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 articlesde 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 and formal version of "you". When addressing a stranger, or your teacher, or maybe your boss, you would use the formal u. Otherwise, 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 – for instance speaking loudly or prolonging the word – 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.

Subject Object
I ik me mij
you (singular, informal) jij (je) you jou (je)
you (singular, formal) u you u
he hij him hem ('m)
she zij (ze) her haar (ze)
it hij / het it het ('t)
we wij (we) us ons
you (plural, informal) jullie you jullie (je)
you (plural, formal) u you u
they zij (ze) them hen / hun (ze)


Verbs (werkwoorden), are the backbone of any sentence. Children learn verbs as "doing words", but there is more to it than that. Verbs are the part of speech that indicate actions, states, or occurrences. Although Dutch verbs have some similarities to their English counterparts, they come with their own set of rules and forms, particularly in how they are conjugated. This section focuses primarily on the present tense of regular and irregular verbs as well as introduces some auxiliary verbs.

Regular verbs in present tense

Regular verbs in Dutch are relatively easy to conjugate in the present tense. They follow a specific pattern:

  • Ik - Stem (e.g., Ik loop, "I walk")
  • Jij/U - Stem + t (e.g., Jij loopt, "You walk")
  • Wij/Jullie/Zij - Stem + en (e.g., Wij lopen, "We walk")

The verb 'heten' (to be called) follows this pattern:

  • Ik heet ("I am called")
  • Jij heet ("You are called")
  • Wij heten ("We are called")

Irregular verbs in present tense

Not all verbs follow the rules! Verbs like 'zijn' (to be) and 'hebben' (to have) are irregular:

  • Ik ben ("I am")
  • Jij bent ("You are")
  • Wij zijn ("We are")
  • Ik heb ("I have")
  • Jij hebt ("You have")
  • Wij hebben ("We have")

Auxiliary verbs

Auxiliary verbs (hulpwerkwoorden) like 'zullen' (will), 'kunnen' (can), and 'moeten' (must) are often used in conjunction with other verbs:

  • Ik kan lopen ("I can walk")
  • Jij moet gaan ("You must go")
  • Wij zullen zien ("We will see")


When forming questions, Dutch often employs inversion, where the subject and verb switch places:

  • Je hebt... ("You have...")
  • Heb je ...? ("Have you ...?")

Note: The verb loses its -t ending in its interrogative form when using the informal pronoun je/jij. This doesn't happen with the formal u.

  • Ik geloof ("I believe")
  • Gelooft u? ("Do you believe?")


Adjectives (bijvoeglijke naamwoorden) serve to describe or qualify nouns. Just like in English, they generally precede the noun they modify. However, the form of the adjective can change based on the noun's gender, number, and whether it's accompanied by a definite or indefinite article.

In general, adjectives in Dutch come before the noun:

  • Het rode boek ("The red book")
  • Een mooie bloem ("A beautiful flower")
  • De groene appel ("The green apple")
  • Een lekker broodje ("A tasty sandwich")
  • Het water is koud ("The water is cold")


In certain cases, adjectives receive an -e ending.

No ending when the adjective is not followed by a noun.

De auto is snel ("The car is fast").

There is always an -e ending when the noun is preceded by de.

De snelle auto ("The fast car").

An -e ending also generally applies for plural nouns, regardless of the original article.

De snelle auto's ("The fast cars").

For neuter nouns preceded by het, no -e ending when used with an indefinite article or no article.

Een snel kind ("a fast child").

But if it's a specific neuter noun, you add the -e.

Het snelle kind ("The fast child").

This was a (very) brief overview of the basics of Dutch grammar. See our recommended books for a selection of the best books for learning Dutch, for beginners and intermediate learners alike.