Learn basic Dutch grammar
Here you can find a basic introduction to the foundation of Dutch grammar, with information in verbs, articles, adjectives, questions, and more.
In English, there is the definite article ("the") and indefinite article ("a", "an"). In Dutch, there are two definite articles — de and het. Nouns either use de or het, a vestige of when Dutch had rigid grammatical genders attached to nouns.
Het meisje ("The girl")
De kat ("The cat")
All nouns in Dutch are assigned either the article de or het. There are rules that apply to some categories of words, or words with specific endings, that you can use to determine which article a noun takes. By and large, though, it is random.
When learning a new noun in Dutch, you should try to learn it alongside its article, de or het. This makes remembering much easier. While this may seem confusing and difficult at first, eventually you will develop an ability to discern when a word sounds "wrong" if you use the wrong article by mistake.
You can use the website Welk lidwoord? ("Which article?") to find out whether a specific Dutch noun takes de or het.
Unfortunately, there are very few rules that determine which article a noun is assigned; for all intents and purposes, it's random.
Luckily, there are some rules for certain categories of nouns — read our page What's the difference between de and het? for an overview of these rules!
Dutch, like German, has an informal (familiar) and formal version of "you" — when addressing a stranger, or your teacher, or maybe your boss, you would use the formal u, otherwise you use the informal je.
If you're addressing more than one person, you use jullie if speaking informally, for example to friends, and u if you want to be formal. Regardless of whether you're speaking to one person or multiple, you always use u in formal situations. You can think of jullie as the Dutch equivalent of the American English "y'all" ("you all") used to address groups!
Dutch also has stressed and unstressed forms. For example, jij is the stressed form of je in the pronoun table below. When you would emphasise the word "you" in English, you would use jij in Dutch.
There is an unstressed form of het, rendered as 't, but this isn't often used in written Dutch. The same goes for 'm and 'k; they reflect the loose, contracted pronunciation of the words in everyday speech.
|you (singular, informal)||jij (je)||you||jou (je)|
|you (singular, formal)||u||you||u|
|she||zij (ze)||her||haar (ze)|
|it||hij / het||it||het ('t)|
|you (plural, informal)||jullie||you||jullie (je)|
|you (plural, formal)||u||you||u|
|they||zij (ze)||them||hen / hun (ze)|
A verb (Dutch: werkwoord) is the part of speech that describes an action — a "doing" word. Fortunately, verbs in Dutch and very similar to verbs in English, albeit Dutch verbs have a few extra forms.
Ik heet Jack ("My name is Jack", literally "I am called Jack")
Hoet heet u? ("What is your name?", literally "How are you called?")
Zij heten allebei Jack ("They are both called Jack")
You might notice two forms are used: heet and heten. This is because the verb has two forms, a singular and a plural.
So for example you would say "Ik heet" ("I'm called...") and "Wij heten" ("We're called...").
When asking questions, an inversion takes place. Observe:
Je hebt... ("You have...")
Heb je ...? ("Have you ...?")
As you can see, the verb loses its -t ending in its interrogative form - but, crucially, this only happens for the informal pronoun je/jij, not with the formal u:
Ik geloof ("I believe")
Gelooft u? ("Do you believe?")