The Basics #2 — Les Twee: Die Grondbeginsels #2

Welcome to Afrikaans Lesson Two. It is good to be familiar with the material of the first lesson, so if you need to go back, don't be unwilling to do so. While we will be skipping dialogue in this lesson, more than two exercises will be provided to practice for upcoming translations. This lesson will cover plural forms, word order, past and future verbs and possessive forms.

Plurals: Vowels, "-f" and Suffixes edit

Plural forms in Afrikaans must be carefully studied as the amount of rules can feel numerous, and it's not uncommon to find many exceptions in common words. Though once learnt and practiced, it becomes a rather simple process to figure out most plurals. The general plural ending in Afrikaans is an -e. Depending on the root of the word and its ending, the plural could react in multiple different ways. From now on, plurals will be provided in the chapter vocabulary section, and if you want to view a more concise list of irregulars (especially more uncommon words), you can do so here.

In this lesson, we will not be covering words ending in the letters, "-g" and "-d" as they tend to have unique rules or be unpredictable in form. Those will be covered next lesson.

GENERAL RULE 1: Short Vowels, Long Vowels and Diphthongs edit

For words ending in an -f, see the next rule.

  • Monosyllabic words containing a single vowel generally pluralize with the final consonant doubling with the addition of the -e.
    • pan ('pan') → ˈpanne
    • vlam ('flame') → ˈvlamme
    • vis ('fish') → ˈvisse
    • rok ('dress') → ˈrokke
  • As you are aware already, long vowels in Afrikaans are shown through the doubling of a vowel. However, when we pluralize these words, the second vowel falls away with the -e plural added (however, note that the long vowel pronunciation remains).
    • uur ('hour') → ure
    • week ('week') → ˈweke
    • boom ('tree') → ˈbome
    • droom ('dream') → ˈdrome
    • muur ('wall') → ˈmure
    • naam ('name') → ˈname
  • Diphthongs are a combination of two different vowel sounds, distinguished in Afrikaans with two different vowels (eg. aai, eu, ie, oe, ou). The majority of the time, monosyllabic words containing diphthongs pluralize with an -e.
    • deur ('door') → deure
    • boer ('farmer') → boere
    • koek ('cake') → koeke
    • woud ('forest') → woude
    • dier ('animal') → diere

GENERAL RULE 2: Words Ending in -f edit

  • Short Vowel nouns ending in an -f change to a -wwe when they are pluralized.
    • staf ('wooden staff') → ˈstawwe
    • straf ('punishment') → ˈstrawwe
  • For nouns containing long vowels, diphthongs and the vowel, y, these have their -f become a -we when pluralized.
    • graaf ('shovel') → ˈgrawe
    • kloof ('ravine') → ˈklowe
    • druif ('grape') → ˈdruiwe
    • brief ('letter') → ˈbriewe
    • olˈyf ('olive') → olˈywe

GENERAL RULE 3: Words Ending in "-ie" & -"ee" edit

  • Nouns ending in an -ie almost always have their plural as an -s.
    • horˈlosie ('watch') → horlosies
    • poˈsisie ('position') → posisies
    • akaˈdemie ('academy') → akademies
  • Monosyllabic words ending in -ee pluralize with the final e becoming an ë.
    • see ('sea') → seë
    • fee ('fairy') → feë
    • tree ('pace') → treë

GENERAL RULE 4: Suffixes 1 edit

  • The suffix -heid always pluralizes as -hede, no matter the circumstances.
    • ˈskoonheid ('beauty') → skoonhede
    • ˈbesigheid ('business') → besighede
    • ˈkleinigheid ('trifle') → kleinighede
  • When referring to an inanimate object, the suffix, -us always pluralizes as -kusse. However, when the object is animate (referring to a human), an alternate plural is available in which the -kus changes to a -ci.
    • ˈsirkus ('circus') → sirkusse
    • ˈfisikus ('physicist') → fisikusse OR fisici
    • poˈlitikus ('politician') → politici (for this word, the "-ci" ending is more common)
    • ˈmusikus ('musician') → musici (for this word, the "-ci" ending is more common)

CONVENIENT RULE: Family Plurals edit

  • Conveniently, any noun that refers to a family member pluralizes with an -s, no matter its vowels. This is pleasant as the word list contains some irregularities (seun, broer, oom).
    • ˈvader ('father') → vaders
    • ˈmoeder ('mother') → moeders
    • broer ('brother') → broers
    • ˈsuster ('sister') → susters
    • seun ('son'; also 'boy') → seuns
    • ˈdogter ('daughter') → dogters
    • neef ('male cousin'; also 'nephew') → neefs
    • nigˈgie ('female cousin'; also 'niece) → niggies
    • ˈoupa ('grandfather') → oupas
    • ˈouma ('grandmother') → oumas
    • oom ('uncle') → ooms
    • ˈtante ('aunt') → tantes

Verbs: Sentence Structure, The Simple Past, Past Perfect and Simple Future edit

Sentence structure in Afrikaans functions quite differently to English. Whenever we start the sentence with the subject, and that sentence contains two (or more) verbs, the general idea is that one of those verbs must be shifted to the end of the sentence. This means that there will only ever be a single verb before a noun phrase. While this seems daunting, the rules are steadfast in formation. The past and future tenses both require auxiliary verbs, and utilize this movement of the second verb in simple sentences. For triple verb sentences, the Afrikaans word order is:

Subject Verb 1
{Noun Phrase}
Verb 2
{Main Verb}
Verb 3→

Though the first two verbs can be any type of verb, the third verb and any verb following is always an infinitive. This will be useful to know for when you will get to the usage of auxiliaries in Afrikaans.

The Simple Past edit

The formation of Afrikaans simple past is the only time that the verb form is modified. Though there are a set of prefixes that absolve its usage, the general affix, ge is tacked to the verb root, the root maintaining its stress pattern. Another prerequisite of forming the past tense in Afrikaans is always to have the auxiliary verb, "het" ('have') as the first verb. This may seem familiar to the English past perfect ('I had...'). And so, to summarize, the general rule of the past tense is {het + geˈ[INF.]}.

  • I drink the juice. → Ek drink die sap.
  • I drank the juice. → Ek het die sap geˈdrink. (note both second verb placement and suffix)

One thing to note is that verbs beginning with the letter, "e" must have the first letter of the root receive a diaeresis.

  • I eat sausage. → Ek eet wors.
  • I ate sausage. → Ek het wors geˈëet.

As stated before, not all verb forms can take the ge affix. In words beginning with the prefixes, be-; ge-; er-; her-; mis-; ont-; ver-, these forms remain the EXACT same when in the past tense.

  • I understand him. → Ek verˈstaan hom.
  • I understood him. → Ek het hom verˈstaan. (note the sentence structure)

The Simple Future edit

While the Afrikaans future tense requires that the word order change and that an auxiliary verb be used, the actual verb form itself does not change. So, in order to form the future tense, one must use "sal" ('will' and 'shall') and need only use the present participle of the verb. So, the rule of the future tense is {sal + [INF]}

  • I drink the juice. → Ek drink die sap.
  • I will drink the juice. → Ek sal die sap drink.
  • I eat sausage. → Ek eet wors.
  • I will eat sausage. → Ek sal wors eet.
  • I understand him. → Ek verˈstaan hom.
  • I will understand him. → Ek sal hom verˈstaan.

Verbs: "om te wees" and "om te hê" edit

KEEP IN MIND: The auxiliary "have to" cannot be constructed with "om te hê" in Afrikaans.
As we had noted in the previous lesson, the verbs "om te wees" ('to be') and "om te hê" ('to have') both have unique conjugations per the Afrikaans standard. Despite this, they are still quite simple to grasp.

For the sake of convenience, the future tense has been included to familiarize the learner. As "om te wees" is technically an auxiliary, it comes before "om te hê" in the place of the second verb. Below is a mixture of the two verbs used together. One can simply memorize the forms below in order to describe time of occurrence.

om te wees om te hê
  • I am. → Ek is.

  • I was. → Ek was.
    • I have been. → Ek was. (BE CAREFUL!)
    • I had been. → Ek was geˈwees. (BE CAREFUL!)

  • I will be. → Ek sal wees.
    • I will have been. → Ek sal geˈwees het.
  • I have. → Ek het.

  • I had. → Ek het geˈhad.
    • I have had. → Ek het geˈhad.
    • I had had. → Ek het geˈhad.

  • I will have. → Ek sal .
    • I will have had. → Ek sal geˈhad het.
I am here. I have a fish.
  • I am here. → Ek is hier.

  • I was here. → Ek was hier.
    • I have been here. → Ek was hier.
    • I had been here. → Ek was hier geˈwees.

  • I will be here. → Ek sal hier wees.
    • I will have been here. → Ek sal hier geˈwees het.
  • I have a fish. → Ek het ʼn vis.

  • I had a fish. → Ek het ʼn vis geˈhad.
    • I have had a fish. → Ek het ʼn vis geˈhad.
    • I had had a fish. → Ek het ʼn vis geˈhad.

  • I will have a fish. → Ek sal ʼn vis hê.
    • I will have had a fish. → Ek sal ʼn vis geˈhad het.

Pronouns: Possessive Determiners and Pronouns edit

Subject Pronouns: Dummy Pronoun and Items edit

We will quickly go over another aspect of subject pronouns. When referring to an object as it or they, these are always referred to as dit, no matter the number, though it is common to collectivize such.

  • 'It is a shoe.' = "Dit is ʼn skoen."
  • 'They are shoes.' = "Dit is ˈskoene."

The same applies to the 'Weather "It"', a dummy pronoun.

  • 'It is sunny.' = "Dit is ˈsonnig."

Pronouns: Multiple Subject Pronouns edit

One area in which the languages differ is in when there are multiple subject pronouns one after the other. Whereas English always has 'I' come after any other subject pronoun, it is the opposite in Afrikaans where ek comes first.

  • You and I eat cake. → Ek and jy eet koek.
  • He, she and I think so. → Ek, hy en sy dink so.

Possessive Determiners edit

Person English Afrikaans English Afrikaans English Afrikaans
Singular Plural Formal
1st Pers. my my our ons
2nd Pers. your jou your ˈjulle your u
3rd Pers. his/its her sy haar they ˈhulle

The structure works as English does. Pleasantly, the plural and ("u") possessive determiners remain the exact same as their subject and object forms.

  • It is your hat. → Dit is jou hoed.
  • It is her dress. → Dit is haar rok.

In a sentence referring to possession, one must be careful not to confuse "Sy" as 'She'. Obviously note the word following the use.

  • It is his pencil. → Dit is sy ˈpotˌlood.

When forming the possessive demonstrative with a noun, the particle "se" is used to denote such.

  • They are the girl's shoes. → Dit is die ˈmeisie se skoene.
  • It is the woman's jewel. → Dit is die vrou se juˈweel.

Possessive Pronouns (Genitive Case) edit

Person English Afrikaans English Afrikaans English Afrikaans
Singular Plural Formal
1st Pers. mine ˈmyne ours ons s'n
2nd Pers. yours ˈjoune yours ˈjulle s'n your u s'n
van u
3rd Pers. his/its hers ˈsyne ˈhare theirs ˈhulle s'n

Again, there are no real differences in usage of the genitive pronouns between the two languages.

  • The hat is yours. → Die hoed is ˈjoune.
  • The dress is hers. → Die rok is ˈhare.
  • The pencil is his. → Die potlood is ˈsyne.

However, there is a small difference if to couple with the preposition, 'of'. For this purpose, English would use the construction {of + genitive prn.}. Instead, Afrikaans uses the construction {van + object prn.}.

  • The hat of mine. → Die hoed van my. (van myne)
  • The dress of yours. → Die rok van jou.
  • The pencil of his. → Die potlood van hom.

Though all plural forms take "s'n", "u" is more open to using the aforementioned 'of'. This ends up creating a somewhat nonstandard construction of "van u" ('of you').

  • The cake is yours. → (standard) Die koek is u s'n; (nonstandard) Die koek is van u.

The particle "s'n" remains as the possessor with a noun.

  • The shoes are the girl's. → Die skoene is die meisie s'n.
  • The jewel is the woman's. → Die juweel is die vrou s'n.

Chapter Vocabulary edit

As many words were introduced via examples, the 'chapter vocabulary' will be short, and so, one should learn all of the words that were previously showcased in the plural section. Many of those words are commonplace, and to know them will be very helpful.

Nouns and Adjectives Verbs and Adverbs Numerals: 11 - 20
English Afrikaans English Afrikaans English Afrikaans
autumn herfs to believe om te glo eleven elf
book boek (-e) to come om te kom twelve twaalf
café kaˈfee (-s) to do om te doen thirteen ˈdertien
cinema bioˈskoop (bioskope) to drink om te drink fourteen ˈveertien
document geˈskrif (-te) to go om te gaan fifteen ˈvyftien
dog hond (-e) to make om te maak sixteen ˈsestien
film; movie fliek (-e) to write om te skryf seventeen ˈsewentien
food kos now nou eighteen ˈagttien
spring lente nineteen ˈnegentien
twenty ˈtwintig

Exercises edit

Exercise A: Plural Forms edit

Below are words you have not yet encountered. However, using the plural rules above, you can determine which fits what. After completion of the exercise, try to put these words to memory.

  • boot
  • bal
  • ˈkoppie
  • voet
  • sif
  • vuur
  • kat
  • pen
  • dief
  • ˈstasie
  • kleur
  • boot ('boat') → ˈbote
  • bal ('ball') → ˈballe
  • koppie ('cup') → ˈkoppies
  • voet ('foot') → ˈvoete
  • sif ('sieve') → ˈsiwwe
  • vuur ('fire') → ˈvure
  • kat ('cat') → ˈkatte
  • pen ('pen') → ˈpenne
  • dief ('thief') → ˈdiewe
  • stasie ('station') → ˈstasies
  • kleur ('colour') → ˈkleure

Exercise B: Forming Tenses edit

You will be given very basic sentences that you must first form in the past tense and then the future.

  • Sy slaap.
  • Ek eet.
  • Dit is jou kat.
  • Waar is Jan?
  • Jy verstaan my.
  • Sy het ʼn rok.
  • Julle skryf die geskrif.
  • Ek glo haar broer.
  • Die vrou het baie juwele.
  • Sy slaap.
    • Sy het geslaap.
    • Sy sal slaap.
  • Ek eet.
    • Ek het geëet.
    • Ek sal eet.
  • Dit is jou kat.
    • Dit was jou kat gewees.
    • Dit sal jou kat wees.
  • Waar is Jan?
    • Waar was Jan gewees?
    • Waar sal Jan wees?
  • Jy verstaan my.
    • Jy het my verstaan.
    • Jy sal my verstaan.
  • Sy het ʼn rok
    • Sy het ʼn rok gehad.
    • Sy sal ʼn rok hê.
  • Julle skryf die geskrif.
    • Julle het die geskrif geskryf.
    • Julle sal die geskrif skryf.
  • Ek glo sy broer.
    • Ek het sy broer geglo.
    • Ek sal sy broer glo.
  • Die vrou het baie juwele
    • Die vrou het baie juwele gehad.
    • Die vrou sal baie juwele hê

Exercise C: Translate into English edit

  • Mag ons gaan?
  • Ek sal die fliek kyk.
  • Dit is sy broer se horlosie.
  • Sy het met haar skoene aan geslaap.
  • Dit was sonnig.
  • Ja, ek het ʼn hond gehad.
  • May we go?
  • I will be watching the film.
  • It is his brother's watch.
  • She slept with her shoes on.
  • It has been sunny.
  • Yes, I have had a dog.

Exercise D: Translate into Afrikaans edit

  • Where are her brothers?
  • I will go make food.
  • They could have been here.
  • Oh, the book is theirs.
  • He will have eaten the cake.
  • Thirteen, Fourteen, Nineteen, Sixteen, Twelve, Eighteen
  • Waar is haar broers?
  • Ek sal kos gaan maak.
  • Hulle kon hier gewees het.
  • O, die boek is hulle s'n.
  • Hy sal die koek geëet het.
  • Dertien, Veertien, Negentien, Sestien, Twaalf, Agtien

The Next Lesson edit

Between this and lesson one, you have been handed a great many words to learn. In the next lesson, we shall cover more plural forms, the infinitive modifier, demonstratives and some practical description. Good luck on your studies!

On to Lesson Three!>>

If you're still feeling shaky or want to review the previous chapter:

<<Back to Lesson One.