Dutch Lesson 3

Lesson 3: Formal Pronouns, Possessive Adjectives, and Plural Nouns


Before we teach you how to tell that something belongs to a certain person we first have to teach you how to be polite in Dutch. In Dutch and most other languages, but not in English, there exists a certain polite form of “you”. In Dutch they say “U” instead of “jij” in formal speech. “jij” is only used among friends and for children. Verbs after “U” are also conjugated differently, usually like after 2nd person singular (“jij”), but sometimes like after 3rd person singular (“hij”). Take a look at the following sample sentences:
 Jij bent oma.  You are grandmother.
 U bent oma.  You are grandmother.
 Jij hebt een hond.  You have a dog.
 U heeft een hond.  You have a dog.


Now that you know how to be polite we’ll continue with indicating possession. We’re gonna teach you the so-called “possessive pronouns” or “possessive adjectives”. At the same time you’ll learn how to translate “this” and “that” (demonstrative pronouns). Here are a couple of new sentences:
 Dat is mijn stoel.  That is my chair.
 Dit is jouw stoel.  This is your chair.
 Dat is uw stoel.  That is your chair. (This is the polite/formal form)
 Dat is zijn stoel.  That is his chair. (Don’t confuse the pronoun “zijn” with the verb “zijn”!)
 Dit is haar stoel.  This is her chair.
 Dat is onze stoel.  That is our chair.
 Dit is jullie stoel.  This is your chair.
 Dat is hun stoel.  That is their chair.
 Deze stoel  This chair
 Dit huis  This house
 Die stoel  That chair
 Dat huis  That house
You’ve learned a couple of things now. First of all you know that “this” is “dit” and “that” is “dat” in Dutch. But this only applies when those pronouns appear before the verb “zijn”. When they are used adjectively (next to the noun) then these words become gender dependent: “this” is “dit” (with neuter nouns) or “deze” (with masculine/feminine nouns) and “that” is “dat” (with neuter nouns) or “die” (with masculine/feminine nouns). You’ve also seen the possessive adjectives and you probably noticed that possessive adjectives also have a formal form.

Plural nouns

Now it’s time to learn plural nouns. Until now you’ve only seen singular nouns such as “house” and “chair”, but now we’ll teach you how to form a plural noun (“houses”, “chairs”) in Dutch. There are several rules that apply to forming plural nouns. Take a look at the following examples: “Boek – Boeken Paard – Paarden, Zak – Zakken, Tas – Tassen, Rivier – Rivieren, Oog – Ogen, Aap – Apen, Zaal – Zalen, Toon – Tonen” When a syllable ends in a consonant you can usually add -en, but you might need to repeat the consonant when a single vowel precedes the consonant and you want the tone not to change. You also usually need to reduce two equal vowels that immediately precede the ending consonant to just one single vowel: When a syllable ends with an S that is preceded by two vowels then the S will usually be replaced by a Z and EN will be added: “Muis – Muizen , Kaas – Kazen, Doos – Dozen” When a syllable ends on -el, -er or -en then an S is added. Also modern words and words derived from English get an extra S when made plural: “Sleutel – Sleutels, Luidspreker – Luidsprekers, Vinger – Vingers, Toren – Torens, Cirkel – Cirkels” Words that end in a vowel get ‘S: Foto – Foto‘s, Camera – Camera‘s Note that with pointing at plural nouns, you use different demonstrative pronouns, just like in English. Instead of “these” the Dutch say “deze” and instead of “those” they say “die”, irregardless of the gender of the noun. To make things even more confusing, when the demonstrative pronoun is separated by a form of the verb “zijn”, then the demonstrative pronoun always appears as if the noun is singular, even when it’s plural. Some samples:
 Deze muizen  These mice
 Die huizen  Those houses
 Dat zijn boeken.  Those are books.
 Dit zijn sleutels.  These are keys.
About the articles: when a noun is plural then the concept of noun gender doesn’t matter anymore. “het” is never used with plural nouns. Instead, “de” is used, even when the noun has neuter gender. The indefinite article (“een”) is always omitted when dealing with plural nouns, just like in English (We never say “a houses”). That’s enough material for this lesson.


 het boek  the book
 het paard  the horse
 de rivier  the river
 het oog  the eye
 de aap  the monkey
 de muis  the mouse
 de sleutel  the key
 de vinger  the finger
 de toren  the tower
 de cirkel  the circle
 de foto  the photo
 de camera  the camera
 hier  here
 daar  there
 veel  much/many


Exercise A: Translate to English: 1) Dat zijn mijn foto’s. 2) Een aap heeft vingers. 3) Dit zijn hun sleutels. 4) Zijn boeken zijn hier. 5) Zij zijn hier. 6) Ik heb veel paarden. 7) Jij hebt onze camera. 8) Zij heeft uw sleutel. 9) Dit zijn jullie foto’s. 10) Jij hebt deze boeken. 11) Wij hebben die camera’s. Exercise B: Translate to Dutch: 1) We have many fingers. 2) These are my eyes. 3) That is his key. 4) This is your book and these are your dogs. (spoken to a stranger) 5) I have those photos. 6) Her books are there. 7) They have the house. 8) This house is your house. (spoken to a dear friend) 9) You are their grandmother. (use formal speech) 10) Here is our camera. 11) The houses have many keys.


Solution of Exercise A: 1) Those are my photos. 2) A monkey has fingers. 3) These are their keys. 4) His books are here. 5) They are here. 6) I have many horses. 7) You have our camera. 8) She has your key. 9) These are your photos. 10) You have these books. 11) We have those cameras. Solution of Exercise B: 1) Wij hebben veel vingers. 2) Dit zijn mijn ogen. 3) Dat is zijn sleutel. 4) Dit is uw boek en dit zijn uw honden. 5) Ik heb die foto’s. 6) Haar boeken zijn daar. 7) Zij hebben het huis. 8) Dit huis is jouw huis. 9) Uw bent hun oma. 10) Hier is onze camera. 11) De huizen hebben veel sleutels.

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