Wiktionary:About Dutch

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Dutch is a Germanic language, spoken in the Netherlands, northern Belgium, and in several former Dutch colonies around the world.


According to Wiktionary’s definitions, modern Dutch has been spoken since the year 1500. Its ancestor before that is referred to as Middle Dutch and was spoken between 1150 and 1500. Before that, Old Dutch was spoken. Middle Dutch is well attested in texts from the later Middle Ages, but Old Dutch texts are surprisingly scant compared to Old High German and Old Saxon, its closest relatives. For that reason, most Old Dutch etymologies are necessarily reconstructed based on the evidence from those related languages. Such reconstructed Old Dutch terms should be indicated in etymology sections using * before the term.

Old Dutch in turn descended from Proto-Germanic, the common ancestor of all Germanic languages that has been reconstructed by linguists. The ancestor of Proto-Germanic, in turn, was Proto-Indo-European, which has also been reconstructed. Both of these languages are also linked with * to indicate that a term is reconstruction.

If the entry is a compound, you may use the {{compound}} template, with the layout {{compound|nl|word1|word2|word3|...|wordN}}. And if it is a derivate, you may use the {{affix}} template, with layouts like {{af|nl|prefix|word}} or {{af|nl|word|affix}}.


In principle, the latest spelling standard is used to determine which variant spelling to place a word’s definition at. So the entry pannenkoek receives the definition, while pannekoek contains a link to the former. As Wiktionary is descriptive, all obsolete spellings are permitted, right back to 1500, so long as there are at least 3 durably archived sources that use that spelling, conforming to WT:CFI.

The single conjoined character "ij" should not be used in entry names, nor anywhere else. Only the two characters "ij" are to be used. The combined character's usage in Dutch computing environments is very rare; it exists in Unicode only as a compatibility character, and its use is discouraged. It is permitted to create a redirect from a term with the single "ij" to the equivalent title using the pair of letters "ij". For example, ijzeren is a redirect to ijzeren. However, the utility of such redirects is questionable as the combined character is practically unused.

Although stress is phonemic in Dutch and may distinguish minimal pairs (like English), indicating the position of stress in a multisyllabic word is optional in the official spelling. In general the stress marks are omitted but spelling rules allow for adding them to avoid confusion. The stress is indicated with an acute accent (´) in this case. It was formerly also indicated with a grave accent (`) but this is no longer standard. In the case of a diphthong or a digraph, both elements are accented: óé, éú. This also holds for ij, but for typographic reasons it is not always possible to put an accent on the j. Stress marks are not written on upper case letters, thus een (the indefinite article) becomes één (the numeral one), but Een gives Eén.

Stress marks are often added to distinguish words that can be pronounced in two different ways, depending on stress placement. For example vóórkomen (to occur) and voorkómen (to prevent). They are also used to distinguish the prepositions vóór (before) and voor (for) when necessary, and to distinguish the indefinite article een (a) from the numeral één (one).

On Wiktionary, entry names containing stress marks are permitted only where they are used to distinguish one word from another, not when they are used only to emphasize a certain word. And even when they are permitted, they should only link to the accentless entry, they should not contain any definitions themselves. So één should link to een.


Main article: Appendix:Dutch pronunciation

Dutch pronunciation may be entered in both phonemic (using / /) and phonetic form (using [ ]). The phonology of the two standard dialects, Netherlandic and Belgian Dutch, is more or less identical. Therefore, the phonemic transcription should indicate only the phonemes, not the dialectal or allophonic differences in pronunciation:

  • /ɛi̯s/ and /œy̯t/ rather than /ɛːs/ and /œːt/
  • /beːn/ and /boːm/ rather than /beɪn/ and /boʊm/
  • /voːr/, /neːr/, /døːr/ rather than /vʊːr/, /vɔːr/, /nɪːr/, /dœːr/, /dʏːr/ etc.
  • /x/ and /ɣ/ rather than /ç/, /ʝ/, /χ/ and so on. The voicing distinction between /x/ and /ɣ/ should always be maintained.


Nouns use the headword-line template {{nl-noun}}. This template has three parameters: the gender, the plural form and the diminutive. The plural and/or diminutive can be set to - if there is none.

For diminutives, a separate template exists, {{nl-noun-dim}}. This template is more convenient in this case as it automatically fills in the gender and plural, and leaves out the diminutive (since diminutives have no diminutive themselves). It also adds the entry to a different category.

For nouns that are substantive forms of adjectives (such as gevangene), the template {{nl-noun-adj}} should be used.


This section in a nutshell: Use "m", "f" or "n" as the gender, but never "f, m". If you don't know whether a noun is masculine or feminine, use "c". If you don't know the gender at all, use "?" or just leave it blank.

Gender is a difficult topic in Dutch. Officially, Dutch possesses three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. As far as the neuter gender is concerned all speakers agree: it is alive and kicking. It has distinctive articles, adjective inflection and so on. The genders are only distinguished in the singular; in the plural, there are no gender distinctions. The gender inflections of the plural resemble those of the feminine singular, as in German.

The distinction between masculine and feminine is much less clear. The Taalunie (the Dutch language union) regulates the standard form of Dutch. This standard form makes almost no recognisable grammatical distinction between the two genders. The only difference is in the personal pronoun that is used to refer to something, which is hij for masculine nouns and zij for feminine nouns. However, the Taalunie has decided to distinguish four different types of gender, indicated by the definite article:

  • het n: neuter words.
  • de m: words that were historically masculine, and are to be treated as masculine in all cases.
  • de f or m: words that were feminine historically, but may be treated as masculine.
  • de f: words with a suffix that is historically feminine, and are to be treated as feminine in all cases.

Thus, the official standard does not mention any "common gender", but it does have a class of words which may be treated as either feminine or masculine (using the feminine or masculine pronouns) as the user desires. Unfortunately, the scheme above doesn't reflect actual practice among speakers, because it attempts to prescribe language rather than describe. It attempts to reach a compromise which accommodates all speakers, but doesn't describe the actual common speech of any of them.

In the south (south of the river Meuse) the language still retains much of the traditional three-gender split. The three genders have been preserved in the south because the spoken dialects still use distinct (but nonstandard) masculine and feminine forms of the definite and indefinite articles, often den/ne for masculine nouns and de/een for feminine nouns. Thus, the three genders have been preserved in a much more recognisable way in those areas (comparable to the situation in German) and those speakers retain an intuitive sense of the 3-gender distinction. They continue to use the pronouns in the way they have been used historically. When the standard mandates that a noun is m, they will use the masculine hij. They will use the feminine zij for nouns that are indicated as f in the standard, but also for most of those that are indicated f or m. This means they will say she is nice when referring to a clock, for example. As those speakers consider all f or m nouns as simply f, using the masculine pronoun among those speakers to refer to a feminine noun may sound strange to them, or it may be a sign of being a "northerner".

In the north, there is no distinction between masculine and feminine. They have pretty much collapsed into a single "common gender". Like in English, the two gender-specific pronouns are still retained, and zij is only used for things that have a natural feminine gender, such as people and some animals. hij is used for people and animals whose natural gender is masculine, but it is also used for inanimate objects of common gender. This means that they will use the masculine pronoun hij also with most nouns indicated as f or f or m in the standard. So, they will say he is nice concerning a clock, even though klok was historically a feminine noun and is considered f or m by the Taalunie. However, 2-gender speakers may often be aware of the prescriptive standard, and consequently they may try to adhere to it. But this will usually happen only in a formal context such as when writing official or formal letters and documents. In everyday usage, using the feminine pronoun zij among 2-gender speakers to refer to an inanimate object is usually considered stilted, archaic or poetic, because it can be seen as a sign of someone trying to "talk like writing". Because these speakers do not have any innate sense of the distinction between masculine and feminine, this practice also leads to the occasional hypercorrection.

When considering both 3-gender and 2-gender speakers together, the following reality emerges:

  • n: neuter words.
  • m or c: words that are masculine for 3-gender speakers, and common for 2-gender speakers.
  • f or c: words that are feminine for 3-gender speakers, and common for 2-gender speakers.

As you can see, there is no actual difference between the f gender and the f or m gender; both are f to 3-gender speakers and c to 2-gender speakers. The standard's f or m gender represents those nouns where all speakers are given leeway to use the pronoun that is most natural to them, while the f gender is given to those nouns where 2-gender speakers are expected to use zij regardless of their own natural speech.

Wiktionary, as a dictionary, attempts to describe usage rather than to follow prescriptive standards. In cases where the standard does not reflect common usage, only the common usage should be followed. In Dutch, this causes some problems because many people will not use feminine pronouns with nouns that the standard considers f, but some will do this, either because they are following the standard, or because it's natural in their own dialect. So, the reality of an f or m gender noun is that 3-gender speakers will consider it f, the standard allows it to be m, and 2-gender speakers consider it c. This is obviously not something we can easily note in entries, so we have to choose one way or the other: either we follow the standard, which only some people adhere to, or we follow either the 3-gender or 2-gender scheme.

The current recommendation is to follow the 3-gender scheme, with only m, f and n, but no f or m. This is done for the following reasons:

  • The difference between the Taalunie's f gender and f or m gender is artificial and arbitrary, since it does not reflect any historical fact nor the usage of any dialect. There is no distinction between them in 2-gender nor 3-gender dialect areas: 3-gender areas consider them both to be f, while 2-gender areas consider them both to be c.
  • Describing the most common everyday usage of the language is probably more important than describing the prescribed standard language, if they conflict.
  • m and f both become c for 2-gender speakers, so this is a predictable change. The reverse is not predictable, obviously. This means that 3 genders gives more information than 2.
  • The definition of "Dutch" on Wiktionary goes all the way back to the 16th century. This means that Wiktionary's entries should describe Dutch over this whole 500-year period. As the number of 3-gender speakers was much higher in the past than it is today (perhaps near 100% in 1500), 3-gender speakers are in the majority when one considers the speakers of the past as well.

Consequently, when the standard indicates f or m, Wiktionary should usually indicate f. There are some exceptions, however. Some nouns have been both masculine and feminine even for 3-gender speakers.

As a more practical matter, however, we have to accommodate 2-gender speakers who want to add words to Wiktionary. These speakers will probably not know whether a word is masculine or feminine. These users can use c as the gender instead. If this is done with the {{nl-noun}} template (which should always be used for lemmas), then it will automatically categorise the entry into Category:Dutch nouns with common gender, where other users can find it and add the proper gender if they know it. If the gender is not known at all, it can be set to ? or left blank, which will add the entry to Category:Requests for gender in Dutch entries.

Editors that wish to avoid c as gender can consult the "Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal" [1], the largest Dutch dictionary to date. The entries in this dictionary follow the three gender structure.

Please note that some nouns may use multiple types of gender not forementioned. One such example is snoep, which is treated as either m or n.

Adjectives and adverbs[edit]

Every Dutch adjective can be implicitly used as an adverb whenever the situation calls for it. Both can equally be used to complement any verb, copula or otherwise. Consequently, adjectives cannot be reliably distinguished from adverbs, since adjectives are allowed in every syntactical role that adverbs are. The reverse is not true: whereas all adjectives can be used as adverbs, there are also adverbs that are not adjectives and cannot modify a noun. Thus, in a sense, adjectives are a subset of adverbs in Dutch: they consist of those adverbs that can be used attributively to modify a noun.

As a result, adverbs are a rather difficult subject to Dutch speakers as they cannot intuitively tell when an adjective is really an adverb that happens to look identical. This extends to dictionaries as well: most dictionaries do not include adverbs that cannot be distinguished from the corresponding adjective. It's recommended that Wiktionary follow the same approach. This means that, if an adverb has the same meaning as the adjective, it is not included separately. This helps to avoid duplication, because the whole contents of Category:Dutch adjectives are also adverbs and could therefore also appear in Category:Dutch adverbs, without much practical value. Therefore, Category:Dutch adverbs should contain only adverbs that are not also adjectives, or adverbs that have a different meaning from the adjective.

An exception can be made for cases where an adjective has been derived from an adverb rather than the other way around. This typically includes the suffixes -waarts and -lijks, which historically have formed adverbs and not adjectives. Since the distinction has become blurred in modern Dutch, these have now come into use as adjectives as well, much as their English cognates. Such adverbs should be included alongside the adjective, generally placed above it, to reflect that the adverb and not the adjective is "primary" (the adverbs generally also tend to be used more).

Pronominal adverbs[edit]

Pronominal adverbs are adverbial forms of (typically neuter) pronouns that are used in certain situations, mostly when they are the antecedent of a preposition/adverb. They occur in pretty much all Germanic languages, including English, attesting that they are a legacy of the original Germanic language. However, because of grammatical changes in the last few centuries (the loss of the inflection system) they have become rather revitalized in Dutch and play a major role in the language.

Pronominal adverbs, when combined with a preposition, are usually written together with that preposition as one word: daardoor, hiervoor. However, there are exceptions: ergens tussen is normally written with a space between the two.


Separable verbs[edit]

Dutch has many verbs that are compounds of a base verb and an adverb, usually indicating place. Such verbs are termed “separable verbs” and inflect differently from other verbs: the adverb is written together with the verb as one word when syntax requires it to be placed before it (in non-finite forms and in subordinate clauses), but it is separated from the verb by a space when it is placed after it (in finite forms in main clauses).

When combined with a pronominal adverb, there is an ambiguity as to where to place the space. It can be placed either between the pronominal adverb and its preposition, or between the preposition and the verb, depending on whether the phrase is to be interpreted as pronoun+preposition or adverb+verb. For example daardoor gaan and daar doorgaan are both correct, but differ in meaning: the first means “to go through that”, the second means “to go on/continue there”.

Reflexive verbs[edit]

Reflexive verbs are verbs that are combined with the reflexive pronoun zich.

Reflexive verbs are commonly considered separate lemmas in dictionaries. However, this poses problems for inflected forms of verbs on Wiktionary. Many verbs can be used both reflexively and non-reflexively, and the reflexive uses can be transparently read as verb + reflexive pronoun. They are therefore nonidiomatic sum-of-parts terms. For example, zich aankleden (to get dressed) has the 3rd person singular present form kleedt zich aan, but it would not be desirable to have this as a separate entry as it can be understood as kleedt aan (a separable verb) + zich according to regular Dutch syntactical and grammatical rules.

It is therefore advised that reflexive verbs are not treated as separate lemmas, but rather as reflexive senses of otherwise nonreflexive lemmas. These should therefore use {{lb|nl|reflexive}} before the sense. For consistency, this should also be done with verbs that have only reflexive senses, such as vergissen. To aid users in finding entries, and to allow other Wiktionaries to use different lemmatising practices (with interwiki links in mind), it is probably best to redirect verbs with the reflexive pronoun included (with #REDIRECT) to the equivalent verb without the pronoun. For example, zich vergissen should redirect to vergissen.