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Beginner level: cycle 2
Les 6A ~ Lesson 6A
Zwak en sterk ~ Weak and strong I & II & III
|• The salesman|
|• Past tense|
|• Perfect tense|
Recognizing weak versus strong
There are far more zwakke werkwoorden (weak verbs) in Dutch than strong ones (sterke werkwoorden). (See e.g. this table for some statistics.). However, this is a bit deceptive: verbs that are used very frequently are often strong. The more 'specialized' ones that are used less frequently are often weak. That means that in practice speakers use strong and weak verbs about as often. The latter is no more than a rule of thumb, but it does imply that in order to learn Dutch properly, it is necessary to learn to use and recognize them both.
This lesson is about recognizing past tenses and the story line in the exercises is cast exclusively in the past tense. That does not make for the most stylistically appropriate language, but that is not the point here.
In the exercises we will be following a salesman on his travels. First scan through the exercise to find the verbs. They are all in the third person singular of the past tense. Then replace them with the equivalent present tense. Don't bother too much about comprehension at first. When you open the solution, check if you had the verbs right. Then read through the translation to expand your vocabulary.
The one thing all past tenses have in common is that there are only two forms: a singular one and a plural one. (In the present tense there usually are three forms)
Weak past tenses
A weak past tense singular ends in -de or -te and the plural adds an -n
- Lachen - Ik lachte - wij lachten
- grillen - Hij grilde - zij grilden
Whether the ending is -de or -te depends on the last consonant of the root of the verb lach- and gril-. If that consonant is voiceless like -t, -k, -f, -s, -ch, -p or -x (mnemonic 't kofschip-x) it will be -te, otherwise -de.
Apart from the devoicing from -de to -te the weak past tenses are really quite similar to the English ones that take -ed:
- Laugh - I laughed
- Grill - I grilled
|Roots with voiced final consonant in the root|
|reizen||reiz-||reis||--> ik reisde||(to travel)|
|regenen||regen-||regen-||--> het regende||(to rain)|
|hagelen||hagel-||hagel-||--> het hagelde||(to hail)|
|halen||haal-||haal-||--> hij haalde||(to fetch, to take)|
|betalen||-taal-||-taal-||--> hij betaalde||(to pay)|
|vergaderen||-gader-||-gader-||--> hij vergaderde||(to meet, attend meeting)|
|roven||roov-||roof-||--> hij roofde||(to rob)|
|overreden||-reed-||-reed-||--> hij overreedde||(to sway, to convince)|
|Roots with unvoiced final consonant in the root|
|bereiken||-reik-||-reik-||--> hij bereikte||(to reach)|
|verschaffen||-schaf-||-schaf-||--> hij verschafte||(to provide)|
|passen||-pas-||-pas-||--> hij paste||(to fit)|
|werken||-werk-||-werk-||--> hij werkte||(to work)|
|verrassen||-ras-||-ras-||--> het verraste||(to surprise)|
- Notice that the root and the stem of a verb are usually identical, except if the root ends in -z or in -v. Then a spelling rule says that the stem must have unvoiced -s and -f. However, the ending remains (voiced) -de.
- Notice also that adding -de to the stem causes some past tenses to be spelled differently than the present, even though they are pronounced the same:
- wij overreden hem - we sway him
- wij overreedden hem - we swayed him
In the spoken language there is no difference.
There are few weak verbs that have developed some irregularities. An example is zeggen. It originally had a past tense zegde and this form is still used by some speakers, particularly in the South. In the North the -g- weakened to a -y- sound: zegde - zeide. Then the -de part dropped off in the singular giving:
- zeggen - ik zei - wij zeiden
Leggen with legde also underwent this development but lei never got accepted in the standard language and it is considered dialect and obsolete.
Then there is a small group of originally weak verbs that take -cht as ending with some vowel changes. In English their cognates do something similar:
- denken - ik dacht - wij dachten (think - thought)
- zoeken - ik zocht - wij zochten (seek - sought)
- brengen - ik bracht - wij brachten (bring - brought)
- kopen - ik kocht - wij kochten (buy - bought)
Notice that the singular past tense is monosyllabic for these verbs. In this respect these verbs mimic the strong verbs we will deal with next
Strong past tenses
The singular of a strong past tense does not have an ending, but the vowel is different from the infinitive or present tense:
|Rijden||reed||to ride, drive|
|Bieden||bood||to offer, bid|
|Dragen||droeg||to wear, carry|
- Rijden - ik reed
- Bieden - jij bood
- Vinden - hij vond
- Breken - zij brak
- Lezen - u las
- Dragen - ik droeg
- Lopen - ik liep
In the plural -en is added, but there are some complications: notice that in the 4th and 5th example the vowel changes from covered [ɑ] to open [a]. Otherwise we would have to write 'brakken' instead of 'braken'.
|Rijden||reden||to ride, drive|
|Bieden||boden||to offer, bid|
|Dragen||droegen||to wear, carry|
- Rijden - wij reden
- Bieden - jullie boden
- Vinden - zij vonden
- Breken - zij braken
- Lezen - wij lazen
- Dragen - zij droegen
- Lopen - jullie liepen
There is a good reason for giving seven examples here, because there are as many classes of strong verbs. Each has it own pattern of vowel replacement. In English such patterns have existed in the past but they have become pretty corrupted over time, which is why what is left of it is usually lumped together as 'irregular verbs'.
- Ride - I rode
- Swim - I swam
- Break - I broke
In Dutch there is much more regularity left that we will try to exploit below. What you will notice though is that there is a lot of communality between the languages: if a Dutch verb is strong its English cognate usually is irregular and vice versa.
Class 1 strong verbs
Class 1 is the largest class of strong verbs.
- These verbs all have ij in the infinitive and the present tense.
- In the past tense this becomes ee in the singular, e in the plural. (Pronounced the same).
- Rijden -- ik reed -- wij reden
- Schrijven -- jij schreef -- jullie schreven
- rijden - to ride, to drive
- schrijven - to write
- blijven - to stay, to remain
- lijken - to seem, to resemble
- begrijpen - to comprehend, to understand
- kijken - to look
Most verbs with ij belong to this class, but there do exist verbs with ij that are weak.
Class 2 strong verbs
This class is bit smaller.
- The infinitive and present tenses can either have ie or ui
- The past tense has oo in the singular and o in the plural (pronounced the same)
- Bieden - ik bood - wij boden
- Liegen - ik loog - wij logen
- Verliezen - ik verloor - wij verloren (with r/z 'rhotacism', cf. English I was - you were)
- Schuiven - ik schoof - wij schoven
- Kruipen - ik kroop - wij kropen
- bieden - to bid, to offer
- liegen - to lie (to speak untruth)
- gieten - to pour
- verliezen - to lose
- vliegen - to fly
- schuiven - to shove
- kruipen - to crawl
- sluiten - to close
- fluiten - to whistle, to play flute
Class 3 strong verbs
This is the second largest class. Its members are a bit more varied and we will deal with one subgroup in the next practice lesson together with class 7
- The vowels are all covered ('short').
- The infinitive has i ([ɪ]) or e ([ɛ] plus a nasal (n,m,ng,nk) or a liquid (l,r). Some have -ch.
- The past tense replaces the vowel by o (covered [ɔ]) both in singular and plural
- winnen - ik won - wij wonnen - to win
- glimmen - ik glom - wij glommen - to gleam, to shine, to glow, te beam
- zingen - ik zong - wij zongen - to sing
- zinken - ik zonk - wij zonken - to sink
- zenden - ik zond - wij zonden - to send
- zwemmen - ik zwom - wij zwommen - to swim
- melken - ik molk - wij molken - to milk
- bergen - ik borg - wij borgen - to salvage, to stow
- trekken - ik trok - wij trokken - to pull, to trek, migrate (with metasthesis er --> re)
- vechten - ik vocht - wij vochten - to fight
As we saw the perfect tenses are formed with the voltooid deelwoord lit.: the 'completed participle'. In English grammar it is known as the past participle, but the Dutch name actually depicts its meaning better. The participle indicates that the action is complete, not that it takes place in a time past. A term "perfect participle" would seem more appropriate and will be used here. First let us recapitulate the basic rules of its formation and use.
- For the weak verbs with -de it gets a prefix ge- and an ending -d: leren -> geleerd.
- For the weak verbs with -te it gets a prefix ge- and an ending -t: passen -> gepast.
- For the strong verbs it gets a prefix ge- and an ending en: rijden -> gereden.
- For class I the vowel changes like in the past: rijden - reed - gereden
- For class II the vowel changes like in the past: bieden - bood - geboden
- For class III the vowel changes like in the past: vinden - vond - gevonden
For inseparable verbs, the ge- prefix is suppressed.
- Verbs starting with a prefix be-, er-, ge-, her-, ont-, ver- are always inseparable.
The perfect participle moves to the end of the sentence
- Ik zie de man --> Ik heb de man gezien.
The perfect tenses either have hebben or zijn.
The latter, zijn occurs in two cases:
- Transitive verbs in the passive voice. (This will be covered in Lesson 12)
- Ergative verbs
Ergative verbs are either:
- Verbs describing a process rather than an action
- Verbs describing a directional motion
E.g. gebeuren (to happen) is not an action. Things sometimes just happen!
- Het gebeurde - It happened
- Wat is er gebeurd? - What has happened.
Verbs like breken can go either way. When I break a glass, I am the actor and culprit. But sometimes things just happen to break.
- Ik breek het glas - I break the glass
- Ik heb met opzet het glas gebroken. (Action!) - I have broken the glass on purpose (I'm a bad boy...)
- Het glas breekt als het valt - the glass breaks when it falls
- Het glas is gebroken toen het viel - The glass has broken when it fell (Process! Nobody is to blame.)
- There is a quizlet set dedicated to the above past tenses. (41 terms)
- There is also a quizlet set dedicated to the above perfect participles. (41 terms)
- There is also a quizlet set dedicated to the meaning of the verb. (41 terms)
Only infinitives will be counted as terms from now on, so this counts for 34 together, because some verbs you had seen before.
- Cycle 1 579
- Lesson 5: 87
- Lesson 6:60; 6A:34 terms
- Grand total
- 760 terms
- :: Remark: Notice that the present wil does not have a -t ending. This is also true in English: he will, he shall, he may, he must etc. In Dutch: hij wil, hij zal, hij mag, hij moet. The meaning of the verbs are a bit different in English and Dutch today but they all descend from the same very old group of verbs that had started to use a past tense as their present tense.