Dutch for Beginners: To Be

As in English, the verb "zijn" (to be) is a very important word. It is used mostly as an auxilary verb, but it can also be used as a notional verb meaning "to be, to exist".

The key forms of the verb are as follows:

Tegenwoordige tijd Present tense
Ik ben I am
Jij bent / ben jij (*) You are (informal, singular)
Hij, zij is He, she is
U bent (**) You are (polite, singular or plural)
Wij zijn We are
Jullie zijn You are (informal, plural)
Zij zijn They are

(*) In so-called inverted sentences (such as questions), where the personal pronoun follows the verb, "ben" (instead of "bent") is used with "jij". E.g., "Jij bent een student" = "You are a student"; but: "Ben jij een student?" = "Are you a student?"

(**) "U is" is occasionally used, but this is considered very old-fashioned by most Dutch people.

Verleden tijd Past tense
Ik was I was
Jij was You were (informal, singular)
Hij, zij was He, she was
U was You were (polite, singular or plural)
Wij waren We were
Jullie waren You were (informal, plural)
Zij waren They were

Voltooide tijd Perfect tense
Ik ben geweest I have been
Jij bent geweest You have been (informal, singular)
Hij, zij is geweest He, she has been
U bent geweest You have been (polite, singular or plural)
Wij zijn geweest We have been
Jullie zijn geweest You have been (informal, plural)
Zij zijn geweest They have been