This article explains the conjugation of Dutch verbs.

Classification of verbs

See also: Germanic verb

There are two different ways in which Dutch verbs can be grouped: by conjugational class and by derivation. These two categorizations describe different aspects of a verb's conjugation and therefore are complementary to each other.

By conjugational class

Dutch verbs can be grouped by their conjugational class, as follows:

By derivation

Another way to group verbs is by the type of derivation. The following can be distinguished:

Most of this article shows the conjugation of basic verbs. The differences in prefixed and separable verbs are described here, and can be applied to any verb regardless of conjugation.

Prefixed verbs

Prefixed verbs are verbs whose stem begins with an unstressed prefix. The prefix is usually one of be-, ge-, her-, ont-, ver-, but others are also possible, often derived from adverbs or prepositions. Prefixed verbs are conjugated like basic verbs, except in the past participle. In the past participle, the inflectional prefix ge- is replaced by the verb's own prefix, and it is not added on. The past participle of her-openen ("to reopen") is her-opend (not *ge-her-opend), and for be-talen ("to pay") it is be-taald (not *ge-be-taald).

In some cases, two verbs exist that are spelled identically, but with one treating an adverb as a prefix, while the other treats it as separable. Such pairs are stressed and thus pronounced differently, and accent marks are sometimes written when there is a chance of confusion: voorkómen ("to prevent", prefixed) versus vóórkomen ("to occur", separable), or onder-gáán ("to undergo", prefixed) versus ónder-gaan ("to go under, to set", separable).

Prefixed verbs can be derived from basic verbs or from another prefixed verb. With the prefix her- ("again, re-"), it is also possible to derive prefixed verbs from separable verbs, but such verbs are often defective, with the separated (V2-affected) forms often being avoided by speakers. For example, the verb her-in-richten ("to rearrange, to redecorate") is a combination of the prefix her- and the separable verb in-richten. According to the syntactical rules, this must become Ik richt de kamer herin. ("I redecorate the room"), but using herin as a separable particle is often avoided as it is not an independent word[clarification needed] (unlike the separable particles of most other verbs). Many speakers choose to rephrase it using the adverb opnieuw ("again, anew"): Ik richt de kamer opnieuw in. In subordinate clauses or with a non-finite verb, there is less objection: Mijn vriend keek toe, terwijl ik de kamer herinrichtte. ("My friend looked on, while I redecorated the room.") or Ik heb de kamer heringericht. ("I have redecorated the room.").

Separable verbs

See also: Separable verb

Separable verbs are combinations of a main verb (which can be basic or prefixed) and a particle. This particle is usually an adverb, but sometimes it can be a direct object or adjective instead. The particle is stressed more strongly than the main verb, which distinguishes separable verbs from prefixed verbs in pronunciation. The main verb of a separable verb is conjugated like it otherwise would, and can be basic (with ge- in the past participle) or prefixed (without ge-).

The particle is treated syntactically as a separate verb, and is placed before or after the main verb as syntax dictates:

The following table shows some examples of this in practice:

Infinitive With V2 Without V2
(subordinate clause)
Without V2
(non-finite verb)
om-vallen ("to fall over")
basic main verb, strong class 7
Ik val om.
I fall over.
Hij ziet niet dat ik om-val.
He doesn't see that I fall over.
Ik ben om-ge-vallen.
I have fallen over.
uit-komen ("to come true")
basic main verb, strong class 4
Mijn wens kwam vandaag uit.
My wish came true today.
Het is ongelooflijk dat mijn wens vandaag uit-kwam.
It is unbelievable that my wish came true today.
Mijn wens is vandaag uit-ge-komen.
My wish has come true today.
uit-betalen ("to pay out")
prefixed main verb, weak in -d
Gisteren betaalde zij het geld uit.
Yesterday she paid out the money.
Ik weet niet of zij het geld gisteren uit-betaalde.
I don't know if she paid out the money yesterday.
Zij heeft het geld uit-betaald.
She has paid out the money.

Forms and endings

Dutch verbs conjugate for tense in present and past, and for mood in indicative, subjunctive and imperative. The subjunctive mood in Dutch is archaic or formal, and is rarely used. There are two grammatical numbers (singular and plural) and three grammatical persons. However, many forms are identical to others, so the conjugation does not have distinct forms for all possible combinations of these factors (that is, there is considerable syncretism). In particular, there is always just one form for the plural, and only in the present indicative is there a clear distinction among the different singular persons.

Each second-person pronoun may have its own form. The following can be distinguished:

All regular verbs, whether weak, strong or mixed, form the present tense in the same way. This also includes the infinitive and present participle. Only the formation of the past tense differs among regular verbs, depending on whether the verb is strong, weak or mixed. The endings are as follows:

Infinitive -en
Mood Person Present Weak past Strong past
Indicative 1st sg ik -de, -te
2nd sg jij -t1 2
2nd sg+pl gij -t1 -de(t), -te(t)3 -t1 3
2nd sg+pl u -de, -te
3rd sg hij, zij, het
pl wij, jullie, zij -en -den, -ten -en
Subjunctive ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
-e -de, -te -e
pl wij, jullie, zij -en -den, -ten -en
Imperative General
Plural -t1
Participles -end (ge-) -d, (ge-) -t1 4 (ge-) -en4

Notes:

  1. When the stem of a verb ends in -t already, the ending -t is not added on as a word cannot end in -tt. Similarly, when the stem ends in -d the additional -d in the weak past participle is not added.
  2. When the second-person jij-form is followed immediately by the subject pronoun itself (jij or je), it loses its -t: Jij werktWerk jij? ("You work" → "Do you work?"). The -t is present in all other cases.
  3. The additional -t of the second-person gij-form is optional in the past tense for weak verbs and is usually considered archaic. For strong verbs, the -t is always required.[1][2][3]
  4. The prefix ge- of the past participle is not added when the verb is a prefixed verb. See above for more information.

All forms of a given regular verb can be predicted from just three forms, or sometimes four. These are the principal parts of a verb.

In the sections that follow, only the principal parts of each verb are given when this is sufficient to describe the full conjugation of the verb.

Present tense

As noted above, the present tense of all regular verbs is formed the same, and follows the same rules. The following table shows the conjugation of two verbs in the present tense:

Infinitive vullen ("to fill") leren ("to learn, to teach")
Indicative mood 1st sg ik vul leer
2nd sg jij vult leert
2nd sg+pl gij
2nd sg+pl u
3rd sg hij, zij, het
pl wij, jullie, zij vullen leren
Subjunctive mood ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
vulle lere
pl wij, jullie, zij vullen leren
Imperative mood General vul leer
Plural vult leert
Participle vullend lerend

If the stem ends in -v or -z, then these are spelled -f and -s at the end of a syllable.

Infinitive leven ("to live") blozen ("to blush")
Indicative mood 1st sg ik leef bloos
2nd sg jij leeft bloost
2nd sg+pl gij
2nd sg+pl u
3rd sg hij, zij, het
pl wij, jullie, zij leven blozen
Subjunctive mood ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
leve bloze
pl wij, jullie, zij leven blozen
Imperative mood General leef bloos
Plural leeft bloost
Participle levend blozend

If the stem ends in -t, then no additional -t ending is added when this would otherwise be required, as a word cannot end in a double consonant (-tt in this case) in Dutch spelling. This makes all present singular forms identical.

Infinitive zetten ("to set, to place")
Indicative mood ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
zet
pl wij, jullie, zij zetten
Subjunctive mood ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
zette
pl wij, jullie, zij zetten
Imperative mood All zet
Participle zettend

Past tense

The past tense is formed differently depending on whether the verb is weak, strong or mixed.

Weak verbs

See also: Germanic weak verb

Weak verbs are the most common type of verb in Dutch, and the only productive type (all newly created verbs are weak). They form their past tense with an ending containing a dental consonant, -d- or -t-.

Whether -d- or -t- is used depends on the final consonant of the verb stem. If the stem ends in a voiceless consonant, then -t- is used, otherwise -d-. It is often summarised with the mnemonic "'t kofschip": if the verb stem ends with one of the consonants of 't kofschip (t, k, f, s, ch, p), then the past tense will have -t-. However, it also applies for c, q and x and any other letter that is voiceless in pronunciation.

The following tables show the past tense forms of a weak verb with a past tense in -d- (stem does not end in voiceless consonant), and with a past tense in -t- (stem ends in voiceless consonant).

Infinitive vullen ("to fill") werken ("to work")
Indicative mood 1st sg ik vulde werkte
2nd sg jij
2nd sg+pl gij vulde(t) werkte(t)
2nd sg+pl u vulde werkte
3rd sg hij, zij, het
pl wij, jullie, zij vulden werkten
Subjunctive mood ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
vulde werkte
pl wij, jullie, zij vulden werkten
Participle gevuld gewerkt

If the stem ends in -v or -z, then these are spelled -f and -s at the end of a syllable, as in the present tense. However, they are still pronounced as voiced /v/ and /z/ when the past tense ending is added, so the stem is still considered voiced, and the past endings have -d-:

If the stem ends in -d or -t, then no ending is added in the past participle, as a word cannot end in a double consonant (-dd- or -tt in this case) in Dutch spelling. The past tense stem will be pronounced the same as the present, but it is still spelled with -dd- or -tt-, even when the spelling rules would allow this to be simplified. Thus:

Compare this to English set, which has a similar homophony between present and past.

Strong verbs

See also: Germanic strong verb

Strong verbs form their past tenses by changing the vowel of the stem, a process known as ablaut. There are far fewer strong verbs than weak verbs in Dutch, but many of the most commonly used verbs are strong, so they are encountered frequently. There are about 200 strong roots, giving rise to about 1500 strong verbs in total, if all derived verbs with separable and inseparable prefixes are included.

Strong verbs use a different set of endings from weak verbs. However, the same rules for final -t, -v, -z apply.

Infinitive schijnen ("to shine") geven ("to give") sluiten ("to close")
Indicative mood 1st sg ik scheen gaf sloot
2nd sg jij
2nd sg+pl gij scheent gaaft
2nd sg+pl u scheen gaf
3rd sg hij, zij, het
pl wij, jullie, zij schenen gaven sloten
Subjunctive mood ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
schene gave slote
pl wij, jullie, zij schenen gaven sloten
Participle geschenen gegeven gesloten

The vowels that occur in present and past are not random, but follow clear patterns. These patterns can be divided into seven "classes", some with subgroups. Some verbs are a mixture of two classes or belong to none of the existing classes.

In the following subsections, the vowel patterns of each class are described. For clarity, long vowels are always written doubled in the patterns. In the actual conjugated verb, they will be single or double according to normal Dutch spelling rules.

Class 1

Class 1 follows the vowel pattern ij-ee-ee:

Class 2

Class 2 is divided into two subclasses.

Class 2a follows the vowel pattern ie-oo-oo:

Class 2b follows the vowel pattern ui-oo-oo:

The verbs vriezen and verliezen show grammatischer Wechsel, with s/z changing to r in the past tense:

Class 3

Class 3 is divided into two subclasses.

Class 3a follows the vowel pattern i-o-o:

The vowel is usually followed by m or n and another consonant.

Class 3b follows e-o-o:

The vowel is usually followed by l or r and another consonant.

Class 4

Class 4 follows the vowel pattern ee-a/aa-oo:

The vowel in these verbs is usually followed by l, r, m or n and no other consonant.

The verb komen has an irregular pattern with short o in the present singular, long oo in the remaining present tense, and an additional w in the past:

Class 5

Class 5 follows the vowel pattern ee-a/aa-ee, with the same change in length as in class 4:

The vowel is usually followed by an obstruent consonant.

The verbs bidden, liggen and zitten follow the pattern i-a/aa-ee instead:

These three verbs are descended from the old Germanic j-present verbs, which had an additional suffix -j- before the endings in the present tense. This suffix caused doubling of the preceding consonant (the West Germanic gemination) and changed the preceding vowel from e to i.

The verb eten is regular but has an extra -g- in the past participle:

Originally, it was simply geten, contracted from earlier ge-eten. An additional ge- was added on later. Compare German essen, gegessen, which shows the same development.

Class 6

Class 6 follows the vowel pattern aa-oe-aa. It is the smallest of the strong verb classes, with only a few verbs.

Class 7

Class 7 follows the vowel pattern X-ie-X, where the two X's are identical. There were originally five subgroups depending on the vowel of the present tense. Class 7a (with ee or ei in the present) has disappeared in Dutch, so only four subgroups remain.

Class 7b has oo in the present tense:

Class 7c has a in the present tense:

Two verbs have shortened the past tense vowel to i:

In present tense of the verb houden, the original combination -ald- underwent L-vocalization, and became -oud-.

It also has an alternative form which lacks -d when it occurs at the end: hou alongside the regular houd.

Class 7d has aa in the present tense:

Class 7e has oe in the present tense:

Other strong verbs

Several strong verbs have vowel patterns that do not fit with any of the above types.

A number of class 3b strong verbs have replaced their original past tense vowel with the -ie- of class 7, creating a "hybrid" class. The past participle vowel o of class 3 remains.

The verb worden also belonged to class 3b, but the past and present vowels appear to have been swapped:

Contrast this with German werden, which kept the older vowel.

Class 6 originally had three j-present verbs, like liggen of class 5. These verbs originally followed the pattern e-oe-aa. All three have changed this in one way or another in modern Dutch:

Three verbs appear to follow a class 3b pattern, but have a long vowel instead of a short one:

The verb uitscheiden is the only remaining class 7a verb, but it now has a class 1 past (note that ei and ij are pronounced the same):

Even the form scheed uit is falling out of use, and is being replaced with a weak past scheidde uit, making it a mixed verb.

Mixed verbs

Some verbs have a mixture of strong and weak forms. These are called "mixed verbs" and are relatively common in Dutch. Most mixed verbs are originally strong verbs that have replaced some strong forms with weak forms. However, a few were originally weak but have become strong by analogy.

The most common type of mixed verb has a weak past tense, but a strong past participle in -en. Most mixed verbs of this type have the same vowel in the present and in the past participle, and therefore appear to be original class 6 and 7 verbs. A few still have the older strong past as an archaic form.

Mixed verbs that originally had class 6 pasts:

Mixed verbs that originally had class 7 pasts:

Mixed verbs from other classes:

A smaller group of verbs, all belonging to class 6, has the reverse situation. The past tense is strong, but the past participle is weak.

Irregular verbs

The following verbs are very irregular, and may not fit neatly into the strong-weak split.

An important subset of these verbs are the preterite-present verbs, which are shared by all Germanic languages. In the present tense, they originally conjugated like the past tense of a strong verb. In Dutch, this means that they lack the -t in the third-person singular present indicative, much like their English equivalents which lack the -s. Their past tense forms are weak, but irregularly so. Most of these verbs have become auxiliary verbs, so they may be missing imperative forms, and perhaps the participles as well.

zijn

The verb zijn "to be" is suppletive, and uses a different root in the present and past. Its present tense is highly irregular, and the past shows grammatischer Wechsel like the strong verb vriezen (s/z becomes r). The subjunctive mood is generally considered archaic.

Infinitive zijn, wezen[4], bennen[5] "to be"
Mood Person Present Past
Indicative 1st sg ik ben was
2nd sg jij bent
2nd sg+pl gij zijt waart
2nd sg+pl u bent, is[6], zijt (rare) was
3rd sg hij, zij, het is
pl wij, jullie, zij zijn[7] waren
Subjunctive ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
zij, weze ware
pl wij, jullie, zij zijn, wezen waren
Imperative General[8] wees, zij[9], ben[10] -
Plural[11] weest, zijt[9] -
Participles zijnd, wezend geweest

hebben

The verb hebben "to have" is weak in origin, but has many other irregularities.

Infinitive hebben "to have"
Mood Person Present Past
Indicative 1st sg ik heb had
2nd sg jij hebt
2nd sg+pl gij hadt
2nd sg+pl u hebt, heeft had
3rd sg hij, zij, het heeft
pl wij, jullie, zij hebben hadden
Subjunctive ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
hebbe hadde
pl wij, jullie, zij hebben hadden
Imperative General heb -
Plural hebt -
Participles hebbend gehad

weten

The verb weten is regular in the present. The past ends in -st.

Infinitive weten "to know (have knowledge)"
Mood Person Present Past
Indicative ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
weet wist
pl wij, jullie, zij weten wisten
Subjunctive ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
wete wiste
pl wij, jullie, zij weten wisten
Imperative All weet -
Participles wetend geweten

moeten

The verb moeten is very similar to weten.

Infinitive moeten "must, to have to"
Mood Person Present Past
Indicative ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
moet moest
pl wij, jullie, zij moeten moesten
Subjunctive ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
moete moeste
pl wij, jullie, zij moeten moesten
Imperative
Participles moetend gemoeten

mogen

The verb mogen is relatively regular. It has a vowel change in the present between singular and plural, reflecting the original vowel change between the singular and plural strong past. The past ends in -cht.

Infinitive mogen "may, to be allowed"
Mood Person Present Past
Indicative 1st sg ik mag mocht
2nd sg jij
2nd sg+pl gij moogt
2nd sg+pl u mag
3rd sg hij, zij, het
pl wij, jullie, zij mogen mochten
Subjunctive ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
moge mochte
pl wij, jullie, zij mogen mochten
Imperative
Participles mogend gemogen, gemoogd, gemocht

kunnen

The verb kunnen also has a vowel change in the present, and a variety of alternative forms. In the past tense, it has both a vowel change and, in the plural, the weak dental suffix. With 'u' and 'jij' both 'kunt' and 'kan' are possible. While 'kan' is usually used in speech, in writing 'kunt' is preferred in the Netherlands. 'Kan' is considered to be more informal.[12][13]

Infinitive kunnen "can, to be able"
Mood Person Present Past
Indicative 1st sg ik kan kon
2nd sg jij kunt, kan
2nd sg+pl gij kunt kondt
2nd sg+pl u kunt, kan kon
3rd sg hij, zij, het kan
pl wij, jullie, zij kunnen konden
Subjunctive ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
kunne konde
pl wij, jullie, zij kunnen konden
Imperative
Participles kunnende gekund

zullen

The verb zullen is the most irregular of the preterite-presents. In the present, the forms strongly resemble those of kunnen. The past is different, and has changed earlier -old- to -oud-, and then dropped the -d- in many forms.

Like its English equivalent would, the past tense zou does not literally indicate past time. Instead, the distinction is one of certainty: the present indicates certain future time, while the past indicates a conditional event. Compare:

Infinitive zullen "will, shall, to be going to"
Mood Person Present Past
Indicative 1st sg ik zal zou
2nd sg jij zult, zal
2nd sg+pl gij zult zoudt
2nd sg+pl u zult, zal zou
3rd sg hij, zij, het zal
pl wij, jullie, zij zullen zouden
Subjunctive ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
zulle zoude
pl wij, jullie, zij zullen zouden
Imperative
Participles zullend

willen

The verb willen is not a preterite-present verb in origin, but nowadays it inflects much the same.

There are two different past tense forms. The original form wou(den) has a change of -old- to -oud-, like in zullen, but this form is now considered colloquial or dialectal. The newer, regular form wilde(n) is considered more standard.

Infinitive willen "to want"
Mood Person Present Past
Indicative 1st sg ik wil wilde, wou
2nd sg jij wil(t)
2nd sg+pl gij wilt wilde(t), woudt
2nd sg+pl u wilt, wil wilde, wou
3rd sg hij, zij, het wil
pl wij, jullie, zij willen wilden, wouden
Subjunctive ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
wille wilde, woude
pl wij, jullie, zij willen wilden, wouden
Imperative General wil -
Plural wilt -
Participles willend gewild

Contracted vowel stems

A handful of common verbs have a stem ending in a vowel in the present tense. The endings contract with the stem, losing any -e- in the ending. The following table shows an example.

Infinitive gaan ("to go")
Indicative mood 1st sg ik ga
2nd sg jij ga(at)
2nd sg+pl gij gaat
2nd sg+pl u
3rd sg hij, zij, het
pl wij, jullie, zij gaan
Subjunctive mood ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
ga
pl wij, jullie, zij gaan
Imperative mood General ga
Plural gaat
Participle gaand

The verbs have a variety of past tense forms, reflecting their differing origins:

Weak verbs with past in -cht

See also: Germanic spirant law

A few verbs form their past with irregularly because of an early Germanic development called the "Germanic spirant law". Both the vowel and the consonant change, sometimes in rather unexpected ways. However, these verbs are still weak even though the vowel changes, because the past tense and participle have a dental suffix (-t-). The vowel change is not caused by ablaut (which is the origin of the vowel changes in strong verbs), but by an entirely different phenomenon called Rückumlaut.

Six verbs have this type of conjugation. Note that their English equivalents often have similar changes.

zeggen

The verb zeggen ("to say") is weak, but is often conjugated irregularly in the past. There is also a regular conjugation, which is more common in the south. In some dialects, a similar conjugation is followed for leggen ("to lay").

Infinitive zeggen "to say"
Mood Person Present Past
Indicative 1st sg ik zeg zei, zegde
2nd sg jij zeg(t)
2nd sg+pl gij zegt zeidt, zegde(t)
2nd sg+pl u zei, zegde
3rd sg hij, zij, het
pl wij, jullie, zij zeggen zeiden, zegden
Subjunctive ik
jij, gij, u
hij, zij, het
zegge zeide, zegde
pl wij, jullie, zij zeggen zeiden, zegden
Imperative General zeg
Plural zegt
Participles zeggend gezegd

References

  1. ^ "Gij had / hadt". taaladvies.net (in Dutch). Nederlandse Taalunie.
  2. ^ "gij". VRT-Taalnet. Archived from the original on 2015-05-18.
  3. ^ "Kwaamt en Werdt". taalhelden.org (in Dutch). Nederlandse Taalunie. Archived from the original on 2015-12-30. Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  4. ^ Archaic
  5. ^ South Holland colloquial
  6. ^ Dated form. Nowadays u bent is preferred.
  7. ^ The form jullie bent is dated. Nowadays jullie zijn is preferred.
  8. ^ Please notice the less common imperative form weest u
  9. ^ a b Flemish regional form
  10. ^ Colloquial
  11. ^ Please notice the less common imperative form wezen jullie.
  12. ^ "Je wil, zal, kan / je wilt, zult, kunt". taaladvies.net (in Dutch). Nederlandse Taalunie.
  13. ^ "U wil, zal, kan / wilt, zult, kunt". taaladvies.net (in Dutch). Nederlandse Taalunie.