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Beginner level: cycle 2
Les 5 ~ Lesson 5
De weg vragen ~ Asking directions
|• Grammar: Verbs|
|• Grammar: The four moods|
|• Grammar:The present tense|
|zoeken||to look for, search|
|de weg||road, way|
|uitzien||to look like|
John ishet station en spreekt een aan.
Hij volgt de weg enzijn .
Notice that John uses the polite forms "alstublieft" (please) and "hartelijk dank" (thank you very much) to a total stranger rather than the more informal "alsjeblieft and "dank je".
Grammatica 5-1 ~ Conjugation of verbs; the four moods
Dutch has a relatively simple system of verbs with four moods and eight tenses. The Dutch verb has a few more endings than the English one. We will focus on three forms:
- stem + -t
- stem + -en
The simplest form is the imperative mood. As in English it is simply the stem of the verb:
- Neem! - take!
There is a (rather archaic) plural of the imperative, that takes an extra -t:
- Neemt! - take (you all!).
Often imperatives are 'softened' to a kind request or encouragement with modal adverbs like maar or even:
- Ga weg - Go away! (This is pretty curt, even offensive: Get lost!)
- Ga even weg - Please leave me alone for a moment (A kind request: do me a favor)
- Ga maar weg - You can go now, that's OK. (An encouragement or permission)
In polite address with 'u' often a -t is added, although grammarians don't always consider that an imperative:
- Gaat u zitten - please sit down
- Weest u niet bang - don't be afraid
Indicative mood in the present tense
By far the most important mood is the indicative one and its tenses. We will look at the present tense only here. The first person singular has the same form as the imperative:
- neem! - take!
- ik neem - I take
The third person (he/she) singular acquires a final -t in the present. In English it gets a -s instead:
- ik volg - I follow
- hij volgt - he follows
In contrast to English this also applies to the second person singular:
- jij vindt - you find (informal)
- U kunt - you can (formal, polite)
However, the -t ending is lost for the informal jij form, when the word order is reversed, e.g. when asking a question:
- Vind je dat ook niet?
The Dutch verb has a 'plural' form that generally ends in -en, which is used for all plural persons and for the infinitive as well:
- vertellen - to tell
- wij nemen - we take
- jullie volgen - you (all) follow
- zij kunnen - they can
Notice that the vowel usually does not change and therefore we are doubling either consonants or vowels when we go from one syllable to two:
- vertel - vertelt - vertelˑlen => single e remains [ɛ] in syllable closed by extra l.
- loop - loopt - loˑpen => o remains [o], even in the closed syllable, as indicated by "oo".
Choose the correct form of the verb, then hover you mouse over the verb to see the right answer.
Fill in the correct verb form in the blank. Hover to check the answer.
- [werken]. Waar jij?
- [gaan]. Zij allebei naar het concert.
- [bibberen]. Het kindje van de kou.
- [pakken]. Ik de kaart even.
- [eten]. u graag pannenkoeken met spek?
The plural form is also the infinitive of the verb:
- wij maken - we make
- maken - to make
It occasionally takes 'te' as in English 'to' but that is more exceptional in Dutch. The form with te is known as the extended infinitive and it has its own uses. Some of them are quite comparable to what happens in English:
- dat is moeilijk te maken - that is hard to make
The infinitive can be used as a noun where English uses the gerund in -ing. It is always neuter in gender:
- het vertellen van volkverhalen is een leuk tijdverdrijf.
- the telling of folktales is a nice pastime.
- het eten - the food, the meal
- het eten is klaar! - dinner's ready!
- het leven - life
There is a present participle, it ends in -end(e) rather than -ing. It is used mostly as an adjective:
- de week die volgt → de volgende week
- the week that follows → the following week
- volgend jaar
- next year
There are forms ending in -ing in Dutch but they are (feminine) nouns of action only loosely associated with the verb they derive from, e.g.
- vertalen - to translate
- de vertaling - the translation
We will revisit verbal nouns much more extensively in one of the later lessons.
Some verbs are monosyllabic, e.g.
- zien - to see
- ik zie - I see
- hij ziet - he sees
- zij zien - they see
The subjunctive mood is even rarer in Dutch than it is in English. It only exists in third person singular and (with few exceptions) present tense. It looks like the infinitive minus -n:
- Men neme twee pond gehakt
- lit. (May) one take two pounds of ground beef (minced meat)
- Het zij zo - be it so
It is only mentioned here for the sake of completeness. It is only used in a few wishes and recipes.
Some irregular verbs
Of course, there are a number of irregular verbs in Dutch, but often they are the same ones as in English. In English can and may do not take an -s in the third person. In Dutch a similar thing happens:
- ik kan - I can
- jij kunt - you can
- hij kan - he can (no t in Dutch - no s in English)
- ik mag - I may
- jij mag - you may
- hij mag - he may (no t - no s)
We will revisit irregulars later.
Read conversation 5.1 again and underline all verbs. Mark all endings as 0) - none 1) - t and 2) -en and identify in each case why this ending is used.
Translate into Dutch:
As shown before many personal pronouns have a strong and a weak form:
- mij, me - me (object)
- jij, je - you (subject)
- jou, je - you (object)
- wij, we - we
- zij, ze - they or she
- hen, ze - them
The weak forms me, je, we and ze are used when the emphasis lies on some other part of the sentence. The strong form expresses mild emphasis.
- Hij ziet me in de spíégel - He sees me in the mirror (not on television).
- Hij ziet míj in de spiegel - He sees me in the mirror (not my mother).
Some pronouns do not have clitics, like u and jullie. In the spoken language there are more weak forms than in the written one, e.g. for he (ie), him ('m) and for her (d'r or 'r)
- Dat heeft-ie niet gedaan - He ain't done it
- Hij heeft 'r geslagen - He beat 'r up
- Ze hebben 'm gezien -- They spotted 'im
In the written language they are often written in full hij, haar and hem.
For possessive pronouns the same holds. Compare:
- Mijn motor is een Honda. Wat is jouw motor? - My bike is a Honda. What is your bike?
- Ik wil graag een ritje op je motor maken. - I'd love to ride y'r bike!
- mijn, m'n - my
- jouw, je - your
- zijn, z'n - his
- haar, (d'r)- her
Again the spoken language has a clearer distinction than the written one. The forms m'n, z'n, and especially d'r are often written as mijn, zijn and haar in formal writing. The form je is pretty much the only clitic possessive generally accepted in writing.
|Dutch term||Audio file||English translation|
|de tafel||tafel (help·info)||table|
|zeker||zeker (help·info)||certain(ly), sure|
|vertellen||vertellen (help·info)||to tell|
|missen||missen (help·info)||to miss|
|volgen||volgen (help·info)||to follow|
|zien||zien (help·info)||to see|
|U kunt||U (help·info) kunt (help·info)||You can|
|de bestemming (f.)||bestemming (help·info)||the destination|
|mooi||mooi (help·info)||fine, pretty, beautiful|
|het station||station (help·info)||the train station|
|de kant (m.)||kant (help·info)||the side|
|de weg (m.)||weg (help·info)||the road|
|de spiegel (m.)||spiegel (help·info)||the mirror|
|het gebouw||gebouw (help·info)||the building|
The vocabulary of this lesson can be trained at Quizlet (27 terms)
If you have studied this lesson well, you should
- know the four moods of the verb
- know how to form a present tense
- be able to use Dutch personal pronouns in all their forms
Cumulative term count
- Cycle 1: 579 terms
- Cycle 2:
- Lesson 5: 25 terms
- Grand total 604 terms
- The linguistic advice of the Taalunie  and  are downright contradictory. One one page it is said that the imperative gets a -t in the presence of the personal pronoun u, on the other it says that this is not an imperative! The case of to be is not discussed, but it is hard to argue that weest u is not an imperative, because an indicative u weest does not exist. The other authoritative source the Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst (ANS) has little more to offer than a few weasel words. The author of this book thinks that the Taalunie is simply mistaken in its analysis
- Participles are revisited extensively in Lesson 22