Dutch/Appendix 3

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Appendix 3 - Voornaamwoorden ~ pronouns[edit | edit source]

Like English, Dutch has pronouns. These can mark number, case, gender,politeness and emphasis.

Pronouns can function either as substantives (nouns) or as adjectives. There is also a number of related adverbs that will be treated here. Adverbs are typically not considered pronouns in grammatical analysis, but they deserve mention when discussing the Dutch language because pronouns are often replaced by pronominal adverbs.

Persoonlijke voornaamwoorden ~ Personal pronouns[edit | edit source]

In this table personal pronouns are given in nominative, accusative and dative case. These cases signify the role the pronouns have in the sentence. For example: In "I am hitting you", "I" is nominative (subject) and "you" is accusative (object). Also words with a preposition are in accusative case ("you" in "I am looking at you"). Dative case is special and tells us something is indirect object, as "me" in "He gave me that" or "He built me a snowman" or, with a preposition, "He gave it to me".

number person nom. acc./dat.
Dutch English Dutch English
singular 1st ik I mij/me me
2nd fam. jij/je you jou/je you
polite u you u you
South gij you u you
3rd m hij he hem him
f zij/ze she haar her
n het it het it
plural 1st wij/we we ons us
2nd fam. jullie you jullie you
polite u you u you
South gij you u you
3rd zij/ze they hen/hun*


  • Sometimes there are two forms (jij/je etc.), which can be interchanged most of the time. (See 5)
  • Officially the plural 3rd person accusative form is hen. Hun is (officially) only used as a dative without preposition: "We hebben het hun verteld" ("We told them about it"). After a preposition hen should be used. This refers almost entirely to the written standard language and was artificially constructed by the grammarians of the past. In the spoken language hen is seldom heard. Even hun is increasingly replaced by ze as people tire of being told their use of hun is wrong by the schoolmasters. In the inanimate case the use of preposition+pronoun is rare, replacement by a pronominal adverb being preferred (See 8).
  • For inanimate objects personal and possessive pronouns are often replaced by demonstrative pronouns.
  • In the South -mostly Flanders- the gij-form is in regular use for the second person. It has its own verb endings. It adds a -t both in the present and the past: komen - gij komt - gij kwaamt. In the North its use is limited to Biblical quotes like: gij zult niet stelen - thou shalt not steal. Notice that u is used as object, without implying politeness.

Bezittelijke voornaamwoorden ~ Possessive pronouns[edit | edit source]

Pssessive pronouns are essentially the adjectival forms of the personal pronouns.

number person Dutch English
singular 1st mijn my
2nd fam. jouw/je your
polite uw your
3rd m zijn*3 his
f haar*3 her
n (zijn)*3 its
plural 1st onze/ons our
2nd fam. jullie your
polite uw your
3rd hun their


  1. The difference between jouw and je is matter of emphasis or the lack thereof: "Dat is jouw huis." vs. "Dat is je huis."
  2. Ons has an inflected form onze as most adjectives do (See Dutch/Lesson 2). Other possessives are seldom inflected in the modern language: Mijne Heren!: Gentlemen!, Hare Hoogheid: Her Highness. More regularly inflected forms are used when the pronoun is used as an independent noun: Met welke auto gaan we? De mijne of de jouwe?. Jullie is never inflected, instead die van jullie is used.
  3. The neuter possessive pronoun zijn is very rare as Dutch usually opts for a construction involving a pronominal adverb like ervan. (see 8). The masculine and feminine forms are increasingly reserved for natural gender (persons, as in English) in other cases pronominal replacement is more and more the norm.

Personal Adverb - er[edit | edit source]

Dutch has a somewhat curious personal locative adverb er that replaces het and ze particularly in inanimate cases (i.e. for things more so than for persons). It occurs as the locative part of many pronominal adverbs, such as :erin, erdoor, ervan etc. but it can also be used independently:

er is koffie - there is coffee.
er zijn mensen die dat lusten - there are people that like that

Notice that er is not considered the subject of these sentences (koffie and mensen are the subject resp.)

Aanwijzende voornaamwoorden -- Demonstrative pronouns[edit | edit source]

location neuter sg. all other English
close dit deze this, these
far dat die that,those
  1. Notice that the distinction dit-deze does not correspond to the distinction this-these. Deze is used in the plural but it also used in the singular for m/f words. (It replaces de.)

Demonstrative pronouns are typically used as adjectives:

Dit huis
Deze auto

they can also be used independently:

dit is een huis
Zijn auto? Die heb ik gezien

They are more and more used to replace inanimate personal pronouns.

Aanwijzende bijwoorden - demonstrative adverbs[edit | edit source]


Dutch has three demonstrative adverbs of time:

  1. past: toen -then
    hij heeft toen een huis gekocht - he bought a house then
  2. present: nu - now
    nu woont hij er - now he lives there
  3. future/conditional: dan - then
    hij het dan verkopen - then he'll sell it

One modal demonstrative adverb is common:

zo - so

Occasionally a more proximate one zus is used for contrast

Dat doe je zus en zo - You do that this way and that.

Two locative adverbs are in common use:

  1. close by: hier - here
  2. far off: daar - there

Both of them are used as the locative part of demonstrative pronominal adverbs like: hierdoor, daarvan etc.

A third adverb is less common:

  1. remote: ginds, ginder, daarginds -yonder

Betrekkelijke voornaamwoorden -- Relative pronouns[edit | edit source]

Zelfstandig- substantive[edit | edit source]

antecedent neuter sg. all other English
after dat die that/who
included wat wie the one that/who
whoever/that which

Without antecedent:

Dit is het huis dat ik koop -this is the house that I buy
Dit is de auto die ik koop - this is the car that I buy
Dit is de vrouw die ik lief heb - the is the woman whom I love

With inclusion of antecedent.

Wie mij steunt zal ik belonen - whoever supports me I shall reward
Ik verkocht wat ik eerder gekocht had - I sold that which I had bought earlier.

There are a number of archaic forms that can be used with prepositions:

neuter:hetwelk, hetgeen, hetgene, datgene : that which
other: dewelke
persons degene die: he who, diegenen die: those who

As in English the genitives wiens and wier (whose) can be used in relative clauses referring to persons:

ik ontmoette de man wiens vrouw voor ons werkt - I met the man whose wife works for us.
case masc sg. fem sg./plur English
genitive wiens wier whose

In inanimate cases the relative pronominal adverb waarvan is virtually mandatory.

Bijvoeglijk - adjective[edit | edit source]

neuter sg. all other English
welk welke which
ik weet welk boek hij gebruikt - I know which book he uses
ik weet niet in welke steden trams rijden - I do not know in which cities streetcars are operated

Bijwoordelijk - adverbial[edit | edit source]


waar - where

Waar can be used to initiate a dependent clause:
dit is de stad waar ik geboren ben - this is the town where I was born

Waar is also used to form the relative pronominal adverbs like waarvan, waarvoor etc. that frequently replace relative pronouns.

Vragende voornaamwoorden - Interrogative pronouns[edit | edit source]