Basics 1Edit


Welcome to the Dutch course! Dutch is a Germanic language, with grammar and vocabulary similar to other European languages. You might recognize some words from English as well! Even so, Dutch is a language with grammatical genders. These genders have influence on endings on words, for example.

Gender and articlesEdit

In Dutch, there are three (grammatical) genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Each gender has their own definite article (‘the’): both singular masculine and feminine nouns use de and singular neuter nouns use het. For plural nouns, de is always used. The definite articles de and het don't have very clear rules for when you're supposed to use which; this will mostly be learning by heart and developing a feeling for it. However, there are some guidelines to help you along:

De words:

De is always used for plural nouns

De is always used for professions: de kok (‘the chef’), de leraar (‘the teacher’)

De tends to be used for people with an identified gender, such as: de vader (‘the father’), de dochter (‘the daughter’)

De is used for vegetables, fruits, trees and plants, names of mountains, and rivers

Furthermore, de is used for most words ending on -ie, -ij, -heid, -teit, -schap, -tie, -sie, -aar, -eur, -er, and -or.

Finally, de is used for written-out numbers and letters: de drie (‘the three’), de a (‘the a’).

Het words:

Het is always used for diminutives. Diminutives can be recognised by their suffix; they end in -je, -tje, -etje, -pje, or -mpje.

Het is always used for words consisting of two syllables and starting with be-, ge-, ver-, and ont-

Het is always used for verbs used as nouns. When the infinitive form of a verb is used as a noun (e.g. 'the walking of the dog'), Dutch uses het (het lopen van de hond).

Het is always used for languages and names of metals

Het is also used for names of compass points: het noorden (‘the North’)

Het is used for names of sports and games: het schaken (‘chess’), het voetbal (‘football/soccer’)

Furthermore, het is used for words ending on -isme and -ment

Dutch speakers actually never tend to think about the gender of words. Rather than knowing whether a word is originally feminine or masculine, the only distinction that has to be remembered is the difference between the de words and het words. This is because it has grammatical consequences (in terms of possessives, question words, demonstratives, adjectives, and even relative pronouns). This is why when you learn a new noun, it is very important to memorize whether it is a de or het word.


The Dutch pronouns are as follows:

English Dutch
I Ik
You (singular) Jij (Je*)
He/She/It Hij/Zij (Ze*)/Het
You (formal) U
We Wij (We*)
You (plural) Jullie
They Zij (Ze*)
  • *Je, ze and we are un-emphasized forms of jij, zij and wij. The difference will be taught in another skill.

Verb conjugationEdit

In Dutch, verbs can be recognised by the ending -en. For example, eten (‘to eat’) and drinken (‘to drink’). Verb conjugation in Dutch can get rather difficult, since there are lots of exceptions (welcome to Dutch, where exceptions are the rule!). The most basic rule is: find the stem and add the right ending to it. To find the stem of the word, you take the infinitive of the word – the basic form that you can find in the dictionary – and take off the ending, i.e. -en. So in the example of 'drinken', (to drink), the stem would be drink-. For the simple present, the conjugation is as follows:

Pronoun Conjugation Example
Ik [stem] Ik drink (I drink)
Jij [stem]+t Jij drinkt (You drink)
Hij/Zij/Het [stem]+t Hij drinkt (He drinks)
U [stem]+t U drinkt (You drink)
Wij Infinitive Wij drinken (We drink)
Jullie Infinitive Jullie drinken (You drink)
Zij Infinitive Zij drinken (They drink)

Alphabet and pronunciationEdit

The Dutch alphabet has 26 letters – just like in English. In fact, you don’t have to learn any new letters! Hurrah! However, there are a lot of differences and peculiarities in pronunciation. Some letters are pronounced differently, and there can be combinations of letters that may throw you for a loop. Don’t worry, we are not discussing the letters just now.

Basics 2Edit

Irregular verbsEdit

In Basics 1 the regular verb conjugations have been explained. Unfortunately, Dutch also has irregular verbs. Fortunately, there are only 6 verbs that are completely irregular. There are more which aren't entirely regular, but you'll meet those in the Past tense.

These are the irregular verbs:

Hebben (to have) Kunnen (can) Mogen (may) Willen (to want) Zijn (to be) Zullen (shall)

The most common of these are Hebben and Zijn, so here are their conjugations in the present tense:

Hebbem Zijn
Ik heb Ik ben
Jij hebt Jij bent
U hebt/U heeft U bent
Hij/Zij/Het heeft Hij/Zij/Het is
Wij hebben Wij zijn
Jullie hebben Jullie zijn
Zij hebben Zij zijn


The way Dutch vowels sound depends on whether they are in open or closed syllables. A syllable is closed if it is in a consonant sandwich (e.g. bed, ‘bed’) and it is open if it is not (e.g. ga, ‘go’).

Dutch IPA, Notes
A [ɑ] (short), like in father. [a:] (long), like in car (Australian/New Zealand English)
B [b], like in bait. At the end of a word: [p]
C [s] or [k] depending on the vowel after the c
D [d], like in duck. At the end of a word: [t]
E [ɛ] (short), like in bed. [e:] (long), like in made. [ə], an ‘uh’ sound, like again; mostly at the end of verbs.
F [f], like in feather
G [ɣ] / [x], the infamous Dutch sound. It sounds a bit like loch (Scottish English). [g] (*goal, ‘goal’) or [ʒ] (bagage, ‘luggage’) in loan words
H [ɦ], like in behind
I [ɪ] (short), like in sit. [i] (long), like in deep
J [j], like in yard
K [k], like in kiss
L [l], like in land
M [m], like in man
N [n], like in neck
O [ɔ] (short), like in soft. [o:] (long), roughly like in bone**
P [p], like in pen
Q [k], only in foreign words and loanwords
R [ʀ], an uvular trill (rolling r in back of the throat). However, there are more ways to pronounce the r in Dutch, depending on the place in a word: [ɹ] (alveolar approximant, "tap r"), [r] (alveolar trill, “rolling r”), and [ʁ] (uvular approximant, German/French r).
S [s], like in sock
T [t], like in tea
U [ʏ] (short), roughly like future. [y] (long), roughly like new
V [v], like in very
W [ʋ], between wine and vine
X [ks], only in foreign words and loanwords
Y [j], only in foreign words and loanwords
Z [z], like in zip

Common Phrases 1Edit

Greetings throughout the dayEdit

As in English, Dutch has many different ways of greeting others. The most common one, which you can use all day, is Hallo.

An easy way of greeting people throughout the day, is to say the time of day and add goede- "good" in front of it - just like in English. If the time of day starts with a vowel, you squish an -n- in between (an exception being "goedendag"). As follows:

Time of day Greeting
Morgen (morning) Goedemorgen
Middag (midday) Goedemiddag
Avond (evening) Goedenavond
Nacht (night) Goedenacht
Dag (day) Goedendag

More pronunciationEdit

Besides the letters of the alphabet, Dutch has a lot of combinations of letters that have their own sound. The most common ones are discussed below.

Dutch IPA, Notes
ch [ɣ] / [x], the infamous Dutch sound (again). It sounds a bit like loch (Scottish English). [ʃ] in loanwords, like chocolade and China. Can also sound like [tʃ], like in check.
ng [ŋ], like in long
nj [ɲ], like the Spanish ñ
nk [ŋk], the ng sound followed by a k
sch [sɣ] / [sx] at the beginning of words. At the end of a word, it sounds like [s]
tie [tsi], at the end of words
tj [c], is followed by an e, sounds like cheer
au, ou [ʌu], like in out
ei, ij [ɛi], roughly like may
eu [øː], roughly like earth or bird
oe [u], like boot
ui [œy], tricky. Roughly like house (Scottish English)

Negatives 1Edit


In Dutch, there are two words that are used to negate things: niet and geen. They are, however, not interchangeable. And since this is Dutch, there are some exceptions to this rule as well.


Geen is used to negate a noun that, if not negated, would be preceded by een. You can say that geen translates to ‘not a’. Geen is also used if the noun is not preceded by any article, like some plural and uncountable nouns.

Dutch English
Is dat een man? – Nee, dat is geen man. Is that a man? – No, that is not a man.
Hebben zij boeken? – Nee, zij hebben geen boeken. Do they have books? – No, they don’t have books.

Note that geen can always be translated as the English word "no": That is no man. For "niet" this is almost never the case.


Niet is essentially used in all other situations:

To negate verbs, thoughts, adjectives, or any other sentence elements that aren’t nouns.

To negate nouns preceded by a definite article or possessive pronoun.

Dutch English
Ik ren niet. I do not run.
Hij is niet zo oud. He is not that old.
Zij hebben de boeken niet. They do not have the books.

As you can see in the last example, niet comes after the object, unlike geen. If it is used to negate an adjective or adverb, it comes directly before that word.


There are no notes for this section.


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Questions 1Edit


Turning a sentence into a question is relatively easy in Dutch. Unlike in English, where you often have to add the auxiliary verb "to do", you only have to change the word order of the sentence to form a question. For example:

Hij spreekt Nederlands. - He speaks Dutch.

Spreekt hij Nederlands? - Does he speak Dutch?

As you can see, the subject and the verb switch places in a question. This is called inversion and you will also encounter it when you learn more complicated sentence structures.

Dropping the -t for "je"Edit

When a sentence is inverted, that is, the verb comes before the subject, an odd thing can happen: if the subject is je (or the stressed form "jij"), then the verb loses the -t at the end.

Je spreekt Nederlands. - You speak Dutch.

Spreek je Nederlands? - Do you speak Dutch?

This does not happen for any other subject, like hij or ze! So keep a close eye out for the combination of inversion + je.



Dutch has four ways of making a plural, two of which are very rare.

The most common way of making a plural is noun + en. The first lesson of this skill has only these.

The second most common way of making a plural is noun + s. You'll see this in the last lesson of this skill!

The two rare ways are noun + eren, and plurals ending in -a. That last one is only used for words which come from Latin, and for all of these it's also correct to just pluralize it with -s.

As with many things in Dutch grammar, the rules for when to use which aren't very clear. There are some guidelines, but the best way to learn them is by slowly developing a feeling for it.

With that being said, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Noun + enEdit

Always maintain vowel length. If a vowel sounds long, make sure it keeps sounding long (for instance, schaap becomes schapen). If a vowel sounds short, keep it short for instance, kat becomes katten).

Hard consonants become soft consonants. If the noun normally ends in an 's' or an 'f' (hard consonants), the plural replaces these with a 'z' or a 'v' respectively. For instance, muis becomes muizen.

Noun + sEdit

If the noun ends with a single vowel, you cannot just add the -s. Instead, you first add an apostrophe, and then add the -s. For instance, menu becomes menu's.

There is an exception to the above rule: words ending with an -e. Those never get the apostrophe.

Stressed PronounsEdit

Stressed and unstressed pronouns Edit

Dutch knows two types of pronouns: stressed (or marked) and unstressed (or unmarked) pronouns. The difference lies in the fact that stressed pronouns, as suggested, receive emphasis whereas unstressed pronouns do not. The stressed and unstressed personal pronouns that are taught in this skill are listed below:

Dutch (unstressed/unmarked) Dutch (stressed/marked) English
Je Jij You (singular)
Ze Zij She, They
We Wij We

The other personal pronouns (ik, u, hij, het, and jullie) don’t have a different stressed and unstressed personal pronoun in written language. In speaking, there are other ways to denote emphasis for these (see below).

There are also stressed forms of certain object pronouns (me/mijje/jou) and possessives (je/jouw), but you will learn about those later.

When do we use marked pronouns? Edit

Marked pronouns are less used than the unmarked ones, but they are important nonetheless. In some situations (such as comparisons) the meaning of the sentence forces you to emphasize the pronoun, so that it would be unnatural to use the unstressed form. This skill will demonstrate some of those cases, so that you can develop a feeling for this use of emphasis.

However, in most sentences the pronouns can be either stressed or unstressed, depending heavily on context and intonation. That is why in Duolingo exercises (which lack both of those), the two forms are usually interchangeable. The pronunciation is different though, so pay extra attention during listening exercises!

How do we emphasize the pronoun? Edit

  1. We use the stressed pronoun, as described above
  2. When we emphasize the pronoun, we also increase our pitch
  3. We tend to slightly increase our volume
  4. In addition, the word is pronounced “longer” (its duration is stretched in comparison to that of the unmarked pronoun).

In contrast, when you’re using an unmarked pronoun, you should emphasize another part of the sentence, like the verb or the object!

Stressed vs unstressed Edit

Dutch English Jij moet dat doen. You have to do that. (it's not my job)
Je moet datdoen. You have to do that. (and not something else)
Zij gaan naar huis. They are going home. (while we are staying here)
Ze gaan naar huis. They are going home. (and not downtown)


There are no notes for this section.

Present Simple Edit

d, t, dt? Edit

Perhaps the most difficult thing for native Dutch speakers, is to put a -t at the end of a verb at the right time.

Especially when the verb stem ends with a -d, as is the case with houden (the stem is, of course, houd-). You will often hear natives talking about the -dt ending, but in truth this ending does not exist: if you simply follow the conjugation rules it's just stem + t.

As a refresher, the verb conjugation table for the present:

Pronoun Conjugation Example Ik [stem] Ik drink (I drink)
Jij [stem] + t Jij drinkt (You drink)
Hij/Zij/Het [stem] + t Hij drinkt (He drinks)
U [stem] + t U drinkt (You drink)
Wij Infinitive Wij drinken (We drink)
Jullie Infinitive Jullie drinken (You drink)
Zij Infinitive Zij drinken (They drink)

Now let's replace drinken with houden:

Pronoun Conjugation Example Ik [stem] Ik houd
Jij [stem] + t Jij houdt
Hij/Zij/Het [stem] + t Hij houdt
U [stem] + t U houdt
Wij Infinitive Wij houden
Jullie Infinitive Jullie houden
Zij Infinitive Zij houden

Another difficulty with this arises in sentences which are questions. In particular, the problem-or rather, confusion- is with the second and third person singular, jij and hij. The rules are as follows:

  1. In a question where the second person singular je/jij is directly after the verb, the verb does not get a -t
  2. The third person singular hij/zij/het always gets -t

So, at first sight you might say Houdt je vader van mij? "Does your father love me?", is incorrect; after all, je is after the verb, so it should not get a -t. However, je is not the second person singular here; it's the possessive. The subject, je vader, can be replaced with hij: Houdt hij van mij? and the rule is that the third person singular always gets the -t.

There are some more d/t/dt difficulties in other verb tenses, but those are for another skill!

Adjective Basics Edit

Adjectives: Adjectives and definite articles Edit

If an adjective comes before a noun with a definite article ("de" or "het"), it usually gets the ending -e.


  • de grote hond (de hond)
  • het grote huis (het huis)


  • de grote honden
  • de grote huizen

An -e is also added if there is a demonstrative or possessive pronoun instead of a definite article

  • deze oude hond - this old dog
  • dit oude huis - this old house
  • mijn oude hond - my old dog
  • mijn oude huis - my old house

Adjectives and indefinite articles Edit

If the indefinite article ”een" comes before a het-word in the singular, then the adjective does not get the -e ending.

If it comes before a de-word, it does get the ending.


  • een oude hond (de hond)
  • een oud huis (het huis)


  • oude honden (de hond)
  • oude huizen (het huis)

The following words act like “een” in that the adjective does not get an ending when preceded by them and if the noun being described is a het-word:

  • geen: Dat is geen groot huis. (That is not a big house.)
  • elk: Elk zwart pak is duur. (Every black suit is expensive.)
  • genoeg: Wij hebben genoeg koud water. (We have enough cold water.)
  • ieder: Ieder klein meisje draagt een rok. (Every little girl is wearing a skirt.)
  • veel: Ik koop veel lekker bier. (I am buying a lot of tasty beer.)
  • wat: Zij eet wat nieuw brood. (She is eating some new bread.)
  • weinig: De kinderen eten weinig vers fruit. (The children do not eat much fresh fruit.)
  • welk: Welk oud boek leest hij? (Which old book is he reading?)
  • zo’n: Dat is zo’n groot dier! (That is such a big animal!)
  • zulk: Ze hebben altijd zulk lekker brood. (They always have such tasty bread.)

Adjectives with no article Edit

If no article at all comes before a het-word, then the adjective does not get the -e ending either.

If no article comes before a de-word, it does get the ending.

  • (het) water -> koud water
  • (de) koffie -> lekkere koffie

Predicate adjectives Edit

Put simply, predicate adjectives are adjectives that follow a linking verb like “to be” that describe the subject.

The adjective “green” in “The ball is green.” is a predicate adjective.

In Dutch, predicate adjectives don’t get any ending.

  • Het huis is groot.
  • De hond is groot.
  • De honden zijn duur.

Unchanging adjectives Edit

Some adjectives don’t get any ending.

These include:

+adjectives ending in -en (this includes participles of verbs acting as adjectives that end in -en) + eigen: mijn eigen hond (my own dog) + tevreden: de tevreden katten (the satisfied cats) + gebroken: de gebroken lamp (the broken lamp) + open: het open boek (the open book) + opgewonden: de opgewonden kinderen (the excited children)

  • Material adjectives with -en
    • gouden: de gouden spiegel (the golden mirror)
    • houten: de houten stoel (the wooden chair)
    • zilveren: het zilveren kettinkje (the silver necklace)
  • And a few without -en
    • plastic: een plastic zak (a plastic bag)
    • rubber: een rubber schoen (a rubber shoe)
  • Adjectives ending in -a or an unstressed -e
    • prima: een prima kans (an excellent opportunity)
    • roze: een roze jurk (a pink dress)
  • Adjectives with ordinal numbers in the first part
    • tweedehands: een tweedehands auto (a second-hand car)
    • derderangs: derderangs producten (third-rate products)

rechter (right) and linker (left) are not inflected:

  • de rechter tafel (the right table)
  • de linker foto (the left photo)

NOTE: if the fact that a noun is “left” or “right” is considered a fixed attribute, then “linker” and “rechter” are usually connected to the noun.

  • de linkerhand (the left hand)
  • de rechterkant (the right side)

Object Pronouns Edit

Dutch has two different object pronoun types: stressed and unstressed. The stressed is used for emphasis. The full table:

English Dutch (unstressed) Dutch (stressed) me me mij
you (singular) je jou
you (formal) u u
him/her/it hem/haar/het hem/haar/-*
us ons ons
you (plural) jullie jullie
them (persons) ze hun/hen**
them (inanimate) ze -*
  • *For the stressed 'it' and inanimate 'them', Dutch uses the Demonstrative pronouns, explained in another skill.
  • **After a preposition or as the direct object, you use hen. As the indirect object, you use hun. When in doubt, it's easiest and always correct to use the unstressed ze

Possessives Edit


The Dutch possessives are as follows:

English Dutch my mijn
your (singular) je/jouw*
your (formal) uw
his/her/its zijn/haar/zijn**
our ons/onze***
your (plural) jullie/je****
their hun
  • *If you want to stress that the object is owned by 'you', you use jouw
  • **There is no separate possessive pronoun for 'its', so we use the masculine zijn
  • ***Whether you use ons or onze depends on the noun. De-nouns get onzehet-nouns get ons
  • ****You use je to avoid saying jullie twice in a row. For example: 'I give you your books' - Ik geef jullie jullie boeken - Ik geef jullie je boeken

Independent Possessives Edit

Independent Possessives do not precede a noun. In English they are one word, but in Dutch you need to include de or het. Which of the two you need depends on the noun you are referring to.

English Dutch mine de/het mijne
yours (singular) de/het jouwe
yours (formal) de/het uwe
his/hers/its de/het zijne/hare/-*
ours de/het onze**
yours (plural) -*
theirs de/het hunne
  • *Dutch does not have independent possessives for 'its' and plural 'yours'
  • **The first person plural independent possessive no longer has the distinction between de- and het-nouns, so it's always onze

Alternative Possessives Edit

In Dutch, there is another way of saying something belongs to someone, using the word van.

English Dutch mine van mij
yours (singular) van jou
yours (formal) van u
his/hers/its van hem/haar/-*
ours van ons
yours (plural) van jullie
theirs van hen
  • *To indicate something belongs to 'it', we say ervan or, with stress, hiervan

Conjunctions 1: Coordinating Edit

"Conjunction junction, what's your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses." - Schoolhouse Rock Video

Conjunctions link sentences together and describe some relationship between them. Dutch knows two different types of conjunctions, each with their own grammar rules. In this skill you will only encounter coordinating conjunctions, which link two sentences or words that are roughly of equal importance.

The common Dutch coordinating conjunctions are: enofmaarwant and dus.

There are only five of them, so learn these by heart! In comparison, there are many different subordinating conjunctions. Those bring along complicated rules for word order in subordinate clauses and are treated in a later skill.

Coordinating conjunctions do not change the word order of the individual sentences that they link. In that regard they are very simple and used in the exact same way as their English equivalents.

Formal Edit

A common mistake with the formal 'you' in Dutch (u), even amongst native speakers, is to capitalize the u. This should only be reserved for deities. Being polite to others is a very good thing, but addressing them as deities might be a bit toomuch.

So, write Heeft u een kat?, not Heeft U een kat?

Unless of course you're asking the deity of your choice whether he/she/it owns a cat.

Adverbs and Word Order Edit

Adverbs tell you something about the time, place or manner (the "when", "where", "why") of a verb or adjective. In this skill and the next, you will learn a handful of very common adverbs and see how they affect the Dutch word order.

Dutch word order is very flexible and very strict at the same time when it comes to adverbs. There are several different places in a sentence where adverbs can be inserted, but there are also a lot of arbitrary rules.

In most cases, the adverb comes after the verb. If the verb has an object (the person or thing that is receiving the action of the verb), then the adverb comes before or after the object, depending on whether it is definite or indefinite.

A definite object is either a definite pronoun ("me/mij", "je/jou", etc), or a noun with a definite article ("de", "het") or possessive ("mijn", "jouw", etc). Adverbs usually come after a definite object:

  • Ik eet de boterham nu. - I am eating the sandwich now.

An indefinite object is an indefinite pronoun ("iets", "iemand", etc) or a noun with an indefinite article ("een") or no article. Adverbs always come before an indefinite object:

  • Ik eet nu een boterham. - I am eating a sandwich now.

NOTE: It is always possible to put an adverb at the beginning of the sentence, for emphasis. This will cause inversion and is shown in the Word Order 2 skill.

V2 (Verb 2nd) Word Order Edit

Linguists say that Dutch has a V2 word order. This means that the verb is always the second element of the sentence (except in yes or no questions and commands). If you are struggling with Dutch word order, this is the most important rule to remember!

In Dutch, just like in English, you can move words to the beginning of the sentence to give them more emphasis. However, the V2 word order requires that the verb must remain in the second place. Therefore, as another word is moved to the first place, the verb switches places with the subject. This is called inversion.

  • Ik eet nu een boterham. - I am eating a sandwich now.
  • Nu eet ik een boterham. - Now I am eating a sandwich.

It follows the same rules as yes/no questions: if the subject is "je" or "jij", then the verb loses its -t after inversion.

Adverbs are often moved to the beginning for emphasis, but the same can be done with the object of the sentence. This will change the word order to OVS (Object-Verb-Subject), which can make a sentence very ambiguous! Furthermore, prepositional phrases and subclauses can also cause inversion, but you will see this in later skills.

Dutch word order can get extremely complicated, but don't get discouraged! People will still understand you if you mess this up.

To live: wonen or leven? Edit

As you will see, the verb to live has two main translations, wonen and leven. However, those two verbs do not have the same meaning.

Wonen denotes the place you reside.

Ik woon in Nederland. 
(I live in the Netherlands.)

Ik woon in een klein huis. 
(I live in a small house.)

Leven means to be alive, to exist.

Ik leef nog. 
(I am still alive.)
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