie
pretty mooi where waar
river riˈvier
ship skip
shoe skoen
summer ˈsomer
sunny ˈsonnig
table ˈtafel
today vanˈdag
weather weer
winter ˈwinter
woman vrou

VII. Chapter Dialogues

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Almost every lesson, two different dialogues related to the material of the lesson is provided to get the learner familiar with the material at hand. Having reviewed this lesson's notes, you should be able to understand the grammatical structure. If you must look at the vocabulary and its stresses above or at the translation below, do so as sparingly as possible.

Dialogue 1: An Informal Conversation

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Sonja Goeiemôre, Johan!
Johan Haai, Sonja! Hoe gaan dit?
Sonja Dit gaan goed, dankie. En met jou?
Johan Ook goed. Die weer is goed vandag, né?
Sonja Ja, ek dink so.
Sonja Good morning, Johan!
Johan Hi, Sonja! How are you?
Sonja I'm fine, thanks. And you?
Johan Also well. The weather is good today, huh?
Sonja Yes, I think so.

Dialogue 2: A Formal Conversation

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Die Baas Goeiedag, Johan.
Johan Goeiemôre, meneer. Hoe gaan dit met u?
Die Baas Dit gaan goed met my, dankie. Waar is Japie?
Johan Hy is besig in die winkel.
Die Baas Baie dankie, Johan. Totsiens.
Johan Totsiens, meneer.
The Boss Good day, Johan.
Johan Good morning, sir. How are you?
The Boss I'm fine, thanks. Where is Japie?
Johan He is busy in the store.
The Boss Thank you very much, Johan. Goodbye
Johan Goodbye, sir.


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Exercise A: Translate into English:

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Translate these sentences into English.

  • Goeienaand en goeienag.
  • Die dag is sonnig.
  • Die woud is mooi in die somer.
  • My naam is Japie, en hier is my vriend, Valerie.
  • Hul werk op ʼn skip.
  • Waar is my ander skoen?
  • Een, Vyf, Nege, Ses, Sewe, Twee
  • Good evening and goodnight.
  • The day is sunny.
  • The forest is pretty in the summer.
  • My name is Japie, and here is my friend, Valerie.
  • They work on a ship.
  • Where is my other shoe?
  • One, Five, Nine, Six, Seven, Two

Exercise B: Translate into Afrikaans:

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Translate these sentences into Afrikaans.

  • Hello, my name is Sally. Pleased to meet you.
  • The river is icy in the winter.
  • The madam lives here.
  • You (plural) eat an apple.
  • We are sleeping.
  • Hi! Where is the boss?
  • You (formal) see him.
  • Hallo, my naam is Sally. Aangename kennis.
  • Die rivier is ysig in die winter.
  • Die mevrou woon hier.
  • Julle eet ʼn appel.
  • Ons slaap.
  • Haai! Waar is die baas?
  • U sien hom.

The Next Lesson

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In the next lesson, we shall cover plurals, the past and future tenses, the verbs "om te wees" and "om te hê" and possessive pronouns and determiners. Good luck on your studies!
On to Lesson Two!>>