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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle Dutch sijn, from Old Dutch sīn. The infinitive zijn along with the words is and zij (present indicative and subjunctive) derive ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₁es- (to be), which had no separate infinitive in Germanic. The modern infinitive was probably back-formed in late Old Dutch from the first-person plural subjunctive sīn (we be), since this form had become identical to the infinitive in other verbs during the late Old Dutch period. Compare also German sein, Low German sien.

The original infinitive survives in wezen, from Middle Dutch wesen, from Old Dutch wesan, from Proto-West Germanic *wesan, from Proto-Germanic *wesaną, from *h₂wes- (to reside). All the forms with initial w- (imperative and past tense) derive from this root.

Finally, the forms ben and bent derive from Proto-Germanic *beuną (to be, to become), from *bʰuH- (to become), which survives only as relic forms in the West Germanic languages and not at all in the others. Its infinitive and non-singular forms are attested in (Old) English, Frisian and a number of Dutch dialects.


  • IPA(key): /zɛi̯n/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: zijn
  • Rhymes: -ɛi̯n



  1. (intransitive) To be, to exist.
    Zijn of niet zijn, dat is de vraag.
    To be or not to be, that is the question.
    Was je er afgelopen zaterdag ook?
    Were you there too last Saturday?
  2. (transitive, copulative) Used to connect a noun to an adjective that describes it.
    De bal is rond.
    The ball is round.
  3. (transitive, auxiliary) Used to form the perfect tense of the active voice of some verbs, together with a past participle.
    Note: The perfect tense of most other verbs is formed using hebben.
    Hij is hier geweest.
    He has been here.
  4. (transitive, auxiliary) Used to form the perfect tense of the passive voice, together with a past participle.
    Note: The imperfect tense passive is formed using worden.
    Ze waren gered.
    They had been saved.
    De muur is geschilderd.
    The wall has been painted.
    De muur zal zijn geschilderd.
    The wall will have been painted.
  5. (transitive, auxiliary) Used to form the continuous forms of various tenses, together with aan het or, in archaic style, with a present participle.
    De man was aan het lopen.
    The man was walking.
  6. (intransitive) To go, to go on a trip and return.
    Ik ben even naar de dokter.
    I am going to the doctor for a while.
    Ik ben vandaag naar het strand geweest.
    I've been to the beach today.
  7. (intransitive, impersonal) Used to indicate weather, temperature or some other general condition.
    Het is erg warm vandaag.
    It is very warm today.
  8. (transitive, copulative, mathematics) to be, to equal, to total, to amount to; used to indicate that the values on either side of an equation are the same.
    Drie keer vijf is vijftien.
    Three times five is fifteen.
  • Generally, the infinitive wezen, the present participle wezend and the present subjunctive weze and wezen are also used. While the subjunctive is considered archaic, it persists in some fixed expressions such as als ware ("as if [it] were").
  • Zijn has special forms for the pronominal imperatives of u and jullie. Thus, weest u!, wezen jullie!, rather than the regular bent u!, zijn jullie!, which are less common. The simple imperative is wees in all cases. In Belgium the singular imperative zij is also used.
Inflection of zijn (irregular, suppletive)
infinitive zijn
past singular was
past participle geweest
infinitive zijn
gerund zijn n
present tense past tense
1st person singular ben was
2nd person sing. (jij) bent was
2nd person sing. (u) bent, is was
2nd person sing. (gij) zijt waart
3rd person singular is was
plural zijn waren
subjunctive sing.1 zij ware
subjunctive plur.1 zijn waren
imperative sing. wees, ben
imperative plur.1 weest, zijt
participles zijnd geweest
1) Archaic.
  • (archaic in standard Dutch) wezen
  • (obsolete in standard Dutch) bennen
Derived terms[edit]
  • Negerhollands: si

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle Dutch sijn, from Old Dutch sīn (originally a reflexive form), from Proto-West Germanic *sīn, from Proto-Germanic *sīnaz, from Proto-Indo-European *seyno-.

Cognate with German sein, Swedish sin. Ultimately a form of the Proto-Indo-European reflexive pronoun *swe. Compare Russian себя (sebja), Latin suus, Ancient Greek ἑός (heós), etc.



zijn (dependent possessive, independent possessive zijne, contracted form z'n)

  1. Third-person singular, masculine and neuter possessive pronoun: his, its.
    Een man en zijn hond.
    A man and his dog.
    Een man en z'n hoed.
    A man and his hat.
    Een boek en zijn kaft.
    A book and its cover.

Middle Dutch[edit]



  1. Alternative spelling of sijn