Last modified on 28 July 2013, at 20:48

Dutch/Lesson 1

Les 1 ~ Lesson 1

Eenvoudige Gesprekken ~ Simple Conversations

Simple conversations
Grammar: Pronouns: I,me etc.
Polite and clitic forms

<< Voorwoord | Les 1 | Les 2 >>


Grammatica 1-1 ~ Introduction to Dutch grammarEdit

Children learn their mother tongue without knowing the parts of speech such as verbs, nouns and phrases. However these are helpful for anyone attempting to learn a second language from a book or a website. Of course the children have it right: the best way to learn a language is to listen to a mother tongue speaker and simply repeat. But such a speaker may not always be available to you. This book will try to compensate this by addition of audio files, but that is still a cumbersome substitute. We do recommend that you use them as much as you can. Firefox seems to give easier access to them than other browsers.

The main lessons Dutch/Lesson 1, 2 etc. concentrate on introducing points of grammar, although there are exercises, sound files etc. Lessons 1A, 2A etc. concentrate more on practice, pronunciation drills, more conversation etc. As of June 30 2009 they are still in construction.

English speakers will find many strong parallels between their language and Dutch. Where possible we will try to point out the similarities and exploit them.

However, as noted in the introduction, Dutch grammar is more complex than English grammar, and identifying the meaning of words in a Dutch sentence is difficult without understanding the clues to word function that come from the grammatical rules. The basic lessons of this textbook are set up to first introduce the parts of speech, and then bring in the rules that govern these. Pay particular attention to sentence word order as you progress through the lessons.

Using WiktionaryEdit

Throughout the texts and in the vocabulary lists there are blue links that take you to the Dutch version of our sister project Wiktionary. Of course the layout is in Dutch and you may not immediately understand everything, but that is not a disaster. If you want to learn a language you also should learn to be a bit of a detective: you often need to get the gist of something with a few pieces of the puzzle missing. Don't let that scare you off! Here are a few useful pieces:

  1. There usually is an English translation of a word under the heading Vertalingen, marked Engels
  2. There may even be a geluidsopname (sound recording) or a phonetic description under Uitspraak. If you can: listen to the pronunciation a few times: it will help you remember the word and become an active speaker.

If you are really lost use the interwiki link to the English version (or any other language you know) as back up, but don't give in to it too easily!

We strongly encourage you to use the links to expand your vocabulary. First guess what a word means, then click!

HoveringEdit

Some words will be underlined. Try to hover your mouse over such words.

Gesprek 1-1 ~ Vrienden: Jan en KarelEdit

Read the following conversation. Use the hover method to see an instant translation of a certain word and try to piece together the meaning of the story. Once you have an idea of the gist of the story you can open up the drop down box and read the translation to see if you were right. When learning a new language it is very important to be able to deduce meaning from limited information, because you will often not know all the words used. Picking up their meaning from context is an important skill.

You will also see that Dutch sometimes strings words together a bit differently than English. Dutch word order is quite different and a difficult aspect of the language.

Jan komt Karel op straat tegen. Ze zijn vrienden.

Jan: Hoi, Karel! Hoe gaat het met je?
Karel: Hoi! Dank je, met mij gaat het goed. En met jou?
Jan: Dank je, met mij gaat het ook goed. Tot ziens.
Karel: Tot ziens, Jan!
Translation • Lesson 1 • Gesprek 1-1


John runs into Charles in the street. They are friends.
John: Hello Charles. How are you?
Charles: Hi, thank you, I'm fine. And you?
John: Thank you, I'm doing fine as well. Goodbye.
Charles: Goodbye John!

Dutch pronunciation varies with region and speaker, but the following gives a reasonable idea:

'jɑn.kɔmt.'ka.rəl.ɔp.'stra.'te.ɣə(n) zə.zɛɪn.vrin.də(n)
ɦɔj,'ka.rəl.ɦu.'ɣat.ət.'mɛ.cə
ɦɔj,dɑŋ.kjə,mɛt.'mɛɪ.'ɣat.ət.xut.ʔɛn.'mɛ.'cɑʊ
dɑŋ.kjə,mɛt.mɛɪ.'ɣat.ət.'ok.xut. tɔ.'tsins
tɔ.'tsins.jɑn

Grammatica 1-2 ~ FormsEdit

Clitic formsEdit

Notice the difference between "Hoe gaat het met je"? and "En met jou?". Both translate literally into with you, but there is a difference in emphasis. Jou carries emphasis, je does not. In Dutch, there are often two forms of the same pronoun: a strong one and a weak ('clitic') one. The clitic forms cannot have emphasis and the vowel in a clitic is often reduced to a neutral 'schwa' [ə] or omitted entirely.

In colloquial English the same thing can be heard at times: seeya! instead of see you!. In Dutch the reduced forms are quite common in the spoken language and some of them have gained acceptance in the written language as well.

Polite formsEdit

The above conversation was between two good friends. It utilizes the familiar form of the personal pronoun (je, jou) where English uses you. However, Dutch also has a polite or formal form of the personal pronoun for the second person (you), u. Many languages have this distinction. It is e.g. comparable with Sie in German, vous in French, usted in Spanish, Вы in Russian, or anata in Japanese. When to use one or the other is not always easy to decide. Someone unknown, particularly if older, is generally u, an old friend typically je, jou. The latter roughly corresponds with the 'first name basis' in English. Notice the use of u in the conversation below.

Regional formsEdit

In the South of the area where Dutch is spoken (Flanders mostly), people do not distinguish between familiar and polite forms, instead they use yet another pronoun gij (clitic: ge, object: u). It is used much like you in English for both singular and plural. In the North gij is only encountered in archaic phrases like: gij zult niet stelen - thou shalt not steal. This course is mostly based on northern usage as this is most widely accepted, including in Suriname and the Antilles, but some important differences will be pointed out.

Gesprek 1-2 ~ De handelaarsEdit

Push the button and listen to the following text. It is recommended to first just listen.

Please read the following conversation. It is a bit more formal than the one before. If you are not sure of the meaning of a word, hover your mouse over it, if it is underlined. A translation will pop up.

Meneer Jansen komt mevrouw De Vries tegen. Het zijn handelaars.
  • Meneer Jansen: Goedendag, mevrouw De Vries!
  • Mevrouw De Vries: Goedendag, meneer Jansen!
  • Meneer Jansen: Hoe gaat het met u?
  • Mevrouw De Vries: Zeer goed, dank u wel. En met u?
  • Meneer Jansen: Ook goed.
  • Mevrouw De Vries: Mooi. Kent u meneer Standish? Bent u hem al tegengekomen?
  • Meneer Jansen: Uit Engeland? Nee. Is hij op bezoek?
  • Mevrouw De Vries: Ja. Hij spreekt Nederlands. Tot ziens, meneer Jansen!
  • Meneer Jansen: Tot ziens, mevrouw De Vries.

Have you figured out the gist yet? Then open the translation box to see if you were right:

Translation • Lesson 1 • Gesprek 1-2


  • Mr. Johnson encounters Mrs. De Vries. They are merchants.
  • Mr. Johnson: Good day, Mrs. de Vries!
  • Mrs. De Vries Good day, Mr. Johnson!
  • Mr. Johnson: How do you do?
  • Mrs. De Vries Very well, thank you. And how are you?
  • Mr. Johnson: Fine as well.
  • Mrs. De Vries: Good! Do you know Mr. Standish? Have you met him yet?
  • Mr. Johnson: From England? No, is he visiting?
  • Mrs. De Vries Yes, he is. He speaks Dutch. Goodbye, Mr. Johnson.
  • Mr. Johnson: Goodbye, Mrs. De Vries.

Go back to the pronunciation, close your eyes and see how much you understand now. You may have to repeat the process a few times.

YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 1 • Waar of niet waar


dit is waar - this is true
dit is niet waar - this is not true

Answer the following questions with either waar or niet waar

  1. Mevrouw De Vries is meneer Standish al tegengekomen.
  2. Meneer Jansen en mevrouw De Vries zijn goede vrienden.
  3. Meneer Jansen en mevrouw de Vries zeggen (they say) je en jou tegen elkaar (to each other)
  4. De Engelsman, meneer Standish is op bezoek.
  5. Het gaat goed met Karel.
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 1 • Waar of niet waar


  1. Mevrouw De Vries is meneer Standish al tegengekomen. - niet waar
  2. Meneer Jansen en mevrouw De Vries zijn goede vrienden. - niet waar, zij zijn collega's
  3. Meneer Jansen en mevrouw de Vries zeggen (they say) je en jou tegen elkaar (to each other) - niet waar, zij zeggen u tegen elkaar
  4. De Engelsman, meneer Standish is op bezoek. - dit is waar
  5. Het gaat goed met Karel. - waar

Grammatica 1-3 ~ Introduction to pronounsEdit

A pronoun is a short word that takes the place of a noun previously mentioned in the sentence, paragraph, or conversation.

Recall: Kent u meneer Standish? Bent u hem al tegengekomen?

Hem refers back to meneer Standish. It is a pronoun that stands for (pro- !) meneer Standish.

There is a variety of pronouns like personal, possessive, relative and indefinite ones. Let's look at the personal pronouns first.

Personal pronounsEdit

Personal pronouns are quite familiar in English: They are words like I,you,he,she,we,you and they.
At least this is the case for the subject (nominative case). As object (accusative) some of them are different: me,you,him,us,you,them. Compare:

I see you.
You see me.

Notice how I turns into me when used as an object. You remains the same.

Much like in English ik (subject) turns into mij as object in Dutch, whereas je remains the same in both roles:

Ik zie je.
Je ziet mij.

The system in Dutch resembles the English one quite a bit, after all the languages are close relatives:

  • As in English there are three persons in Dutch grammar: first (I), second (you) and third (he)
  • As in English there is a distinction in number between singular (I) and plural (we).
  • As in English there are gender distinctions in the third person singular (he, she, it)
  • As in English there are case distinctions between subject and object (he, him)

Nevertheless the Dutch system is a little more involved, as we have seen there are:

  • familiar and polite forms: je versus u.
  • weak (clitics) and strong forms: je versus jou.

In addition there are

  • regional differences: (jij/jullie - u) (North) versus (gij) (South)
  • a growing rift between how inanimate and animate nouns are treated

In English he and she are reserved for animate nouns -usually persons- and this is increasingly the case in Dutch as well, certainly in Northern usage.

In English all inanimate objects can be referred to as it. However, in Dutch this is only true for het-words (neuter gender) and that leaves two thirds of all nouns uncovered... We will revisit this awkward problem later.

Subject case (nominative)Edit

Person singular clitic plural clitic
1st About this sound ik ('k) About this sound wij we
2nd (fam.) About this sound jij About this sound je About this sound jullie -
2nd (polite) About this sound u - u -
2nd (South) About this sound gij ge gij ge
3rd About this sound hij
About this sound zij
About this sound het
(ie)
ze
('t)
zij ze

Object case (accusative)Edit

person singular clitic plural clitic
1st About this sound mij me ons -
2nd (fam.) About this sound jou je jullie -
2nd (polite) u - u -
2nd (South) u - u -
3rd hem
haar
het
('m)
(d'r)
('t)
hen (hun*) ze

RemarksEdit

  1. As you see not all pronouns have clitics and some of them (shown in parentheses) are not used in the written language.
  2. The pronouns in italics: hij, zij (sing.), hem, haar, hen and hun are increasingly reserved for persons and animate objects. For inanimate objects these pronouns usually get replaced either by demonstrative pronouns (see lesson 4) or by a special kind of adverb, the pronominal adverb (see lesson 8)
  3. *In speaking, many Dutch speakers use the dative form hun instead of the accusative hen. This is because the hen form was artificially created by the grammarians of the past [1] In the spoken language hen is seldom used and speakers increasingly avoid the issue by opting for the clitic ze.

Exercises 1-1Edit

YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 1 • Ik, jij, wij, jullie, mij pronunciation drill

Push the button, repeat in the pauses and say the requested words in Dutch

SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 1 • Ik, jij, wij, jullie, mij pronunciation drill


YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 1 • pronouns 1: translation exercise


Translate into Dutch:

  1. How are you, Mr. Bush?
  2. How are you, Jan?
  3. Are you merchants?
  4. John runs into us.
  5. We meet John in the street
  6. He is visiting
  7. We are from England
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 1 • pronouns 1: translation exercise


  1. How are you, Mr. Bush?
    Hoe gaat het met u, meneer Bos
  2. How are you, Jan?
    Hoe gaat het met je, Jan
  3. Are you merchants?
    Zijn jullie handelaars?
  4. John runs into us.
    Jan komt ons tegen
  5. We meet John in the street
    Wij komen Jan op straat tegen
  6. He is visiting
    Hij is op bezoek
  7. We are from England
    Wij zijn* uit Engeland
(komen* to come would be better)
YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 1 • pronouns 2: indentification exercise

Identify all personal pronouns in the two above conversations by person, case, number polite/familliar form and weak/strong form.

Are there any cases where the case is different from what the English translation has? Why?
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 1 • pronouns 2: indentification exercise

Jan komt Karel op straat tegen. Ze zijn vrienden.

(3rd person plural nominative weak)
Jan: Goedendag, Karel. Hoe gaat het met je?
(2nd person singular accusative weak)
Karel: Goedendag. Dank je, met mij gaat het goed. En met jou?
(1st person singular accusative strong / 2nd person singular accusative strong)
Jan: Dank je, met mij gaat het goed. Tot ziens.
(2nd person singular accusative weak / 1st person singular accusative strong)
Karel: Tot ziens, Jan!

In the expression hoe gaat het met jou, jou is in the object case, because it follows a preposition met (with). Literally it says how goes it with you. English would say: How are you? In that case you is subject, not object.

Meneer Jansen komt mevrouw De Vries tegen. Het zijn handelaars.
(3rd person singular nominative neuter) Note that Dutch often uses 'it are' to indicate generality.
Meneer Jansen: Goedendag, mevrouw De Vries!
'Mevrouw De Vries: Goedendag, meneer Jansen!
Meneer Jansen: Hoe gaat het met u?
(2nd person singular accusative polite)
Mevrouw De Vries: Zeer goed, bedankt. En met u?
(same)
Meneer Jansen: Ook goed.
Mevrouw De Vries: Mooi. Bent u meneer Standish al tegengekomen?
(2nd person singular nominative polite)
Meneer Jansen: Uit Engeland? Nee. Is hij op bezoek?
(3rd person singular nominative)
Mevrouw De Vries: Ja. Tot ziens, meneer Jansen!
Meneer Jansen: Tot ziens, mevrouw De Vries

Woordenlijst 1Edit

You have already encountered quite a few words above. Now make sure you own them! Listen to their pronunciation, sort the table by English and read back to Dutch, check the pronunciation again. Click on the blue link to go to the Dutch wiktionary and try to figure out what you may. If you do not understand, follow the interwiki link to go to the English wiktionary.

In short: there are many ways to use this table and you can try one thing one day and come back another to try something different.

Dutch word audio file English translation
de appendix About this sound appendix appendix, supplement
het bezoek About this sound bezoek visit, attendance
(het) Engeland About this sound Engeland England
het Nederlands About this sound Nederland Dutch
de vriend, vrienden About this sound vriend friend, friends
de handelaars About this sound handelaar business people, businessmen, tradesmen, merchants (pl.)
het gesprek, gesprekken About this sound gesprek | conversation, conversations
de grammatica About this sound grammatica grammar
de les About this sound les lesson
de straat About this sound straat street
de woordenlijst About this sound woordenlijst word list
de woordenschat About this sound woordenschat vocabulary
op straat About this sound op
About this sound straat
on (in) the street
tot ziens About this sound tot ziens goodbye (lit: see you again)
uit Engeland About this sound uit from England
Met mij gaat het goed I am fine (lit: With me goes it well)
goedendag! About this sound goedendag Good day (greeting)
(de) dag! About this sound dag (Good) day! Hi! Hello!
goed About this sound goed good
En met jou? About this sound jou And how are you? (lit: And with you?)
Hoe gaat het met jou (u)? How are you (lit: How goes it with you?)
hoe About this sound hoe how
gaan About this sound gaan to go
het gaat it goes
met About this sound met with
is op bezoek About this sound bezoek is visiting
tegenkomen About this sound tegenkomen to meet, come across, encounter, run into
komt ... tegen comes across , runs into, meets
bezoeken About this sound bezoeken to visit
maar About this sound maar but, however
ook About this sound ook also, too, as well
dank je, dank u. thank you;
bedankt thanks
simpel About this sound simpel simple
het About this sound het it (pronoun)
mevrouw About this sound mevrouw Ms., Miss, or Mrs.
meneer About this sound meneer Mr.
mij About this sound mij me
nee About this sound nee no
ja About this sound ja yes
correct About this sound correct correct
al About this sound al already, yet
mooi About this sound mooi beautiful (in this case, 'nice' or 'fine')
zeer About this sound zeer very
en About this sound en and


Your turn! Building vocabulary 1Edit

When learning a language you need to start building up your vocabulary. There are various ways of doing that. One is to study the above conversations well. Often words are easier to remember when put in context. But there are other ways. Wiki adds a few methods to the range of possibilities. One is the hover method. Just hover your mouse over this. We will add vocabulary building exercises to each lesson to make it easier for you to memorize it all.

YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 1 • vocabulary

Go to Dutch/Vocabulary/Personal pronouns/hover test to check your knowledge of Dutch personal pronouns.
Go to Dutch/Vocabulary/Lesson 1/hover test to check your knowledge of the above vocabulary.

SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 1 • vocabulary


YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 1 • Additional vocabulary


Go to the Dutch/Vocabulary/Survival kit to learn the 63 most important words in the Dutch language. Once you know them all, try to translate the following:

  1. Wil jij misschien een vrouw aanraken?
  2. Dit is erg slecht, denk ik.
  3. Na het leven is er de dood
  4. Ik hoor mensen hierbeneden
  5. Er is een tijd en een plaats voor alle dingen
  6. Goed en slecht, klein en groot, kort en lang zijn niet dezelfde dingen
  7. Zet een klein deel voor, een ander deel achter , iets meer boven en de rest beneden
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 1 • Additional vocabulary


  1. Would you like to touch a woman perhaps?
  2. That is very bad, I think
  3. After life there is death
  4. I hear people down here
  5. There is a time and a place for all things
  6. Good and bad, small and big, short and long are not the same things
  7. Put a small part in front, another part behind, a bit more on top and the rest below.


You may want to study some example conversations from world literature in Voorbeeld 1.

<< Lesson Layout Guide
      Pronunciation Guide >>

  1. "Dutch" by Jan G. Kooij in The world's major languages edt. Bernard Comrie ISBN 0-19-520521-9 Oxford University Press 1987