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Intermediate level: cycle 4
Les 14 ~ Lesson 14
Naamwoorden van handeling ~ Verbal nouns
|• De vloedgolf van Atjeh.|
Text 14-1 - De vloedgolf
|de vloedgolf||flood wave (any cause)|
|het dodental||death toll|
|de hulp||help, aid|
|de verbinding||tie, link, (chem.) compound|
The -ing problem
In English the -ing form is used extensively for a number of rather different functions. Although Dutch also has an ending -ing it does not correspond to the English one in most situations:
- he is singing
- hij is aan het zingen
- he walked out of the room singing
- hij liep zingend de kamer uit
- singing is her profession
- zang is haar beroep
In the above examples singing is used as:
- part of the present continuous tense
- as a participle
- as a verbal noun (gerund).
In Dutch different nouns are used in these three cases none of which ends in -ing
Properly rendering -ing forms in Dutch may therefore present a bit of a problem for an English speaker.
In the strict sense Dutch does not have continuous times and in many cases where English uses them Dutch will use a simple present or past.
- he was walking to school when he saw the UFO
- hij liep naar school toen hij de vliegende schotel zag
- hij was onderweg naar school toen hij de vliegende schotel zag
To emphasize continuity Dutch can use the infinitive as a neutral noun preceded by the preposition aan:
- hij was aan het wandelen
- he was going for a walk
- zij waren aan het verhuizen
- they were busy moving
Another common construction is to use an auxiliary verb like zitten,staan,liggen, lopen
- de voetballer liep op de scheidsrechter te schelden.
- the soccer player walked around fuming at the umpire.
- ik zat te denken
- I was just thinking (on my chair)
The "on my chair" or "on my feet" distinction is often of negligible importance and the verbs zitten, liggen etc. are used more or less interchangeably as auxiliaries of the continuous aspect.
The present participle in Dutch is formed by adding -d(e) (not: -ing) to the infinitive:
- lopen – lopend(e)
- staan – staand
As in English it can be used as adjective:
- flying saucer
- vliegende schotel
But it is rarely used as a (static) predicate:
- kinine is koortswerend
- quinine has the property of abating fever
Using it in a continuous tense construction as in English sounds odd and rather ironic.
- ach, was jij schrijvende?
- roughly: Wow, did I catch you in writing mode?
Present participles are seldom used to initiate a clause as is common in English:
- The second car moving at greater speed could not stop
- De tweede auto die sneller reed kon niet stoppen
- De tweede, sneller rijdende auto kon niet stoppen
Either the participle rijdend is used as a preceding adjective or it is avoided by paraphrase.
The term gerund is seldom used in Dutch grammar. One could argue that Dutch does not have one in the English sense of the word, despite the presence of a rich variety of verbal nouns.
First of all, in many cases Dutch uses the infinitive as a neutral noun where English uses a gerund in -ing and one could argue that this is the Dutch gerund:
- addition and subtraction are the basis of arithmetic
There are subtle differences associated with the use or omission of the neutral article het, but the same holds in English:
- singing is healthy – zingen is gezond
- the singing finally ended – het zingen hield eindelijk op
There is typically no plural. In times past the word did get inflected -as Latin gerunds do-, e.g.:
- Tot ziens! - See you!
- Willens en wetens - Deliberately.
- Een uur gaans - an hour on foot
This -s ending is an old genitive.
The genitive of the gerund actually enjoys a modicum of productivity is expressions with tot ... toe:
- tot vervelens toe - until boredom resulted, ad nauseam
- tot bloedens toe - until bleeding resulted
- Mijn ziel is zeer bedroefd, tot stervens toe (Matthew 26:38) - until death.
Many Dutch verbs do form a (feminine) verbal noun in -ing, but it usually corresponds more to an English noun with (latinate) ending -ion than to a gerund with -ing:
- deze aftrekking is niet juist
- this subtraction is incorrect
Note that de aftrekking denotes a particular case of subtraction, where het aftrekken denotes the general process of subtracting
The formation of a verbal noun is -ing is quite common, particularly for verbs with prefixes like ver-, be-, af- etc. It is also a productive suffix, which means that newly formed verbs tend to form their verbal noun this way. It has a plural in -en:
- zegening – zegeningen
- blessing – blessings
However, the -ing form is certainly not as ubiquitous as in English where only a few verbs like can or must do not possess one. Not all Dutch verbs have an -ing form as there is a number of older ways to form verbal nouns, although most of them are no longer productive.
The -ing verbal noun is feminine and occurs frequently with "ter" (te + the old feminine dative der), which translates roughly into "in order to".
- Hij besprak maatregelen ter verbetering daarvan - He discussed methods that could be used to improve that.
This process is still productive:
- ter wikifiëring -- to be wikified
Interestingly, this means that even north of the Great Rivers feminine gender is not quite dead yet...
Many strong verbs have a verbal noun based on the stem of the verb with ablaut (vowel change) and lack an -ing form:
- helpen – de hulp
- na drie dagen kwam er eindelijk hulp
- after three days help finally arrived
- wreken – de wraak:
- wraak is zoet
- revenge is sweet
- zingen – de zang
- hij studeert zang
- he is studying voice
Notice that in these cases forms in -ing like *helping, *zinging do not exist in Dutch.
Sometimes the vowel does not change:
- lopen – de loop
- in de loop van het proces
- in the course of the process
These nouns are typically common gender and often lack a plural, but this does not always hold. For example a weak verb like werken has het werk and a plural de werken
Some verbs add -t or -st to the stem, a process not entirely unfamiliar in English:
- vliegen – de vlucht – plural: de vluchten
- to fly – the flight
- telen – teelt (no plural)
- cultivate – cultivation
At times, there is more than one verbal noun:
- graven – graf – gracht (<graft 1600s)
- to dig – grave – canal
- graf – graven
- gracht – grachten
After nasals -st is more common:
- dienen – de dienst – plural: de diensten
- to serve – service
- komen – de komst – no plural
- come – advent, arrival
- vangen – de vangst
- catch – catch
- de vangst van kabeljauw bij de Canadese kust is gestaakt
- cod fishing has been suspended off the coast of Canada
A few verbs have -te:
- behoeven – de behoefte
- need – need
- baren – geboorte
- give birth – birth
Plurals have -s: behoeftes, geboortes, sometimes also -n:
- denken – gedachten, gedachtes
- think – thought(s)
Other verbs have -nis, -enis or -tenis
- kennen – kennis
- to know – knowledge / acquaintance
- gebeuren – gebeurtenis
- to happen – event
- bekennen – bekentenis
- to confess – confession
- hinderen – hindernis
- to obstruct / bother – hindrance
Plurals get -sen:
- kennissen (acquaintances), bekentenissen
In English this ending is more common after adjectives like bald(ness), good(ness). In Dutch this is rare:
- sad – sadness
- droef – droefenis
Usually Dutch has -heid in such cases: droefheid
Dutch also has latinate endings—as English does—that sometimes compete with the Germanic ones:
The Latin -tio(n) ending is -tie in Dutch and usually pronounced as [tsi] or [si] ('see')
- communiceren – communicatie
- communicate – communication
- archiveren – archivering
- to archive – archiving
Another way to form a verbal noun is to add ge- to a stem. It forms a neuter noun from verbs without prefixes.
- vallen – het geval – de gevallen
- to fall – the case
- missen – het gemis - (no plural)
- to miss – the lack, missing
- spreken – het gesprek – de gesprekken
- to speak – the conversation
- voelen – het gevoel – de gevoelens
- to feel – the feeling
This type is still productive, at least for verbs that do not carry prefixes. Newly formed nouns carry the connotation of annoying repetition and they usually have no plural:
- dat onophoudelijk geblaf moet afgelopen zijn!
- enough of that incessant barking!
- hij viel op het toneel: gelach en boegeroep in het publiek...
- he fell on stage: laughter and boos in the audience...
- wat een gedoe!
- what a hassle!
Notice the difference with the past participle:
- gelach – gelachen
- laughing,laughter – laughed
Verbal nouns with ge- tend to have a dysphemic connotation and some are better avoided by a non-native speaker:
- gezeur, geëtter, gezeik, gezwam (all ~ bull s#$t)
- zeuren – to nag
- etter – puss
- zeik – urine (four letters..)
- zwam – fungus
Subjects and objects
As in English the -er suffix denotes the subject of the verb:
- geven – gever
- to give – giver
As in English the plural is in -s: gevers.
There usually is a feminine version in -ster as well, although under feminist influence it is under considerable pressure especially for functions in society:
- voorzitten – voorzitter – voorzitster
- to chair a meeting – chairman – chairwoman
Voorzitter is increasingly used, regardless the gender of the chairperson.
There are other feminine endings, e.g. -eres: (plural -eressen)
- zingen – zanger – zangeres
- to sing – singer (m) – singer (f)
There is also an infrequent -sel suffix indicating an object, e.g.:
- scheppen – schepping - schepper - schepsel
- to create – creation - creator – creature
Note that in this case English has completely shifted to Latin roots and endings where Dutch has remained faithful to its Germanic roots altogether, at least in religious context. Otherwise creation is often creatie.
The number and type of available verbal nouns differs from verb to verb.
Apart from the two participles the verb can form various adjectives as it can in English. One suffix that corresponds to the English latinate ending -able is -baar:
- verstaan – verstaanbaar
- understand – understandable
Another suffix -heid (cf. English -hood) can be added to turn the adjective into a (feminine) noun:
- danken – dankbaar – dankbaarheid
- to thank – grateful – gratitude
The -heid suffix (plural -heden) can also be used behind participles.
- bergen - geborgen – geborgenheid
- to secure – secured, safe – feeling at ease
- opletten – oplettend – oplettendheid
- to wacht out – attentive – attention
There is also a suffix -elijk , cognate with -ly. (The 'ij' is usually pronounced as a schwa.)
- bewerken – bewerkelijk
- to process -requiring much work
- sterven – sterfelijk - sterfelijkheid
- to die – mortal - mortality