Dutch grammar is complicated in some aspects, but often more simple than that in neighbouring countries (think, for example, about the Nahmfallen in German which do not exist in Dutch).
In this blog, we are going to discuss four subjects with you involving the correct use of grammar in the Dutch language. These are: the use of lidwoorden (articles), combined nouns, diminutives in the Dutch language and the different time references.
There are not necessarily all complicated, but they are important to correctly speak, write and read in Dutch. As far as possible we have always attempted to bring the in relation to their English equivalents. We have attempted to bring them as simple as possible for you. We hope the explanations can be of use for you!
Lidwoorden, or articles in English are relatively easy in Dutch. There are no naamvallen, like in German for example, that make it more complicated. Principally there are three lidwoorden in the Dutch language. These are: de, het en een.
These are separated in bepaald and onbepaald (basically, determined and undetermined). In general, the following rules apply: de is used for male and female nouns. Het is for nouns that do not have a gender. In English, this is easier, as one only uses the.
These lidwoorden are both determined. Een is the only undetermined lidwoord. It can be placed before any noun and does not appoint a specific person or other noun, but creates a general, non-distinctive group of nouns.
We can explain this using the following example. De man loopt over straat – meaning – the man is walking over the street. Een man loopt over straat – a man is walking over the street. So actually, a and an are English for een.
So, why is it so important to know if a word is a de- word or a het-word. It is important because the spelling of the adjective before the noun changes when a het-word is changed in to an een-woord.
We can show this using the following example. Het grote raam (the big window) – een groot raam. De grote stoel (the big chair – een grote stoel. This difference in spelling is the case for every het word.
Approximately 1/3 of all of the Dutch nouns are het-words.
The following words are typically het-words:
Learning Dutch is a big job.
The Dutch language has an exceptionally high amount of combined nouns. In the English language, these words would consist of two different words. We have listed a few examples for you:
There is no need denying it. This does not make the Dutch language much easier to understand or read. The only solution is to simply learn these combinations by heart. If you stumble across a long word in Dutch, make it easier for your self and try to split it into several smaller words.
We have divided the diminutives in the Dutch language into six sections. Now, we will discuss those one-by-one.
We will be the last one to deny that this is super complicated. Again, most Dutch people do this correct automatically. For you, there is no other option but learning the rules by heart.
This is a typical view of the Netherlands.
In Dutch there are eight different time references. That are a few more then there are in the English language. Four of these are perfect, and four are imperfect. Perfect means that the task has been completed at the time that you are writing the sentence.
The perfect tense in Dutch always has the verb hebben or zijn in the sentence. The imperfect tense applies that a certain action has not been completed. The imperfect tense also applies when it is irrelevant whether the action has been completed.
First, we will discuss the imperfect ones:
We hope you are still with us, because here come the perfect tenses:
Finally, a bit more advice in this regard.
We have decided to keep this as simple and not to also include the alteration of verbs with the different tenses. Now we will proceed with our conclusions about this subject.
The landscape of the Netherlands.
We have tried to make this blog consist of a combination of complicated and less complicated subjects in Dutch grammar. The combined nouns are not that grammatically complicated, they simply make it a language difficult to read. The approach to them is fairly unique in the Dutch language. Learning them by heart and tackling them one at a time will make them easier to grasp.
Time references and diminutives are a different story as they have some many exceptions. We can only simplify that to a certain extent. The problem is that, for some reason, Dutch people automatically seem to know it all. Dutch people are generally fairly good in their own grammar.
Keep practising as much as possible, reading helps a lot to understand grammar and it really is far from impossible. Finally, there are extensive, free online tests available that you can take to practice and to establish the level of your knowledge.