Dutch Personal Pronouns
|2nd||je (unstressed), jij (stressed)||you (informal)|
|3rd||ze (unstressed), zij(stressed)||she|
|1st||we (unstressed), wij (stressed)||we|
|3rd||ze (unstressed), zij (stressed)||they|
|ik ben||I am|
|je bent (ben je?)||you are (informal, unstressed)|
|jij bent (ben jij?)||you are (informal, stressed)|
|u bent (bent u?)||you are (formal)|
|hij is||he is|
|ze is||she is (unstressed)|
|zij is||she is (stressed)|
|het is||it is|
|we zijn||we are (unstressed)|
|wij zijn||we are (stressed)|
|jullie zijn||you are|
|ze zijn||they are (unstressed)|
|zij zijn||they are (stressed)|
Dutch Nouns and GenderAll nouns have a gender in Dutch, either common (de words) or neuter (het words). It is hard to guess which gender a noun is, so it is best to memorize the genders when memorizing vocabulary. However, two-thirds of Dutch words are common gender (because the common gender has combined the former feminine and masculine genders.) So it may be easier to memorize which nouns are neuter, and then assign common gender to the rest. All diminutives (words ending in -je) and infinitives used as nouns, as well as colors, metals, compass directions, and all words that end in -um, -aat, -sel, -isme are neuter. Most nouns beginning with ge- and ending with -te are neuter, as are most nouns beginning with ge-, be-, and ver-. Common noun endings include: -aar, -ent, -er, -es, -eur, -heid, -ij, -ing, -teit, -tie.
Articles & Demonstratives
common neuter Singular “the” de het Plural “the” de Indefinite “a” or “an” een
The definite article is used more in Dutch than in English. It is always used before the names of the seasons, street names and in an abstract sense. There are some idioms that should be memorized, however: in het Nederlands (in Dutch), in de stad (in town), in het zwart (in black), met de auto (by car), met de tijd (in/with time); op tafel (on the table), in zee (in the sea), op kantoor (at the office), in bad (in the bath), op straat (in the street).
common neuter Singular this that deze die dit dat Plural these those deze die
Dutch Subject and Object Pronouns
Subject Object I ik (‘k) me mij (me) you (singular familiar) jij (je) you jou (je) you (singular formal) u you u he hij him hem (‘m) she zij (ze) her haar (ze) it hij / het it het (‘t) we wij (we) us ons you (plural familiar) jullie you jullie (je) you (plural formal) u you u they zij (ze) them hen (ze) / hun (ze)
Unstressed forms (shortened forms used mostly in the spoken language) are in parentheses. There are also unstressed forms of ik (‘k), hij (ie) and het (‘t) but these are not written in the standard language. You will see them in informal writing, however (such as on internet forums or sometimes in film subtitles.)
Direct and indirect object pronouns are the same in Dutch, except for “them.” Hen is used if it is a direct object, and hun is used if it is an indirect object. Generally, indirect objects are preceded by “to” or “from” in English, and direct objects are not preceded by any prepositions. Additionally, these object pronouns are used after prepositions.
An alternative way of showing possession without using the possessive pronouns is to use van + object pronoun. In fact, this is the only way to show possession with the jullie form, as there is no possessive pronoun for it. This construction corresponds to “of + object” and occurs often in sentences with the verb “to be.” Is deze pen van jou? Is this your pen? Die schoenen zijn niet van mij. Those shoes are not mine.
If the noun is not present in the clause, then die or dat + van + object pronoun is used. Mijn huis is klein; dat van hem is erg groot. My house is small; his is very large.Dutch Verbs To Be & to Have – Zijn and Hebben
Present tense of zijn – to be(zayn)
I am ik ben ik ben we are wij zijn vay zayn you are jij / u bent yay / ew bent you are jullie zijn yew-lee zayn he, she, it is hij, zij, het is hay, zay, ut is they are zij zijn zay zayn
Present tense of hebben – to have(heh-buhn)
I have ik heb ik hep we have wij hebben vay heh-buhn you have jij / u hebt yay / ew hept you have jullie hebben yew-lee heh-buhn he, she, it is hij, zij, het heeft hay, zay, ut hayft they have zij hebben zay heh-buhn
U heeft rather than u hebt is also possible.
Past tense of zijn – to be(zayn)
I was ik was ik vas we were wij waren vay vah-ruhn you were jij / u was yay / ew vas you were jullie waren yew-lee vah-ruhn he, she, it was hij, zij, het was hay, zay, ut vas they were zij waren zay vah-ruhn
Past tense of hebben – to have(heh-buhn)
I had ik had ik haht we had wij hadden vay hah-duhn you had jij / u had yay / ew haht you had jullie hadden yew-lee hah-duhn he, she, it had hij, zij, het had hay, zay, ut haht they had zij hadden zay hah-duhn
You must use the subject pronouns; however, I will leave them out of future conjugations since most verbs only have two forms for each conjugation.Expressions with zijn and hebben: Het/dat is jammer – It’s/that’s a pity jarig zijn – to have a birthday kwijt zijn – to have lost op het punt staan – to be about to van plan zijn – to intend voor elkaar zijn – to be in order honger / dorst hebben – to be hungry / thirsty gelijk hebben – to be right haast hebben – to be in a hurry het hebben over – to talk about het druk hebben – to be busy het koud hebben / warm – to be cold / warm last hebben van – to be bothered by nodig hebben – to need slaap hebben – to be sleepy zin hebben in – to feel likePersonal pronouns are words such as I, me, your and it, words which are used to refer to a specific person or actor without having to mention them explicitly. Pronominal forms are a key element of all languages and must be learned early in one’s linguistic journey in order to communicate effectively. This article discusses Dutch personal pronouns and provides an overview of all key information.
Personal pronounsThe below table delineates the basic Dutch personal pronoun system:
For the most part, Dutch personal pronouns follow a similar pattern to English. They have the same distinctions for masculine, feminine and neuter and for first, second and third person. They also have the same distinctions for nominative and accusative, depending on whether the pronoun is used as subject or object of the clause.
Nominative Accusative Ik I Mij /me Me Jij/je You Jou/je You U You (formal) U You (formal) Hij/-ie He Hem Him Zij/ze She Haar Her Het It Het It Wij/We We Ons Us Jullie You (plural) Jullie You (plural) Ze They Hen/Ze Them
Some Dutch pronouns have two versions as outlined in the table below:
These are generally interchangeable, but the first variant can be used for emphasis or when introducing the person for the first time. The exception is the ie variant of ‘he’, which can only be used in subordinate constructions, such as in subordinate clauses or in questions. It is usually marked with a dash in order to show that it is not a typical pronoun. This construction is very informal. Komt-ie? ‘Is he coming?’ Ik ben bang dat-ie weg is. ‘I’m afraid he has gone’
Jij/je You Hij/-ie He Zij/ze She/they Wij/we We
The distinction between u en jij.Both u and jij mean ‘you’ (singular), but u is the more formal variant. Theoretically, u is used when addressing people you do not know, or with clients or people in authority. However, Dutch culture is generally quite egalitarian and it rare to hear u in everyday speech. You might use it when interacting with a client, for example, but even then, this might only be restricted to the first interaction. By the end of the conversation, it is common to have switched to jij entirely. Young people tend always to use jij with each other.
Possessive pronounsThe table below shows the possessive pronoun system of Dutch:
There are different forms of the first person possessive pronouns depending on whether it is singular or plural.
Mijn/mijne My Jouw/jouwe Your Uw/uwe Your (formal) Zijn His Haar Her Ons/onze Our Jullie Your (plural) Hun Their
Where the noun is singular, the bare possessive pronoun is used, without any ending. Where the noun is plural, an –e ending is added to the pronoun. Often, when you hear Dutch people speak English, you will notice that they will sometimes produce utterances such as ‘John his car’ or ‘Maria her hat’. This is a direct transfer of a possessive construction that is commonly used in spoken Dutch. Jan z’n fiets. Jan’s bicycle Tinneke d’r tuin. Tinneke’s garden. In these examples, z’n is a contractions of zijn and d’r is a contraction of haar. Some Dutch learners of English understand the ‘s which marks possession is an abbreviation of his, as it is in the Dutch construction. So when they use the construction for feminine possessors, they use her, in Dutch haar.
Singular Plural Mijn huis My house Mijne huizen My houses Ons auto Our car Onze autos Our cars Ons paard Our horse Onze paarden Our horses Mijn potlood My pencil Mijne potloden My pencils
The third person singularThe third person pronoun het is most commonly used for inanimate nouns, both in the nominative and accusative. It corresponds to English it. Het is drie uur. It is three o’ clock. Ik heb het al gedaan. I have already done it. Het was echt leuk. It was really good fun. Hij (nominative) and hem (accusative) are most commonly used when the noun is masculine and animate. They correspond to English ‘he’ and ‘him’. Hij is mijn stiefvader. He is my stepfather. Hij and hem can also be used when the noun is a common gender noun. In the accusative, it often takes the contracted form ‘m. Ik kan mijn lamp niet vinden. Heb je‘m gezien? ‘I can’t find my lamp. Have you seen it?’ Ik vind je tafel echt leuk. Waar heb je hem gekocht? ‘I really like your table. Where did you buy it?’ Ik vond de oogschaduw mooi, maar hij was echt duur. ‘I really liked the eyeshadow, but it was very expensive.’
Feminine pronounsWe generally can only use the feminine pronouns when referring to feminine animate nouns. Zij is de nieuwe manager van de bedrijf. ‘She is the new manager of the company’. However, there is a growing tendency to use feminine pronouns with certain collective nouns, which denote larger organisations. This is particularly the case for haar, meaning ‘her’. De Commissie en haar personeel hebben een groot rol gespeeld. ‘The Commission and its (her) staff have played a big role’. De vereniging heeft laten weten dat zijzich gesteund voelt door haarvrijwillgers. ‘The organisation has let it be known that it (she) feels supported by its (her) volunteers‘. The distinction in grammatical gender between masculine and feminine has all but disappeared in the Dutch language. Both masculine and feminine nouns are denoted by the article de. Possessive pronouns zijn and haar should technically only be used with de words that were originally masculine and feminine, respectively, but this is no longer a meaningful distinction for most Dutch speakers. It is increasingly common to find haar used with neuter het nouns, but grammar purists would consider this incorrect. Het kabinet heeft haar plannen over studiefinanciering bekend gemaakt. ‘The cabinet has made its (her) plans for student financing known’. The use of haar in this way has become so pervasive that it is sometimes known as the haar-ziekte, or the ‘her disease’.
Dutch Pronouns Grammar ChallengeThis article has outlined the basic pronominal distinctions in Dutch. Now that you know the basics, why not give the Dutch pronoun grammar challenges a try? Practice using Dutch pronouns in actual sentences with Clozemaster!
How to form plural nouns in Dutch
Most plural nouns are formed by adding either -en or -s. Remember that the definite article is always de before plural nouns.
1. -en (the n is pronounced softly) is added to most nouns, with a few spelling changes
boek – boeken book(s) jas – jassen coat(s) haar – haren hair(s) huis – huizen house(s)
Spelling changes: Words with long vowels (aa, ee, oo, and uu) drop the one vowel when another syllable is added. Words with the short vowels (a, e, i, o and u) double the following consonant to keep the vowels short. The letters f and s occur at the end of words or before consonants, while the letters v and z occur in the middle of words before vowels. (These spelling rules are also used for conjugating verbs, so it’s best to memorize them as soon as possible.)
2. -s is added to nouns ending in the unstressed syllables -el, -em, -en, and -er (and -aar(d), -erd, -ier when referring to people), foreign words and to most nouns ending in an unstressed vowel
tafel – tafels table(s) jongen – jongens boy(s) tante – tantes aunt(s) bakker – bakkers baker(s)
Nouns ending in the vowels -a, -o, and -u add an apostrophe before the s: foto’s, paraplu’s
3. Some nouns containing a short vowel do not double the following consonant in the plural before -en. The plural vowel is then pronounced as long.
bad – baden bath(s) dag – dagen day(s) spel – spelen game(s) (like the Olympics, smaller games are spellen) glas – glazen glass(es) weg – wegen road(s)
4. A few neuter nouns take the ending -eren (or -deren if the noun ends in -n)
blad – bladeren leaf (leaves) kind – kinderen child(ren) ei – eieren egg(s) been – beenderen bone(s) [Note: been – benen leg(s)] lied – liederen song(s) volk – volkeren nation(s), people
5. Nouns ending in -heid have a plural in -heden.
mogelijkheid – mogelijkheden possibility (possibilities)
6. Some other common irregular plurals are:
stad – steden town(s) schip – schepen ship(s) lid – leden member(s) koe – koeien cow(s)
Dutch Possessives: Adjectives and Pronouns
Singular Plural mijn (m’n) my ons / onze our jouw (je) your (informal) jullie (je) your (informal) uw your (formal) uw your (formal) zijn (z’n) his hun their haar her zijn (z’n) its
Ons is used before singular neuter/het nouns, and onze is used elsewhere (before singular common/de nouns, and all plural nouns.) Je, the unstressed form of jouw, is commonly used in spoken and written Dutch, unless the speaker/writer wants to stress the pronoun. In the plural,jullie is the norm, unless jullie has already been used in the sentence, then je is used to avoid the redundancy. The other unstressed forms are not commonly written in the standard language, but are commonly spoken and written in informal communication.
Like in English, Dutch possessive adjectives are used in front of a noun to show possession: mijn boek (my book). There are a few ways to express the -‘s used in English too. -s can be added to proper names and members of the family: Jans boek (John’s book) The preposition vancan be used to mean of: het boek van Jan (the book of John = John’s book) And in more colloquial speech, the unstressed forms in parentheses above (agreeing in gender and number) can be used in place of the -s: Jan z’n boek (John’s book)
To form the possessive pronouns, add -e to the stressed forms (except for jullie) and use the correct article. The only way to show possession with jullie is to use van jou (literally meaning “of you”), although all the others can be used with van too.
de/het mijne, jouwe, uwe, zijne, hare, onze, hunne (mine, yours, yours, his/its, hers, ours, theirs)
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