Dutch/Lesson 3

Les 3 ~ Lesson 3

De Getallen ~ The Numbers

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Gesprek 3-1Edit

Mam teaches her toddler, Jeroen to count:

Mam: Hoeveel vingertjes heb je, Jeroen?
Jeroen: een, twee, drie, vier, vijf.
Mam: en je andere hand?
Jeroen: ook vijf!
Mam: Ja, tel ze maar: zes, zeven, acht, negen en tien
Translation • Lesson 3 • Gesprek 3-1
  • How many little fingers do you have, Jerome?
  • One, two, three , four, five.
  • And your other hand?
  • Five too!
  • Yes, but do count them: six, seven, eight, nine and ten

Leren 3 ~ Tellen van 1 tot 12Edit

In Dutch, as in English, there are both ordinal and cardinal numbers, and number formation is similar in that the first twelve numbers are unique. Above twelve, numbers are formed by combination. For example, 15 is vijftien and 16 is zestien. Other numbers will be the subject of more advanced lessons.

Note in the table how ordinals are formed from the cardinals in Dutch by adding -de. 'Ten' becomes 'tenth' in English; tien become tiende in Dutch. As in English, there are several variants: eerste, derde, and achtste.

cardinal numbers
ordinal numbers
one  een  1st  eerste 
two twee 2nd tweede
three drie 3rd derde
four vier 4th vierde
five vijf 5th vijfde
six zes 6th zesde
seven zeven 7th zevende
eight acht 8th achtste
nine negen 9th negende
ten tien 10th tiende
eleven elf 11th elfde
twelve twaalf 12th twaalfde

Remark: een is used both as an indefinite article (a or an) and a number (one). One often puts accents on the e's when one is meant in case of ambiguity: één. There is also a difference in pronunciation: /ən/ (schwa-n) for the article and /e:n/ (ayn) for the number.

Eerst en laatstEdit

The ordinals are a special kind of adjectives. They always have the inflection -e. So, words like *zesd do not exist. The only exception is eerst. As in English, it can be used as an adverb:

Hij gaat eerst naar huis - he first goes home

Its opposite (antonym) is laatst as adverb and laatste as adjective:

de laatste trein - the last train.

Pronunciation drills 3-1. Your turn to say something- Uw beurt om iets te zeggen!!Edit

YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 3 • Listen and speak

Repeat the pronunciation in the pauses:

  1. About this sound listen to the numbers 5-4-3-2-1
  2. About this sound listen to the numbers 10-9-8-7-6
  3. About this sound translate English numerals into Dutch
  4. About this sound listen to the ordinals 5th-1st
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 3 • Listen and speak

A good trick is to do an exercise twice and repeat it after 20 minutes or so again. Then do it the next day again.

Grammatica 3-1 ~ Telling time (hours)Edit

Knowing the numbers from 1 to 12, you can now begin asking and telling time in Dutch.

Gesprek 3-2Edit

Twee jongens, Hendrik en Karel, zijn vrienden. Op een middag komen ze elkaar tegen.

  • Hendrik: Karel. Hoe gaat het?
  • Karel: Hallo!
  • Hendrik: Wil je voetballen?
  • Karel: Graag, maar hoe laat is het?
  • Hendrik: Het is één uur.
  • Karel: Dan kan ik nog tot twee uur spelen.
  • Hendrik: Dat is goed. We spelen nog een uur lang!
  • Karel: Ja, En daarna breng je me op je motor naar huis.
Translation • Lesson 3 • Gesprek 3-2

Two guys, Henry and Charley, are friends. They meet one afternoon.

  • Henry: Charley. How are you?
  • Charley: Hi!
  • Henry: Do you want to play soccer?
  • Charley: I'd love to, but what time is it? (lit.: How late is it?)
  • Henry: It is one o'clock
  • Charley: Then I can still play until two o'clock.
  • Henry: That's all right. We can play for another hour
  • Charley: Yes, and then you take me home on your motorbike.
YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 3 • waar of niet waar
  1. Hendrik en Karel zijn vrienden maar zeggen u tegen elkaar
  2. Zij spelen graag voetbal
  3. Karel kan nog twee uur voetballen
  4. Het is één uur als zij elkaar tegenkomen
  5. Hendrik heeft een motor.
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 3 • waar of niet waar
  1. Hendrik en Karel zijn vrienden maar zeggen u tegen elkaar - niet waar, zij zeggen jij en jou.
  2. Zij spelen graag voetbal - waar
  3. Karel kan nog twee uur voetballen -niet waar, hij kan maar één uur lang spelen
  4. Het is één uur als zij elkaar tegenkomen - waar
  5. Hendrik heeft een motor. - waar
De klokkentoren van Antwerpen

Asking for the time is accomplished by the sentence:

Hoe laat is het? ("What time is it?", lit. "How late is it?").

The answer is:

Het is ____ uur - "It is ____ o'clock", substituting the correct cardinal value.


The half hours are indicated differently in Dutch:

het is half twaalf - 11:30
it is half past eleven


het is kwart voor zes - 5:45
het is kwart over zes - 6:15
YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 3 • de tijd

Answer the question:

Hoe laat is het?
  1. 7:15
  2. 11:45
  3. 2:30
  4. 1:00
  5. 12:15
  6. 12:00
  7. 6:45
  8. 4:00
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 3 • de tijd
  1. 7:15 - het is kwart over zeven
  2. 11:45 - het is kwart voor twaalf
  3. 2:30 - het is half drie
  4. 1:00 - het is één uur
  5. 12:15 - het is kwart over twaalf
  6. 12:00 - het is twaalf uur
  7. 6:45 - het is kwart voor zeven
  8. 4:00 - het is vier uur

Grammatica 3-2 ~ Some more word order: inversionEdit

We have seen that inversion of subject and verb is used to create a question:

Het is twee uur
Hoe laat is het?

However, recall from the conversation that inversion happens for other reasons.

...daarna breng je...
...op een middag komen ze...

These are not questions, still there is inversion. The reason is that the adverb daarna or the adverbial expression op een middag was put before the subject + verb part for emphasis. This causes inversion. We could also have said:

Jij brengt mij daarna op je motor naar huis.
Zij komen elkaar op een middag tegen.

Notice that the verb loses final -t when using the informal second person jij or je in such cases as it does in questions:

jij brengt - breng je
YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 3 • inversion for emphasis

The following sentences end in an adverbial expression like in the morning. Put this expression a the front of the sentence for emphasis. Be sure to use clitics when appropriate and not when not.

  1. wij voetballen niet op straat.
  2. hij komt om twee uur
  3. het gaat goed met je
  4. het rode huis staat op de hoek
  5. hij heet Jan van 't Hoff
  6. wij brengen jou niet met de motor naar huis
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 3 • inversion for emphasis
  1. op straat voetballen we niet .
  2. om twee uur komt hij.
  3. met jou gaat het goed
  4. op de hoek staat het rode huis
  5. Jan van 't Hoff heet hij
  6. met de motor brengen we je niet naar huis

Grammatica 3-3 ~ Introduction to naamwoordenEdit

Dutch grammar uses the word naamwoord (lit. name-word) that does not translate well into English. Naamwoorden indicates a rather broad class of words, both independently used (like nouns) or used to specify another word (like adjectives). Dutch grammar is therefore structured a bit differently from the English one. Besides naamwoorden there are two other large classes of words in Dutch: werkwoorden (verbs) and bijwoorden (adverbs).

A noun is a fundamental part of speech, occurring in sentences in two different ways: as subjects (performers of action), or objects (recipients of action). As a generality, a noun is the name of a "person, place, thing or concept".

Nouns are classified into

  1. proper nouns (eigennamen): e.g. "Janet"
  2. common nouns (zelfstandige naamwoorden): e.g. "girl"
  3. cardinals (telwoorden): e.g. one, two, three, etc.
  4. pronouns (voornaamwoorden): e.g. "she", "her"

The latter group is often considered a separate class of words. They stand in for (pro-, voor-) nouns. Words like "hij" - "he" are known as personal pronouns (persoonlijke voornaamwoorden)

Dutch has its own grammatical nomenclature and to use dictionaries and grammars it is useful to know it.

Noun is rendered as zelfstandig naamwoord ('nameword that stands on itself'). An adjective is called bijvoeglijk naamwoord (nameword that can be added). Naamwoord is more general than noun. It derives from the Latin term nomen: nomen substantivum (zelfstandig naamwoord) and nomen adiectivum (bijvoeglijk naamwoord).

Adjectives are usually added to nouns to further determine them:

"mooi" weer
"beautiful" weather

Some pronouns, e.g. possessive pronouns (bezittelijk voornaamwoord) are used as adjectives:

"mijn" auto
"my" car

A special class of adjectives is formed by the articles (lidwoorden):

"the" car
"de" auto

Gender of NounsEdit

We have seen evidence of word gender in the pronouns we have been encountering; notably 'he', 'she', and 'it' in English and hij, zij, and het in Dutch. We also saw that adjectives depend on gender in Dutch.

There are a few rules that help to determine a noun's gender, but mostly it must be learned as children do: word by word.

Noun gender is also reflected in the definite article It should always be learned as part of the noun, as this is a good way to memorize gender.

Definite ArticlesEdit

Definite articles are equivalent to an English 'the', and the two basic gender forms in Dutch are as follows:

het: neuter singular (pronounce /hEt/, "h-eh-t")
de: (pronounce /də/) all other cases

Animate nounsEdit

Much like in English there are three genders for animate nouns (people, pets etc.) and this shows up clearly in their personal pronouns: hij, zij and het (he, she and it) and their possessive pronouns zijn, haar and zijn (his, her, its):

To say 'the man' in Dutch, you would say de man, because man is a masculine noun.
You refer to de man with hij (he): Hij is een man. Een man en zijn (his) hond
To say 'the woman' in Dutch, you would say de vrouw, because vrouw is a feminine noun.
You would say: Zij (she) is een vrouw. Een vrouw en haar (her) werk
To say 'the calf' in Dutch, you would say het kalf, because kalf is a neuter noun.
You would say: Het (it) is een kalf. Een kalf en zijn (its) stal

However, zijn is not used much anymore to refer to a neuter word and we will see a different way of expressing "its" later.

In the plural the gender distinctions are absent: de mannen, de vrouwen, de kalveren are all referred to by zij (they) and hun (their).

As you see the definite article is the same for masculine and feminine, but it is not just definite articles, but also adjectives and pronouns that must match the gender of the noun they are related to.

Inanimate nounsEdit

In the Netherlands (the North) the distinction between masculine and feminine was lost for inanimate nouns (things, concepts etc.) in the 17th century. The feminine and the masculine have merged into a common gender north of de grote riveren (the Great Rivers: the Meuse, the Rhine and its branches) almost entirely. Someone learning the language therefore best considers Dutch a two-gender language for anything but persons:

the clock is de klok, because it is common gender
the book is het boek, because it is neuter gender

This does not hold for the South, where a "de klok" may still be referred to as "zij" (she), but it is acceptable standard Dutch to disregard the masculine-feminine distinction.

By contrast, the twofold split common-neuter is still very much alive in Dutch and this must be mastered by any beginner to learn the language well. Therefore, it is important when learning Dutch nouns to always learn them together with their correct definite article. That is:

Memorize the word for 'book' in Dutch as het boek, not simply boek.
Memorize the word for 'clock' in Dutch as de klok, not simply klok.

This is by far the most important thing you should do right now. The fine distinctions between the varieties of the language can wait.

The reference problemEdit

As we saw above the personal pronouns (hij,zij,het) still show the three-gender distinction that Dutch inherited from its Indoeuropean ancestry. That makes it hard to use personal pronouns for an inanimate common gender word. Nowadays hij and zij are pretty much restricted to people or their pets, so they indicate natural rather than grammatical gender, certainly in the North. In the South de klok may still be called a she, but Northerners avoid such references and so should you. Notice that you cannot resort to het (it) as done in English, because de klok is not neuter...

This leaves roughly two thirds of all inanimate nouns without a personal pronoun to refer them by. For possessive pronouns (his, her, its) a similar problem exists.

We shall see three common ways that speakers use to avoid this reference problem:

These three aspects of the language play a more prominent role in Dutch than they do in English. One could say that the merger of m/f into common gender has triggered a number of shifts in the language, that for example German or English do not have and must be mastered to speak Dutch well.

Rules for genderEdit

There are a few general (and helpful) rules for gender:

  1. Diminutives are neuter: de klok → het klokje
  2. Words in -ing, -heid, -teit, -te carry de. (they are actually feminine, but do not worry about that).
  3. Loans usually retain their gender: (Latin) museum → het museum (both neuter).

Another helpful fact is that all genders behave the same in the plural, all use de, die, zij etc.

Apart from these general rules, nouns should be memorized together with their definite article. So, learn "de klok", not just "klok" and "het paard" not just "paard"

Double genderEdit

There is an interesting group of words for which the natural gender is in conflict with the grammatical gender, e.g. diminutives of people:

The girl: het meisje
The (little) boy: het jongetje

Grammatically they are neuter and their articles, adjectives and demonstratives follow the neuter pattern. However the personal and possessive pronouns follow the natural gender:

Een mooi (n!) meisje en haar (f!) moeder
Dat (n!) jongetje? Hij (m!) is niet hier

YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 3 • naamwoorden

Translate the following grammatical terms and find an example of each in Dutch

  • naamwoord
    • zelfstandig naamwoord
      • eigennaam
      • persoonlijk voornaamwoord
      • hoofdtelwoord
    • bijvoeglijk naamwoord
      • lidwoord
      • bezittelijk voornaamwoord
      • rangtelwoord
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 3 • naamwoorden
  • noun/adjective:
    • noun: "auto", "huis"
      • proper noun: "Jan"
      • personal pronoun: "ik"
      • numeral: "twaalf"
    • adjective: "mooi"
      • article: "de, het, een"
      • possesive pronoun: "mijn"
      • ordinal: "tweede"

Woordenlijst 3Edit

Dutch word audio file English translation
het boek About this sound boek book
het getal, de getallen About this sound getal number, numbers
het huis About this sound huis house
de jongen, de jongens About this sound jongen boy, boys
de klok About this sound klok clock
de klokkentoren About this sound klokkentoren clock tower
de man About this sound man man
het meisje About this sound meisje girl
de middag About this sound middag afternoon
de motor About this sound motor motorcycle
het uur About this sound uur hour; also "o'clock"
de vrouw About this sound vrouw woman
breng je me... you take me...
dat is goed very well (lit.: "that is good")
Ik kan... spelen I can play...
Het is It is
Hoe laat is het? What is the time?
op een middag one afternoon
tot twee uur until two o'clock
Wil je... ? Do you want... ? (familiar form; also: Would you like to... ?)
van x tot y from x to y (exclusive)
brengen About this sound brengen to bring
spelen About this sound spelen to play
tellen About this sound tellen to count
voetballen About this sound voetballen to play soccer/football
dan About this sound dan then
daarna About this sound daarna after that
elkaar About this sound elkaar each other
hallo About this sound hallo hello
jouw About this sound jouw your
je About this sound je you
lang About this sound lang long
laat About this sound laat late
mijn About this sound mijn my
naar About this sound naar to (as in "I'm driving to London.")
tot About this sound tot to/until
we About this sound we we

Also included in the vocabulary for Lesson 3 are the ordinal and cardinal numbers 1 through 12 from the table at the beginning of this lesson.

Pronunciation Guide>>

Last modified on 6 April 2014, at 19:29