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Advanced level: cycle 6

Les 22 ~ Lesson 22

Deelwoorden ~ Participles



Usage of participlesEdit

Some recapitulationEdit

As we have seen Dutch verbs typically have, much like English, two participles. In English they are called the present and the past participle:

English term infinitive present participle past participle
English example to make making made
Dutch example maken makend gemaakt
Dutch term onbepaalde wijs onvoltooid deelwoord voltooid deelwoord

As we have seen Dutch grammar prefers to call the latter the perfect participle, because it indicates that the action has been completed, not that this occurred at any particular point of time, such as the past.

In English both participles are used to form verb tenses with an auxiliary verb:

I am making something -- present continuous tense
I have made something -- perfect tense

In Dutch this is only true for the perfect:

Ik heb iets gemaakt - voltooid tegenwoordige tijd

A sentence like:

Ik ben iets makende*

sounds like a bad joke in Dutch.

The combination zijn + onvoltooid deelwoord is pretty rare in Dutch, except for the odd expression like:

Wat is hier gaande? -- Wat is going on here?

That does not imply however that the onvoltooid deelwoord is never used in Dutch. There are other uses, besides the conjugation of verbs.

Other usesEdit

In Greek grammar participles were recognized as a separate word category besides verbs, nouns, adverbs etc. In modern grammar they are usually just seen as a verb form. But although they lived more than 2000 years ago, the Greeks were far from crazy: participles have interesting properties because they have a dual role: they are both verb and adjective (or both verb and adverb) at the same time.

Present participleEdit

The Dutch present participle is certainly in use:

Een grapje makend trachtte hij haar aandacht te krijgen. - Making a joke he tried to get her attention.

Here een grapje makend is an adverbial expression. Notice that while being used as an adverb, the participle makend still shows its verbal properties by carrying a direct object een grapje.

Another example:

De in zijn handen wrijvende man mopperde op het koude weer. De hand rubbing man moped about the cold weather.

Here wrijvende is clearly an adjective to the noun man, but, true to its dual nature it still carries an adverbial expression in zijn handen.

Present participles are active in meaning and can be used this way for all transitive, inergative and absolute verbs:

de slaande man
de blaffende hond
de schijnende zon

Reflexive and reciprocal verbs also take hebben in the perfect and their present participles are used the same way:

Zich badend zong hij een aria. - While bathing he sang an aria
Elkaar heftig zoenend namen zij afscheid. - Kissing each other passionately they said goodbye

But also ergatives can form them, indicating the process they depict is in full swing

de smeltende sneeuw - the melting snow.

The only group that does not form them are the impersonal verbs:

De regenende '?'

Occasionally compound present participles are encountered:

De was gedaan hebbend ging zij even lekker zitten - Having done the laundry, she enjoyed sitting down for a moment.

In Dutch this easily sounds artificial and clumsy. That is even more so for passive forms.

De was gedaan zijnde/wordende ... De laundry having been/being done ..

This sounds like you just stepped out of a time machine from the 18th century or so. Wordend is still used today but typically with an adjective in comparative form:

de ouder wordende mens - the aging person
dunner wordend haar - thinning hair

Past participleEdit


The past participle is used similarly as adjective or as adverb, but it has a passive meaning and that means that the use as adjective / adverb is restricted to two types of verbs: transitives and ergatives. (Those that can take zijn as an auxiliary of the perfect).

transitive: slaan - to beat
De geslagen hond - the beaten dog.
ergative: stollen - to solidify, stiffen
Het gestolde vet - the solidified grease

Inergative verbs only have impersonal passives -without a subject-, so there is no subject for the adjective/participle to attach itself to. The same goes for absolute verbs. Reflexive and reciprocal verbs have pronouns like zich or elkaar as (dummy) objects and these are not suitable for attachment either. So, none of these groups of verbs have perfect participles that can be used as attributive adjectives.

There is one expression in which the participle is used in an active sense

De gebeten hond zijn. lit. to be the bitten dog

The real meaning is: de gebeten (hebbende) hond - the dog who did the biting

The expression 'de gebeten hond zijn' means something like 'to be the fall guy', 'the person who takes all the blame.


Despite this limitation past participles abound in various types of constructions. An interesting phenomenon is that they often can also form antonyms with the prefix on- (English un-)

Gekookte groente - ongekookte groente boiled/cooked vegetables - uncooked ones

Constructions with rakenEdit

Another more verbal construction is that the auxiliary raken can make an ergative construction with a past participle of a transitive verb.

verwarren - to confuse, to mix up
Het touw is verward geraakt - the rope got tangled

Raken can actually do this with adjectives in general.

Constructions with komenEdit

Remember the clock of Arnemuiden?

Wendt het roer - we komen thuis gevaren!

Some participles can form adverbial constructions with the verb komen. In this sentence the word gevaren specifies how the fishermen are coming home: by sailing on a boat. The participle is an adverb here. There are many more such constructions, particularly with a participle with the prefix aan. Invariably the prefix áán- receives the stress of the word. These constructions are not easily translated into English and have been a bone of contention between grammarians.

Hij kwam áángelopen - He arrived walking
Het schip kwam áángevaren - The ship was just sailing into the harbor (or arrived wherever the speaker might be)

Often these are 'pseudo-participles' in the sense that they seem to derive from an otherwise non-existent verb.

Hij kwam vrolijk áángefloten - He arrived cheerfully whistling

Aanfluiten does exist but it means booing and whistling someone and aanvaren is to ram a ship in a collision. That is not at all the verbs these sentences derive from. Perhaps the easiest way to analyze these constructions is to separate the aan- prefix and pretend it comes from the separable verb aankomen (to arrive)

Hij kwam aan. (he arrived) (how?) gelopen! (walking!) - He arrived walking
Het schip kwam aan. (the ship arrived) (how?) gevaren! (sailing!) - The ship was just sailing into the harbor (or arrived wherever the speaker might be)
Hij kwam vrolijk aan. (he arrived cheerfully) (how?) gefloten (he has whistled while doing it) - He arrived cheerfully while whistling

Clearly, again the participles are adverbs in that they make the statement about arriving more precise, but why they join with the prepositional adverb as the unstressed (clitic) part of a sinlge joint adverb remains mysterious. When putting the sentences in the perfect tense komen is represented by its infinitive in lieu of a participle and the clitic behavior is resolved.

Hij was aan komen lopen
Hij was vrolijk aan komen fluiten <-this is only acceptable as a joke


In imitation of classical Latin and Greek epithets Dutch has developed quite a few words that resemble participles in their function and structure but that do not derive from an existing verb, e.g:

Een breedgeschouderde man - a man broad in his shoulders

This word seems to be a compound of breed (broad) and a participle geschouderd, but schouderen does not exist as a verb at all. Instead the word derives from the noun schouder (shoulder).