Learning Dutch Part 2: Adjectives

Learning Dutch Part 2: Adjectives

A tricky thing about learning how to speak Dutch are the adjectives. I already talked about a few other tricky things in Dutch in an earlier post. Make sure you read that post BEFORE reading this one, as this post builds upon things told in my post on the basics of Dutch.

At the end of the earlier post, you will find an explanation on how Dutch has two different ways of expressing English ‘the’, namely: de & het. If you use these the wrong way when applying them to nouns, most Dutch people still find you endearing. In combination with adjective-noun phrases, the misuse of de & het may cause more problems, as whether a word takes ‘de’ or ‘het’ also affects the adjective. Sounds complicated? It’s not as bad as you may think and follows a fairly simple rule. Before I delve into that rule though, I’d first like to give a bit of a vocab lesson so we can have some more words to work with.

Adjectives:

  • klein – small
  • groot – big
  • lang – long/ tall (depends on context: een lang persoon – a tall person)
  • kort – short
  • hoog – high/ tall (depends on context: een hoog gebouw – a tall building)
  • laag – low
  • diep – deep

Nouns:

  • het huis – house
  • het gebouw – building
  • de flat – flat/apartment
  • de boom – tree
  • het land – country/ land
  • het meer – lake
  • de zee – sea
  • het bos – woods
  • de man – man
  • de vrouw – woman
  • het kind – child/ kid

Right, now we have some words to work with! Let’s get started. Let us first look at man, woman and child. As you can see above both man & vrouw take ‘de’, while kind takes ‘het’. So far so good:

  • de man
  • de vrouw
  • het kind

Now let’s add an adjective to these noun phrases! I’m going to use ‘klein’ (small).

  • de kleine man
  • de kleine vrouw
  • het kleine kind

As you can see, ‘klein’ changes a bit because you add it to the phrase: you add -e at the end of the word. But Dutch wouldn’t be Dutch, if we wouldn’t spice things up just a little bit. Just like English, Dutch has an indefinite determiner. In English this indefinite determiner is either ‘a’ or ‘an’, in Dutch it’s always: ‘een’. So yes, we have two ways of saying ‘the’, but only one way of saying ‘a’/’an’. Let’s apply this to man, vrouw, kind.

  • een man
  • een vrouw
  • een kind

Again, not much going on there. Now let’s add an adjective and see what happens. I’m again using ‘klein’:

  • een kleine man
  • een kleine vrouw
  • een klein kind

Oh oh… As you can see in the example above, when a ‘het’ word, as ‘een’ as a determiner, the adjective doesn’t get -e. That is then also the rule that you should always apply. Let’s look at some of the other words I put at the top of the post:

  • het kleine huis – een klein huis
  • het hoge gebouw – een hoog gebouw
  • de hoge flat – een hoge flat
  • de grote boom – een grote boom
  • het grote land – een groot land
  • het diepe meer – een diep meer
  • de grote zee – een grote zee
  • het grote bos – een groot bos

As you can see above, words like ‘hoog’ and ‘groot’ both change more than a word like ‘klein’ when adding that final -e. This has to do with Dutch phonetics and pronunciation. I am not going into that right now. All you have to know for now is that both ‘hoog’ and ‘groot’ have so-called ‘long vowels’ and are only one syllable long. When adding -e, you turn it into a two syllable word and you do not need -oo- to keep the long vowel, but you write only one -o-.

I hope this was another helpful lesson. If you like me doing this, let me know in the comments! I had totally forgotten about the first post and when I was thinking up new ideas for posts I came across it and thought it would be nice to write another one again.

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4 thoughts on “Learning Dutch Part 2: Adjectives

  1. Als een student van Nederlands, zou ik het leuk vinden als je zou meer berichten over Nederlands schrijven. In particular, I’d love to hear anecdotes about unusual uses, idioms, and things one doesn’t generally find in a dictionary or lesson book. Groetjes, Wes.

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