In this blog, we will discuss verb conjugation in Dutch with you. Roughly, Dutch verbs can be grouped into the regular and irregular verbs. The irregular verbs are the ones that make the Dutch language so complicated. We will discuss both categories here.
Conjugating verbs form the absolute basis of learning a language. Verbs are used in almost every sentence and they need to be conjugated in practically every sentence.
We will start with discussing the regular verbs - placing those in different times. Then we will discuss some of the most common irregular verbs. We hope to make this subject as clear as possible for you. Learn more about Dutch verb conjugation
The verb conjugation of regular verbs in the Dutch language
Regular verbs are, not surprisingly, always conjugated the same way.
First of all, we will show you the conjugations for the different times that exist in the Dutch language. As mentioned in our previous blog, there are 8 different times that are used in the Dutch language.
- onvoltooid tegenwoordige tijd (ott) - loosely translated to imperfect present tense
ik werk - I am working
- onvoltooid verleden tijd (ovt) - loosely translated to imperfect past tense
ik werkte - I worked
- voltooid tegenwoordige tijd (vtt) loosely translated to perfect present tense
ik heb gewerkt - I have worked
- voltooid verleden tijd (vvt) loosely translated to perfect past tense
ik had gewerkt - I had worked
- onvoltooid tegenwoordige toekomende tijd (ottt) loosely translated as imperfect present future tense
ik zal werken - I will work
- onvoltooid verleden toekomende tijd (ovtt) loosely translated as imperfect past future tense
ik zou werken - I would work
- voltooid tegenwoordige toekomende tijd (vttt) loosely translated as perfect future tense
ik zal hebben gewerkt - I will have worked
- voltooid verleden toekomende tijd (vvtt)
ik zou hebben gewerkt - I would have worked
Persoonlijke voornaamwoorden are the next subject that will be handled. In English these would be called personal pronouns.
- 1st singular
- 2nd singular
je/u (you, whereby in Dutch je is informal and u is formal)
- 3rd singular
hij/ze/het (he, she, it)
- 1st multiple
- 2nd multiple
jullie (you, multiple)
- 3rd multiple
How do we conjugate the verbs when it comes to these personal pronouns?
- Ik werk
- Je/u werkt
- Hij/ze/het werkt
- We werken
- Jullie werken
- Ze werken
This applies to all regular verbs!
To be able to conjugate the verbs you need to know what the stem of the verb is. With the verb 'werken,' the stem is werk and that is the basis for further conjugating it. Now, how do you establish the stem? The stem is always the infinitive of the verb minus -en. Zo werken (to work) becomes werk.
Conjugations besides those in 'time tenses'
Besides the conjugations in time tenses that we discussed before, we will also discuss four other possibilities here. There are many exceptions and other conjugations but these are commonly used in the Dutch language.
- Lijdende vorm (direct object)
For example: hij wordt gezien. Which means: he is being seen. These sentence can be independent and do not have a subject. The verbs are conjugated in the same way as mentioned above (the - hij - version). The - wij - version would be: wij worden gezien, and so forth.
2. Gebiedende wijs (Imperative)
The gebiedende wijs, or imperative in English, is used to order someone. In Dutch, when you are using the gebiedende wijs, in singular form you will use the stem of the verb, as discussed above. Werk! means work! and Loop! means to walk. In multiple form you add - en. Zo lopen and werken!
This conjugation is used when a verb is in fact used as an adjective. This is, for example, the case in the following sentence: een werkende man, which means a working man. If the verb that is used is a regular verb then the conjugation is, again, always the same. So, in the case of a singular personal pronoun the verb is conjugated as followed. +de is added to the complete verb (which typically ends with en). When a multiple personal pronoun is used an n must be added to the end.
This conjugation is used when a certain combination is made of a noun and a verb. This is the case in, for example, the following sentence: het opgaan van de zon, which means: the rising of the sun. The sun does not have a particular place in this sentence, one cannot establish that it is a noun per se. In these kind of combinations, the verb is almost always conjugated by adding -ing to the end.
We understand that this is a tricky subject and we have genuinely tried to make it as simple as possible for you. We hope that you are still with us. Now, we will venture onwards with the subject of irregular verbs in the Dutch language.
The conjugation of irregular verbs in the Dutch language
Up till now everything seems rather simple. However, the Dutch language contains a relative large amount of irregular verbs, mainly compared with a lot of other languages including English.
Usually in Dutch irregular verbs are referred to as sterk (strong) verbs and regular verbs are referred to as zwakke (weak) verbs. Fortunately, irregular verbs are only so when they are in perfect and past tense. We have listed a few of these strong verbs for you and their conjugations. We have only mentioned the past tense singular and the past tense multiple.
Infinitive Past tense singular Paste tense multiple
Bevelen Beval Bevolen
Blazen Blies Bliezen
Helpen Hielp Hielpen
Kiezen Koos Kozen
Rijden Reed Reden
As you can see all these verbs have their own individual characteristics. There are no rules in this regard that can make it easier. You simply have to learn irregular verbs by heart.
In Dutch there are 11 verbs that can be defined as completely irregular verbs. We will give you the present tense and paste tense of 5 of these verbs for all personal pronouns.
- zijn (to be)
Present tense: Past tense:
Ik ben We zijn Ik was We waren
Je bent Jullie zijn Je was Jullie waren
Hij is Ze zijn Hij was Ze waren
- hebben (to have)
Present tense: Paste tense:
Ik heb We hebben Ik had We hadden
Je hebt Jullie hebben Je had Jullie hadden
Hij heeft Ze hebben Hij had Ze hadden
- zullen (shall)
Present tense: Paste tense:
Ik zal We zullen Ik zou We zouden
Je zal/zult Jullie zulllen Je zou Jullie zouden
Hij zal Ze zullen Hij zou Ze zouden
- kunnen (can)
Present tense: Paste tense:
Ik kan We kunnen Ik kon We konden
Je kan/kunt Jullie kunnen Je kon Jullie konden
Hij kan Ze kunnen Hij kon Ze konden
- gaan (to go)
Present tense: Paste tense:
Ik ga We gaan Ik ging We gingen
Je gaat Jullie gaan Je ging Jullie gingen
Hij gaat Ze gaan Hij ging Ze gingen
These are a few of the most important verbs in the Dutch language. They form the absolute basis for you to learn the Dutch language. Therefore they are the starting point for learning Dutch grammar. Learns these verbs by heart!
The next subject that we need to discuss here is the subject of combined verbs. In another blog, we have discussed combined nouns before and also how much the Dutch seem te like them. Combined verbs usually consist of a verb and another word. These words can be an adverb or an article.
In these examples the other word is a adverb:
- goed (well)
- hard (hard, fast, tough)
hardlopen (lopen = to run, so fast running, or jogging)
- zwart (black)
Nonetheless, most combined verbs consist of a verbs and a article, like aan, om or achter.
The following words are some examples:
A distinction must finally be made between dividable and non-dividable combined verbs. With dividable verbs, the article can be divided from the verb. With undividable combined verbs this is not the case. All of the verbs mentioned in this section are dividable combined verbs.
Our conclusions about this subject
In this blog, we have discussed conjugating Dutch verbs with you. We started out with discussing the conjugation of regular verbs. These verbs have a standard way of being conjugated and we have discussed those in different time tenses and for different personal pronouns.
Next, we discussed some other conjugations that are often used in the Dutch language. After that, we moved on to the subject of irregular verbs. This is definitely a more complicated category. That is primarily due to the fact that all conjugations of these verbs are different than the other ones. Therefore, in this blog, we choose to discuss a few of the most commonly used verbs.
Compared with many different languages, and definitely compared to English, conjugating verbs in Dutch is pretty complicated. We hope, however, to have given you some guidelines and rules, so that you can work with this subject just that bit easier.