Appendix:Dutch parts of speech
This page contains links and information about inflection in the Dutch language.
Dutch nouns are either masculine, feminine or neuter gender. Masculine and feminine are not distinguished for inanimate nouns by many speakers, and are then grouped together as a single common gender. Masculine and feminine use the definite article de, and neuter words use the definite article het. The indefinite article is een for all genders.
Plural forms can end in -en or -s. When adding -en, vowel "length" is preserved by either doubling the consonant or removing a vowel in the plural.
However some nouns with short vowels get a "long" vowel in the plural when -en is added, turning e.g. [ɑ] into [a] or [ɔ] into [o]. For some nouns, the vowel becomes e.
A dozen or so words take the compound ending -eren. (Historically a double plural)
In compounds the original single plural emerges:
Many Latin or Greek loans retain their original plurals:
Most Dutch nouns can also have diminutives. The diminutive is formed by adding the suffix -tje (or one of its varieties -etje, -je, -pje, -kje depending in the preceding sound). In many dialects the suffix -ke or -ken is also used. The plural of a diminutive always ends in -s.
After -ing the ending is -etje:
- ding -> dingetje
- wandeling -> wandelingetje
However, if the emphasis is on the penultimate syllable -kje results:
Dutch adjectives generally possess three forms:
- a basic form: e.g. groot
- an inflected form in "-e": e.g. grote
- a partitive form in "-s": e.g. groots
The above holds for the positive degree, but the rules describing the use of the three forms also apply for the comparative and superlative degree that are regularly formed with the suffixes -er and -st.
Periphrase of comparative and superlative using meer ("more") and meest ("most") is possible, but only used in some cases, especially when the resulting word would be long or difficult to pronounce. As an example, adjectives with the common ending "-isch" use the periphrase with "meest" for the superlative ("democratisch" - "democratischer"/ "meer democratisch" - "meest democratisch"). The same goes for adjectives with a base form already ending in "-st" ("vast" - "vaster" - "meest vast"). Using the "meer"/"meest" periphrase with shorter words (not ending in "-st") is not correct standard Dutch, although it seems to be on the increase, likely under the influence of English. Instead of "mooiste" ("most beautiful"), the (incorrect) periphrase "meest mooie" is now sometimes heard.
- Attributive use
The suffix "-e" appears in every attributive form, except in singular indefinite neuter.
|masculine & feminine
|indefinite||een grote kast||een groot huis|
|definite||de grote kast
de grote kasten
de grote huizen
|het grote huis|
- Predicative use
The inflection "-e" does not appear when the adjective is used predicatively (i.e. in combination with a copula):
- Het huis is groot.
- De kast is groot.
Dutch does use the inflected form when the adjective is substantivated to a noun:
- Dat zijn de grote. - Those are the big ones.
If such a substantive refers to persons it takes -en in the plural:
- De meesten zijn hier - Most of them (people) are here.
The above rules are general. The "-e" suffix is sometimes dropped
- If the adjective is experienced as part of a compound:
- Het volgende "bijvoeglijk naamwoord" - the next "adjective".
- If the usage is exceptional
- Een groot man - A great man
- Een grote man - A big guy
- For reasons of rhythm, particularly with neutral nouns:
- Het huidig regime - The current regime.
- Immutable forms
Adjectives denoting materials often end in -en (wollen, ivoren) and are immutable.
After words indicating a quantity like veel, iets, weinig etc. an adjective can also take the partitive (genitive) suffix "-s":
- veel liefs - lot of love
- weinig interessants - little of interest
This also holds for the comparative:
- niets beters - nothing better
FAQ about the so-called "inflected form"
- Q: The Dutch entry for rode defines it as "Inflected form of rood". While I suppose it's better than nothing, it doesn't say just how the entry is inflected. I would be a bit disappointed if I looked up colorada and it said "Inflected form of colorado."
- A: Every Dutch adjective comes in a standard form and an "inflected form" (without counting comparatives and superlatives, which could also be considered "inflected", I suppose, but they can also be considered separate words altogether.) The only exception is if the adjective has no inflected form, which is equivalent to saying that the standard and inflected forms are the same. In other words, there is only one "inflected form" for Dutch adjectives. In Dutch, the "inflected form" is called the "verbogen vorm".
- Q: What do you mean by the "standard form" of an adjective?
- A: By the "standard form" I mean the lemma form. It is actually called the "uninflected form", or, in Dutch, the "onverbogen vorm".
- Q: For instance, Kroatische, what does it mean? Is it plural, feminine, neuter, comparative, superlative? I dunno, it doesn't say.
- A: If you are translating from Dutch to English, the answer is: it means exactly the same thing as Kroatisch, i.e. it means "Croatian". The difference between Kroatisch and Kroatische only comes up if you are translating from English to Dutch, in which case the difference is purely grammatical.
- Q: If anything Kroatisch needs a declension table.
- A: Kroatisch now has a declension table. In fact, all or nearly all Dutch adjectives need a declension table, if only to link to the inflected form.
- Q: What is the grammatical difference between the "inflected form" and the "uninflected form", e.g. between Kroatische and Kroatisch, respectively?
- A: Kroatische is the "common singular attributive, definite neuter singular attributive, or plural attributive form of" Kroatisch. In turn, Kroatisch is the "predicative or indefinite&neuter&singular&attributive form of" Kroatische.
- Q: In the answer to the previous question, what does "common" mean?
- A: It means feminine and/or masculine. (For more on the gender of Dutch nouns, see WT:ANL.)
- Q: What does "attributive form" mean?
- A: Adjectives can be used in either of two ways: (1) predicatively and (2) attributively. If I say "This car is red," then the adjective "red" is being used predicatively, because it is the predicate. If I say "I drove the red car yesterday" then "red" is being used attributively, because "red" is directly modifying "car." In other words, if an adjective directly modifies a noun, then it is being used attributively, but if an adjective is the predicate of a sentence, then it is being used predicatively. In English, adjectives have no inflection, so the "attributive form" and "predicative form" of an adjective are one and the same, but in Dutch they are usually different.
- Q: So a semantically plural adjective and a semantically definite adjective (except neuter) are inflected, if I understand you right. Perhaps instead of "inflected form of" it should say "plural or definite form of"?
- A: (1) A semantically plural [attributive] adjective, (2) a semantically definite [attributive] adjective (including neuter), or (3) a semantically masculine or feminine [attributive] adjective, are inflected. So it should be "plural/non-neuter/definite, attributive form of", though it is simpler to just call it "the inflected form" and provide a link to here for those who are not in the know.
- Q: In general, given the lemma form of a Dutch adjective, how do I form the "inflected form" of said adjective?
- A: Just append -e to it. For example: for geologisch, the inflected form is simply geologische. However, some adjectives will undergo minor changes to the root when the -e is appended. For example, the inflected form of groot is grote: the 'oo' has changed to 'o', but if you know the relationship between Dutch spelling and Dutch phonology, you will know that this is done in order to preserve the length of the vowel 'oo', though this is a whole different topic which is beyond the scope of this FAQ...
Adverbs are not inflected separately in Dutch. They often have comparative and superlative forms, formed with the same -er and -st endings as the adjectives.
Adverbs can be formed from adjectives using the base form of the adjective, no additional suffix (such as English -ly) is used. This means that any adjective is implicitly an adverb as well. Adverbs never get the inflection suffix "-e" like adjectives do, however.
Many Dutch adverbs descend from old absolute genitives and therefore tend to end in -s:
- blootshoofds - bareheaded
- steeds - always
- 's morgens - in the morning
A special group uses the diminutive -je in combination with -s to form an adverb from an adjective:
- net - neat
- netjes - neatly
The ending -en is sometimes added in combinations of prepositions and prepositional adverbs:
- achter - behind
- van achteren - from behind, on the backside
Many, but not all, prepositions like in, op, buiten etc. form a prepositional adverb that may be combined with verbs, creating a separable verb. Most prepositional adverbs are identical with the preposition. Exceptions:
- met -- mee
- tot -- toe
Some prepositional adverbs do not have a corresponding preposition like heen or af. This also holds for some of the compound ones like achterom. In prepositional usage the compound dissolves into its components "achter" and "om".
Most prepositional adverbs can also be used to form pronominal adverbs like hierheen or erbuiten. These often replace pronouns in combination with a preposition and they are usually separable as well.
This participle is not used as much as in English because it is seldom used to form a continuous tense. Instead Dutch uses
- a construction zijn (to be) + aan het + infinitive.
- or a construction with a verb of position like staan, zitten etc + te + infinitive.
However, the participle is in regular use as an attributive adjective:
- De komende week - Coming week
And also as an adverb:
- Vrolijk fluitend kwam hij binnen - He entered while whistling a happy tune.
The present participle is formed infinitive + d, e.g. lezend (reading). The inflected form is infinitive + de, e.g. lezende. When using the present participle as adjective, use the inflection rules as explained at #Adjectives. One notable exception unique to the present participle is, that when used in a predicative or adverbial sense, the inflected form (-e) may also be used. This is similar to e.g. Swedish usage and has the same origin.
- Al doende leert men - While doing, one learns.
This participle is used to form perfect tenses and passive voice, much like the English one. It can also be used as an adjective.
If the participle is from a weak verb it ends in -t or -d and is inflected as an adjective. However if it belongs to a strong or mixed verb it ends in -en, and remains uninflected in attributive use (like all adjectives ending in -en). This does not apply for a few monosyllabic verbs like doen and gaan, whose past participle forms do not end in -en.
- De bereisde weg - the road traveled
- De ingeslagen weg - the road chosen
- Een gedane zaak - A done deed
When used as a substantive, inflection does occur, however:
- De gevangen man - the captured man
- De gevangene - the prisoner.
The formation of the past participle and the past tense differs depending on what class the verb belongs to.
Morphologically speaking, there are:
- Strong verbs, 7 classes in total
- Weak verbs, 3 groups
- Mixed verbs
- Irregular verbs (mostly old preterit-presents and modal/auxiliaries)
- Incomplete verbs (mostly compound verbs that may only have an infinitive and maybe a participle or two)
In addition Dutch has separable verbs, e.g. toestaan (toe- + staan) becomes hij staat toe in the third-person singular. In subclauses, these verbs are not separated: ik wil dat hij dit toestaat.
Note that there also exist verbs with prefixes which are not separable. You can mostly distinguish them by looking to the place of the stress: if the stress falls on the prefix, it is normally separable, and vice versa. E.g. there's a verb óverzien (ik zie óver, in subclause: dat ik óverzie) and a verb overzíén (ik overzíé). The meaning of these homographs-by-emphasis can differ considerably.
Most of the classes above contain both base verbs and separable and inseparable derivatives, e.g.:
These three all belong to the same Class 1 of the strong verbs, but sometimes the class differs:
- zuigen - strong class 2
- stofzuigen - weak (-d)
As in English many verbs are transitive. The active perfect takes hebben as an auxiliary.
They form a passive voice using the past participle. Its auxiliaries are worden for the imperfect tenses and zijn for the perfect ones.
- Ik sla de man. -- I hit the man.
- Ik heb de man geslagen -- I have hit the man.
- De man wordt door mij geslagen -- The man is hit by me.
- De man is door mij geslagen -- The man has been hit by me.
Notice that the use of zijn and to be does not correspond.
Dutch does have ditransitives, i.e. verbs that take both a direct and an indirect object.
Although this is a pretty recent development and not recognized in all grammars. it is possible to make both objects the subject of a new sentence. In contrast to English, Dutch uses two different auxiliaries for this purpose: worden for the passive voice and krijgen for an 'indirect passive' one:
- Ik schenk de man een huis - I donate a house to the man
- Het huis wordt door mij aan de man geschonken - The house is donated to the man by me.
- De man krijgt van mij een huis geschonken - The man is donated a house by me.
There are really two kinds of these in Dutch that differ in their choice of perfect auxiliary.
- Ergatives take zijn (to be) in constrast to English, where they take to have.
- Inergatives take hebben (to have) as in English.
These verbs express an autonomous process or a movement. They do not have any passive forms and no clear agent. In the perfect tenses they take zijn.
- Het vet stolt - The grease solidifies
- Het vet is gestold - The grease has solidified.
The auxiliaries doen and laten are used to make causitives (transitives) out of ergatives:
- Ik laat het vet stollen. - I let the grease solidify.
The auxiliary raken can be used to make an ergative construction from transitive participles or other adjectives.
- Hij raakte gewond - He got wounded.
Inergative (unaccusative) verbs
These verbs have a clear agent but no direct object. They do have an impersonal passive voice, usually initiated by the dummy pronoun (locative adverb) er. Their perfect tenses take hebben:
- De hond blaft. - The dog barks
- De hond heeft geblaft - The dog has barked
- Er wordt in de verte geblaft. - There is barking in the distance.
Reflexive verbs in Dutch take hebben as their perfect auxiliary. There are two kinds:
- Mandatory reflexives
- Optional reflexives
Mandatory reflexives can only be accompanied by the reflexive pronouns me, je, zich etc.
- Ik vergis me - I am mistaken
- U vergist zich - You are mistaken
Mandatory reflexives either do not occur without zich etc. or the verb has a very different meaning without them:
- zich uitlaten - make a statement
- iemand / zichzelf uitlaten - show someone / yourself out of a house
Optional reflexives can also take zich etc. but more usually take pronouns with the suffix -zelf: mezelf, zichzelf etc.
- Ik was mijn kleren - I wash my clothes
- Ik was me - I wash myself
- Ik was mij - I wash myself
- Ik was mezelf - I wash myself
- Ik was mijzelf - I wash myself
The four possibilities differ in amount of emphasis:
- Ik was me ~ I'm not watching TV.
- Ik was mijzelf ~ I am not going to let you do it!
Impersonal verbs only occur with the indefinite pronoun het. They take hebben as their perfect auxiliary and lack passive voice. In modern Dutch they are mostly limited to meteorological phenomena:
- Het regent - It rains.
- Het heeft geregend - It has rained.
Impersonals were numerous in Middle Dutch, a few remain:
- Het spijt me - I am sorry
- Het dunkt me - methinks
Verbs like mogen, kunnen, willen, moeten are irregular in Dutch as they partly descend from preterit-presents. They take hebben if at all they occur in the perfect and then often replace their past participle by the infinitive:
- Hij heeft moeten bijbetalen - He has had to pay more.
The main copula is zijn or its alter ego wezen, but there are a few others like blijken, lijken, worden, voorkomen, dunken etc. They are often strong verbs and some of them take zijn as their perfect auxiliary.
- Hij is te zwak gebleken. - He has proven to be too weak
These verbs are used in the formation of the tenses, voices and aspects of other verbs.
- zijn: forms perfect tenses of passives and ergatives and most copulas
- hebben: forms perfect tenses of actives, inergatives, modals, reflexives and impersonals
- zullen: forms future tenses and conditionals
- gaan: forms imminent futures
- worden: forms imperfect passives
- krijgen: forms 'indirect passives'
- laten: forms causatives from ergatives
- doen: forms causatives from ergatives
- raken: forms ergatives from transitives etc.
- staan, zitten, liggen, lopen, hangen form constructions with a continuous aspect
- Dutch verbs
|Full forms||Mute forms||Emphatic forms||Full forms||Mute forms||Emphatic forms|
|First-person singular||ik||’k||ikke, ikzelf||mij||me||mijzelf|
|Second-person singular dialectal||gij||ge||gijzelf||u||-||uzelf|
|Second-person singular polite||u||-||uzelf||u||-||uzelf|
|Third-person singular masculine||hij||ie||hijzelf||hem||’m||hemzelf|
|Third-person singular feminine||zij||ze||zijzelf||haar||ze, ’r, d'r h'r||haarzelf|
|Third-person singular neuter||het||’t||-||het||’t||-|
|Second-person plural||jullie||je||(jullie zelf)||jullie||je||(jullie zelf)|
|Second-person plural dialectal||gij||ge||gijzelf||u||-||uzelf|
|Second-person plural polite||u||-||uzelf||u||-||uzelf|
|Third-person plural||zij||ze||zijzelf||hen (accusative)
|Full pronouns||Emphatic pronouns|
|Second-person singular dialectal||u||uzelf|
|Second-person singular polite||zich||zichzelf|
|Third-person singular masculine||zich||zichzelf|
|Third-person singular feminine||zich||zichzelf|
|Third-person singular neuter||zich||zichzelf|
|Second-person plural dialectal||u||uzelf|
|Second-person plural polite||zich||zichzelf|
|Full forms||Mute forms||Independent|
|Second-person singular dialectal & polite||uw||-||uwe|
|Third-person singular masculine & neuter||zijn||z’n||zijne|
|Third-person singular feminine||haar||’r, d’r||hare|
|First-person plural||ons (onze)||-||onze|
|Second-person plural dialectal & polite||uw||-||uwe|
|Dutch demonstrative determiners|