|`Jan said that he wanted to go help his mother.´|
Inversion of the subject and verb is used in interrogative sentences:
|`You went to the store´|
|`Did you go to the store?´|
It also occurs when the first phrase in a sentence is not its subject.
Here are some rules about where to place the words in a Dutch sentence:
|`I went to France this year.´|
In Dutch, nouns generally describe persons, places, things, and abstract ideas, and are treated as grammatically distinct from verbs. Nouns are marked for number and size.
In standard Dutch (formerly known as Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands; General Civilized Dutch) there are three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter. However in large parts of the Netherlands there is no grammatical distinction between what were originally masculine and feminine genders, these nowadays being adjectivally inflected in the same manner. In certain Belgian Dutch dialectal forms of standard Dutch however, the distinction between masculine and feminine noun genders survives with the use of pronouns. The gender of a word determines the articles used with it and the pronouns referring to it. Masculine and feminine nouns are usually collectively called de-words, and neuter nouns are called het-words, in accordance with the definite article used with them. Traditionally, pronouns used for masculine nouns are hij/hem/zijn, feminine zij/haar, neuter het/zijn. In the Netherlands, awareness of the distinction between masculine and feminine nouns disappeared in the 1600s, and using only masculine and neuter pronouns has become the standard in speech and writing. A few very commonly used nouns, such as "earth" and "sun" still take feminine gender in writing, but rather than this being a grammatical function, it is usually analyzed as a poetic function, in a similar way that English refers to "ship" with the pronoun "she". This goes so far that in the Netherlands a referent such as a cow is often referred to with he, even though the animal is biologically feminine.
For nouns ending in a strong syllable (including all monosyllabic words), the plural is formed by addition of -en. Exception to this rule are kinship terms broer ("brother") and oom ("uncle"). Several other rule-based changes in the word may take place at the same time: if a double vowel occurs in the final syllable of a word, it will become a single vowel as a result of the closed syllable becoming open (boot → boten), the sound itself is still the same: because the syllable becomes open, it is no longer necessary to write the vowel double; final consonants are often duplicated to preserve the short vowel sound (schil → schillen), and for words that end in /z/ and /v/ underlyingly, final -s and -f sounds are changed into -z- and -v- (huis → huizen, hoef → hoeven). A remnant of this pattern exists in English: dief - "thief", dieven, - "thieves". The usage of -s and -f in the orthography of the singular forms reflects final devoicing, which is not applicable in the plural forms. For nouns ending in a weak syllable, the plural is usually formed by addition of -s (or -'s, if the noun ends in a long vowel), with some exceptions. For a number of nouns of Latin origin, the Latin plural may be used (museum → musea, politicus → politici). Words ending in -heid get a plural in -heden. Some nouns, such as stad → steden and schip → schepen, have irregular plurals.
Genitive noun forms are essentially archaic and not part of common usage anymore. The only common exceptions of this are certain fixed expressions (e.g. "De dag des oordeels", "Judgement day"), and sometimes plural genitives in combination with the genitive form of the definite article, "der". In common usage of language, genitive forms are formed by usage of the word "van," in essentially the same way that "of" is used in English.
The adjective still forms a partive genitive after words that indicate a quantity, like wat,iets,veel:
Archaic genitive forms may still appear in writing, where they are usually employed to make an article sound more "bookish" or academic. However, many writers are totally unaware of the historical distinction between masculine and neuter nouns in the genitive case (where the article is "des", the noun declines by taking an "-s" ending, and adjectives inflect by taking "-en" endings); and between feminine and plural nouns (where the article is der, nouns take zero endings and adjectives inflect by taking "-e" endings). Because of this, grammatically incorrect constructions can appear and using the genitive for this purpose is discouraged and generally seen as somewhat pompous.
For example, one might see a title such as:
where "Film" is declined as a feminine gender noun, and "Nederlandse" inflected likewise.
Written correctly, it should read:
as "film" in Dutch is historically a masculine noun. Notwithstanding however, this formal use of the Genitive case, associated with bookishness and higher learning, probably persists as one tends to encounter it in institutions of higher learning. For example, all the faculties of the University of Leiden have names which are declined in the Genitive case.
In plural forms the article de is used for all genders.
Dutch has a negative indefinite article geen (no, not a, not any):
Within the Dutch noun phrase, adjectives are placed in front of the noun and after the article (if present). In this position, most adjectives have a basic form (e.g. wit "white", rood "red", zwart "black") and an inflected form, made by adding the suffix -e and making other orthographic adjustments as necessary (e.g. witte, rode, zwarte).
The inflected adjective is used before plural nouns of all genders, singular de-words (masculine and feminine nouns), and singular het-words (neuter nouns) preceded by a definite determiner. This means that the uninflected form is used before singular neuter nouns preceded by an indefinite determiner, or no determiner. For example:
This general rule is not absolute, however, and uninflected adjectives are in fact found in many other contexts. For example, if the adjective describes an inherent property of the (singular) noun, rather than a specification of it, the ending -e is dropped. The noun may be preceded by a definite article or no article.
Adjectives describing people often remain uninflected, for instance if they express an admirable quality:
Most adjectives ending in -en, for example material adjectives, have no inflected forms.
Finally, adjectives in predicative position (e.g. after a copular verb) are uninflected:
Verbs in Dutch can be classified as weak, strong, and irregular.
The perfect participle (cf. worked in 'I have worked') is formed by adding 'ge-' in front of the past tense form and removing the end '-e'. If it's used adjectivally, an end '-e' is used like that of adjectives:
The system of strong verbs is similar to that of the irregulars in English but has retained more of its regularity. In both languages you need to learn three forms and the most common irregular verbs in English are strong in Dutch, but not all irregular verbs in English are strong in Dutch and vice-versa. There are about 150 strong roots giving rise to about 800 strong verbs in total if all derived verbs with separable and inseparable prefixes are included.
Strong verbs of the classes 4 and 5 also distinguish between a short a in the preterite singular and a long ā in the preterite plural. This is a remnant of the old preterite singular grade of ablaut. For a fuller explanation of strong verbs, see the article Germanic strong verb.
A number of weak verbs such as denken show the irregularity associated with Rückumlaut: see the article on umlaut:
Usually these words are considered 'strong', since one cannot deduce its preterite (past tense) form regularly. Often they are called mixed verbs because their past participle ends on t instead of en. The perfect participle of the words can be deduced regularly from its preterite form:
| infinitive |
|zijn (to be)||ben, bent, is||zijn||was||waren||geweest|
|hebben (to have)||heb, hebt/heeft, heeft||hebben||had||hadden||gehad|
|zullen (will, shall)||zal, zal/zult, zal||zullen||zou||zouden||-|
|kunnen (can, to be able)||kan, kan/kunt, kan||kunnen||kon||konden||gekund|
|mogen (to be allowed)||mag, mag, mag||mogen||mocht||mochten||gemogen|
|willen (to want)||wil, wil(t), wil||willen||wou (wilde)||wouden (wilden)||gewild|
On the other hand, Dutch preserves relics of the old Germanic noun case system in its pronouns. A full list of pronoun forms is listed below, with unstressed "weak" (or clitic) forms given in parentheses.
|personal and possessive pronouns|
|1 singular||ik ('k)||mij (me)||mijn (m'n)|
|2 singular||jij (je), gij (ge), u||jou (je), u||jouw (je), uw|
| 3 sing (masc)|
| hij (-ie)|
| hem ('m)|
haar ('r, d'r, ze)
| zijn (z'n)|
|1 plural||wij (we)||ons||ons/onze|
|2 plural||jullie, gij (ge), u||jullie, u||jullie (je), uw|
|3 plural||zij (ze)|| hen (ze) (direct obj.)|
hun (ze) (indirect obj.)
In spoken language, the third person plural forms hen and hun are interchanged (usually in favor of hun). The distinction between the two was artificially introduced in the 17th century, and it remains an area of uncertainty for many Dutch speakers. In most contexts, both forms are tolerated; the shared unstressed form ze is also a useful avoidance strategy. For non-human plural referents, only the unstressed pronoun ze is allowed (the strong form hun is replaced by the demonstratives deze and die). The use of hun as a subject pronoun (e.g. Hun zijn weggegaan. "They have gone away.") is non-standard. The shortened form "d'r" for "haar" is almost exclusively used in the Netherlands. The unstressed object form "ze" for "haar" is heard in southern Dutch language varieties and not considered standard.
The 2nd person pronouns have different degrees of politeness, depending on dialect:
The form onze is the inflected form of the possessive pronoun ons, which is inflected in the same way as the adjectives.
When the demonstrative pronoun is used as a part of speech of its own, the forms dit and dat are always used. E.g.: Dit is een mooie auto ("This is a beautiful car") vs. Deze auto is mooi ("This car is beautiful").
The singular demonstrative pronouns can take plural verbs in certain contexts:
Pronouns in Dutch work differently depending on whether or not they appear with a preposition. When they are used as the subject or object of a verb (without a preposition), they are chosen according to the grammatical gender of the noun they replace—i.e. hij/hem/'m for masculine (or common gender) nouns, zij/haar/d'r for feminine nouns, and het/'t for neuter nouns (the reduced forms are preferred when referring to inanimate objects):
In combination with a preposition, however, pronouns are chosen according to natural gender: hem for males, haar for females, and neuter forms for inanimate entities. An additional complication, however, is that the ordinary series of neuter pronouns (het, dat, wat, etc.) cannot normally appear after a preposition, and they are instead replaced by the corresponding "r-pronoun":
The r-pronoun and the preposition should be written as one word (except with ergens, nergens, and overal), and the resulting form is called a "pronominal adverb" (Dutch: voornaamwoordelijk bijwoord) in Dutch grammar. These forms are similar to words like hereupon, whereupon in English or darauf, worauf in German, but Dutch shows two particularities:
Note that "een" is the same word as the indefinite article in the written language; as such, when confusion is possible, the number is often written as "één" to distinguish it from the article. They are always pronounced distinctly.
The cardinal numerals from 21 to 99 (apart from the tens) are constructed in a regular way, by adding en (=and) and the name of the appropriate multiple of ten to the name of the units position. (As in German, the last written digit is actually pronounced first):
Numerals between 101 and 999 are constructed as follows:
The same system used for naming the hundreds applies to the higher base numbers that are powers of ten. Dutch always uses the long scale system.
The cardinal numerals of numbers greater than 1000 are grouped in "multiples of 1000":