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Dutch for Beginners: Regular Verbs

To find the various forms of a regular verb, we start by determining its "stem". This can typically be found by removing "-en" from the end of the infinitive form; e.g., the stem of the verb "dansen" (to dance) is "dans".

However, this simple rule has to be modified in several cases:

  • If the infinitive contains a "long vowel", that vowel is doubled in the stem; e.g., the stem of "plagen" (to tease) is "plaag", not "plag".
  • If the stem were to end in a double consonant, one of them is removed; e.g., the stem of "kennen" (to know) is "ken", not "kenn".
  • If the stem were to end in "v" or "z", that final consonant becomes "f" or "s", respectively. E.g., the stem of "vrezen" (to fear) is "vrees" (notice, also, the double vowel!), not "vreez".
Once we know the stem of the verb, we can easily determine its present tense:

Tegenwoordige tijd Present tense
Ik dans [=stem]I dance
Jij danst [=stem + t] (*)You dance (informal, singular)
Hij, zij danst [=stem + t]He, she dances
U danst [=stem + t]You dance (polite/formal, singular or plural)
Wij dansen [=infinitive]We dance
Jullie dansen [=infinitive]You dance (informal, plural)
Zij dansen [=infinitive]They dance

(*) In so-called inverted sentences (such as questions), where the personal pronoun follows the verb, "[stem]" is used with "jij" instead of "[stem + t]". E.g., "Jij danst" = "You dance"; but: "Dans jij?" = "Do you dance?"

The past tense is slightly more complicated. First we need to know if our verb is a "t-verb" or a "d-verb".

If the infinitive, stripped of the trailing "-en", ends in t, k, f, s, ch, or p (one of the consonants in "'t fokschaap", "the breeding-sheep"), it is a "t-verb"; if it ends in something else, it is a "d-verb".

The past tense of a "t-verb" is as follows:

Verleden tijd Past tense
Ik danste [=stem + te]I danced
Jij danste [=stem + te]You danced (informal, singular)
Hij, zij danste [=stem + te]He, she danced
U danste [=stem + te]You danced (polite, singular or plural)
Wij dansten [=stem + ten]We danced
Jullie dansten [=stem + ten]You danced (informal, plural)
Zij dansten [=stem + ten]They danced

and the past tense of a "d-verb" is as follows:

Verleden tijd Past tense
Ik vreesde [=stem + de]I feared
Jij vreesde [=stem + de]You feared (informal, singular)
Hij, zij vreesde [=stem + de]He, she feared
U vreesde [=stem + de]You feared (polite, singular or plural)
Wij vreesden [=stem + den]We feared
Jullie vreesden [=stem + den]You feared (informal, plural)
Zij vreesden [=stem + den]They feared

The perfect tense of a "t-verb" is formed as follows: "ge" + stem + "t", e.g., "ik heb gedanst" = "I have danced".

The perfect tense of a "d-verb" is: "ge" + stem + "d", e.g., "ik heb gevreesd" = "I have feared".


For Beginners Copyright © 2004 M. Feenstra, Den Haag. All rights reserved.