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Beginner level: cycle 1
Les 4 ~ Lesson 4
Studeren ~ Student Life
|• Indefinite and negative articles|
|• Grammar: More pronouns|
|• Grammar: Plural of nouns|
|• Orthography: The Dutch spelling rule|
|het medicijn||medicine, medication|
Fill in the blank 4-1-F
- Peter zegt dat hij die stoelen en tafels echt heeft.
- Peter wil Elly voor een etentje.
- Zijn vader zegt: zul je bedoelen!
- Zijn zoon aan de universiteit.
Grammatica 4-1 ~ The indefinite articles een en geen
- ...chairs and a table ... stoelen en een tafel
- ...has no money... heeft geen geld
In the previous lesson you were introduced to the definite articles—'the' in English and het or de in Dutch. Indefinite articles precede nouns in the same way that definite articles do, but convey a general or indefinite sense. These are 'a' or 'an' in English. Thus, 'the book' or het boek refers to a definite or specific book, whereas 'a book' or een boek is indefinite about which book is referred to. If your mother tongue does not have articles (such as Russian, Polish etc.) try this.
Dutch indefinite articles only come in one form (een), so they don't display gender.
The use of definite and indefinite articles is virtually the same as in English. The few deviations are best learned when listening to the language or speaking it.
|een||de||masculine/feminine||de tafel - een tafel (the table - a table)|
|een||het||neuter||het raam - een raam (the window - a window)|
Please note (see also previous lesson) that the indefinite article has the same form as the numeral one (één). One could argue that one is a clitic form of the other. To denote the difference, one could place accents on the numeral. Also, there is a difference in pronunciation. The numeral één (one) is pronounced /e:n/, the article een (a) with a much weaker /ən/. Occasionally Dutch has one and English the other:
- op een middag - one afternoon
Notice that one is used here in the meaning of a certain, not say in contrast to two or three.
There is an inflected form ene that is used independently:
- Occasionally Dutch has one, English the other.
- Soms heeft Nederlands het ene, Engels het andere
In English a negative of an indefinite article is simply formed by adding not:
- this is a car
- this is not a car
Alternatively one can drop the article and say:
- this is no car.
In Dutch there is a special negative of een:
- dit is een auto
- dit is geen auto.
Geen is used both with singular and with plural indefinite nouns
- dat zijn eenden -- those are ducks
- dat zijn geen eenden -- those are not ducks
Relation to niet
The combination niet + een is only used in contrasting things:
- dit is niet een fuut maar een eend.
- this is not a grebe but a duck.
With definite nouns negation involves adding niet, usually at end:
- dat is de auto
- dat is de auto niet
- Notice that geen is an article. It negates the noun.
- By contrast niet is an adverb. It negates the verb.
Notice also that Dutch does not use the auxiliary verb to do for negations:
- Hij zag de auto niet - he did not see the car
- Hij zag geen eenden - he did not see any ducks
Relation to wel
When a negative is negated Dutch uses the adverb wel to express that. English has to use a construction involving the verb to do:
- Heb je geen geld? -- Jawel, ik heb wel geld.
- Don't you have money -- Yes, I do have money
This adverb is also used for contrasting:
- Hij heeft geen auto, maar wel een motor.
- He has no car, but he does have a motorbike.
Notice that the second part of the Dutch sentence does not even have a verb. Dutch is quite an 'adverbial' language. If the adverb expresses the meaning sufficiently, why bother with superfluous things like verbs?
A game of "Yes, you do" - "No, I don't" sounds like "Welles!" - "Nietes!" in Dutch
Much like in French, there are two words for yes. A simple confirmation is ja (French: oui); a negation of a negative is jawel (French: si)
Grammatica 4-2 ~ More pronouns
Recall the following from Gesprek 3-1:
- Ja. En daarna breng je me op je motor naar huis.
Which translates as:
- 'Yes. And after that you take me home on your motorcycle'.
The sentence demonstrates one of the possessive pronouns. In the singular these are
- 'my', 'your', and 'his/her/its' in English
- mijn, jouw and zijn/haar/(zijn) in Dutch.
The neuter zijn for its is not used very much in Dutch, as we shall see in lesson 8 it often gets replaced by "ervan".
The above pronouns like jouw often turn into a weak (clitic) form je that is used when the emphasis is on something else, such as the motorcycle in this case. In the spoken language this holds for all the ones shown in the table, but in the written language je is the most generally accepted clitic. When written they are:
- m'n, je and z'n/d'r/(z'n)
Dutch does not have a possessive case as English does. In English one could say this house of mine, where mine (and yours, hers, his, ours, yours, theirs) is possessive case. Dutch uses objective case for this: dit huis van mij as if 'van' (of) is a preposition.
However, for a sentence like is this yours or his? Dutch would use nominalized pronouns (pronouns turned into nouns) with an inflection -e usually accompanied by a definite pronoun de or het:
- Is dit het jouwe of het zijne? - Is this yours or his?
The possessive for the polite 2nd person pronoun u is uw and in the south this same word is used to refer to the gij pronoun (but no formal usage is implied). Uw does not have a clitic form and the same can be said about the possessives of the plural. Uw does have an inflected form uwe used for nominalization.
- Dit is uw huis - this is your house
- Dit is het uwe! - this is yours
For the third person plural the possessive is hun and it follows the same pattern:
- Dat is hun auto - this is their house
- Dat is het hunne! - this is theirs
For the first person plural Dutch has ons. This is the only one that follows the rules for inflection of the adjectives. I.e. its inflected form is used for de-words but not for het-words:
- het huis - ons huis
- de huizen - onze huizen.
- de auto - onze auto
The inflected form is once again also used for nominalization:
- Dat is het onze! - that is ours!
For the second person plural the possessive is jullie which cannot be inflected and cannot be used as a noun, which necessitates a construction involving van:
- Dat is jullie huis
- Dat is dat van jullie
- Dat is jullie auto
- Dat is die van jullie!
See Dutch/Appendix 3 for a table of the possessive pronouns.
Practice the possessive pronouns at Quizlet (24 term, includes demonstrative and reciprocal pronouns)
In English, this is used as demonstrative pronoun to indicate something in proximity. That indicates greater distance. In Dutch a similar distinction exists, but gender plays a role:
- de trein → deze trein - this train
- het huis → dit huis - this house
So, one replaces 'de' by deze and 'het' by dit.
At a greater distance:
- de trein → die trein
- het huis → dat huis
Notice that often when English has th, Dutch will have d:
- the - de
- that - dat
- think - denk
A third, even more distant pronoun exists (gene, gindse), but it is about as common as its English equivalent yon, yonder.
Again, the two languages betray their kinship. In some words, a g in Dutch corresponds to a y in English.. Compare:
- gisteren - yesterday
- de gist - the yeast
- geel - yellow
Using demonstrative pronouns instead of personal pronouns
- Die heb ik echt nodig, hoor!
As we have seen Dutch is on its way to a two-gender system. For inanimate nouns, this makes demonstrative pronouns a more attractive choice to refer things by than personal pronouns. Compare:
As you see demonstratives do not distinguish whether a word is feminine or masculine and follow the same common-neuter pattern as the articles. Compare:
- Ik zie Jan. Hij is sterk - I see John. He is strong.
- Ik zie zijn auto. Die is duur. - I see his car. It is expensive.
Note: because de auto is not neuter, it is not correct to say: Het is duur. But saying hij is duur or zij is duur makes the word specifically masculine or feminine. Using die avoids the issue, because die follows the common gender pattern of the definite article.
Increasingly, personal pronouns are reserved for reference to persons (natural gender as in English). To refer to things people resort to substituting the demonstratives.
Reflexive and Reciprocal pronouns
In English reflexive pronouns always carry the ending -self -selves: myself, themselves etc. In Dutch that is not always so. In fact, for a verb that is always reflexive, like zich vergissen (to be mistaken) the ending cannot be used:
- Ik vergis me
- Jij vergist je, u vergist u/zich
- Hij/zij vergist zich
- Wij vergissen ons
- Jullie vergissen je
- Zij vergissen zich
In other words the reflexive pronoun is identical to the clitic object form of the personal pronoun, except in the third person where it is zich. The pronoun u was originally a third person (It stems from U.E. uwe edele, something like: your nobility, your honor) which explains the zich for this pronoun.
Vergissen can only be used with zich, but some verbs can be used with or without a reflexive pronoun. In that case -zelf may be added:
Ik was me/mij/mezelf/mijzelf. - I wash myself.
This topic is revisited in Lesson 16
The most important reciprocal pronoun is elkaar - each other
- Zij ontmoeten elkaar - They met each other.
Grammatica 4-3 Plural of nouns
We already have seen some things about the plural above:
- the plural definite article is always de (for all genders),
- there is no indefinite article, but the negative geen can be used.
- the demonstrative pronouns are deze and die
- the personal pronoun is zij or its weak form ze.
Forming the plural of the noun itself is a bit more complicated. In English it is basically always done with -s, but in Dutch that is different
Recall: ...tafels en stoelen...
With few exceptions like ox - oxen pretty much all words simply get an -s in English. Dutch however has two main ways to form a plural: by adding -s and by adding -en. The latter is pronounced /-ən/, /-ə/ or even as a syllabic /-n/ depending on the region.
Which plural applies is best learned case by case as gender is, although we can attempt a general rule:
The ones in -a, -o, -i and -y get an apostrophe before the -s
- baby - baby's
Unfortunately there are lots of exceptions. Many recent (latinate) loans from English or French and all diminutives get a -s.
- de tafel - de tafels
- de familie - de families
- het meisje - de meisjes
Words in -te and -aar usually get -s:
- de hoogte - de hoogtes
- de kandelaar - de kandelaars
Amongst the many words that get -en are the ones in -ing:
- de helling - de hellingen
Most monosyllabic words have -en in the plural:
- de stoel - de stoelen
- het raam - de ramen
In the latter case, notice that one of the a's is dropped in the spelling of the plural. This difficulty is related to the fact that most Dutch vowels occur in two varieties, a closed one and an open one. Dutch spelling has a rather ingenious and systematic way of denoting which one is intended. It involves the doubling of either vowels or consonants. Compare:
- het bot /bɔt/ (the bone) has an open vowel /ɔ/ like British pot (or American paw)
- de boot /bot/ (the boat) sounds much like British boat.
In this case the vowels remain the same in the plural, but notice the doubling:
- het bot - de botten ['bɔtə(n)] (bot-ten)
- de boot - de boten ['botə(n)] (bo-ten)
It is customary to call the first sound [ɔ] a 'short o' and the second [o] a 'long o', but this terminology can be rather confusing. There are languages like Czech or Gàidhlig where vowels are indeed distinguished purely on their length. In Dutch, however, the difference in length (quantity) is actually pretty negligible, but the difference in vowel sound (quality) is not. This presents a problem for speakers of the many languages with a five-vowel system, like Italian, Russian, Arabic or isiXhosa whose ears are not accustomed to this kind of difference. Anglophones usually do quite well.
The following five vowels possess open ('long') and covered ('short') varieties:
The Dutch spelling rule
For non-native speakers a complication arises in those cases where the actual vowel changes ('lengthens') in the plural, compare:
- dat pad (/pɑt/) - die paden (/'padən/ - vowel changes) (that path - those paths)
- die pad (/pɑt/) - die padden (/'pɑdən/ - no vowel change) (that toad - those toads)
The vowel /ɑ/ in pad and padden is approximately as in father. Paden has a vowel /a/ like in broad American 'Oh, my God' (In Dutch the spelling would be: Gaad). Also, notice the gender difference of the two words.
Vowel change is systematic in the plural of the past of certain strong verbs (class 4 and 5; see 6).
- ik zat (/zɑt/) - wij zaten (/zatən/) (I sat - we sat)
A few words show vowel changes other than between the open and closed variety of the same vowel:
- de stad - de steden (city).
- het schip - de schepen (ship)
Words ending in -heid get -heden:
- beleefdheid - beleefdheden
There are about a dozen plurals in Dutch that end in -eren:
- het kind - de kinderen (child - children)
- het lam - de lammeren (lamb)
The ending -eren is essentially a double plural. It derives from a plural in -er and in some compounds that is still visible:
- de kinderkamer - the children's room
- de lammergier - a species of vulture
Some words in -ie have an -en plural that requires a diaeresis (trema in Dutch). The spelling depends on where the stress falls:
- de kolónie - de kolóniën
- de dynastíé - de dynastíéën
Notice that in Dutch orthography the stress of a word cán be indicated with an acute accent, but this is only permitted if otherwise ambiguity might arise.
A trema (diaeresis) is also used after -ee:
- de zee - de zeeën
- de diatomee - de diatomeeën
Changes of consonants
If the root of the word ends in a -z of -v this is both written and pronounced as -s and -f in the singular, but the voiced consonant returns in a plural on -en:
- de baas - de bazen
- de raaf - de raven
- de duif - de duiven
Such words typically have a 'long' vowel (aa in this case) or diphthong.
With short vowel the consonant typically remains voiceless and is doubled in the plural
- de plas - de plassen
- de klos - de klossen
Some compounds of -man have a plural involving lieden or lui (people)
- de timmerman - de timmerlieden, de timmerlui
Occasionally a Latin or Greek plural is preserved in Dutch:
- het museum - de musea
- de chemicus - de chemici
- de crisis - de crises
- het dogma - de dogmata , dogma's
|Dutch term||Audio file||English translation|
|de tafel||tafel (help·info)||table|
|de stoel||stoel (help·info)||chair|
|het geld||geld (help·info)||money|
|de student||student (help·info)||student (university)|
|de universiteit||universiteit (help·info)||university|
|het medicijn||medicijn (help·info)||the medication, the drug|
|kan er niks aan doen||cannot help it|
|Ik heb nodig||I need|
|bezoeken||bezoeken (help·info)||attend (as a student)|
|vooruit||vooruit (help·info)||ahead, 'let's go'|
|te weinig||weinig (help·info)||too little|
The vocabulary or this lesson can be practiced at Quizlet (28 terms)
The vocabulary or this lesson can be practiced at Quizlet (28 terms)
If you have thoroughly studied the above lesson you should
- have more knowledge of pronouns (poss. dem, reflex, and reciprocal)
- know how plurals are formed
- know the Dutch spelling rule that governs the doubling of vowels and consonants
Cumulative vocabulary count
- Lesson 1+ : 226
- Lesson 2+ : 161
- Lesson 3+ : 89
- Lesson 4: 52
- Grand total
- 528 terms
- or indefinite pronoun in other grammars