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- August 31, 2015 at 9:47 am #1302
Almost all Dutch verbs end in the infinitive on -en. The present conjugation is the same for all these verbs:
to sing – zingen (inf.)
I sing – ik zing (1st sing.)
you sing – jij zingt (+t) (2nd sing.)
he/she/it sings – hij/zij/het zingt (+t) (3rd sing.)
we sing – wij zingen (1st plural)
you sing – jullie zingen (2nd plural)
they sing – zij zingen (3rd plural)
The infinitive minus -en is called the stem. As you can see, all present plurals are exactly the same as the infinitive, which makes learning them quite easy. For the singulars, the first person is simply the stem and the second and third person are the stem +t.
However, the second singular loses its -t whenever the subject of the sentence follows it immediately. This occurs frequently in asking questions:
you sing – jij zingt, BUT: do you sing? – zing jij?
There are some further difficulties that should be noted:
1. If the stem ends in -v or -z, these become -f and -s respectively in the singulars:
to give – geven:
I give – ik geef
you give – jij geeft
he/she/it gives – hij/zij/het geeft
2. Now you might wonder why I did not exactly follow the rules just now. Should it not be: ik geft, jij geft and hij/zij/het geft? Nope, and it it’s a bit hard to explain without some necessary background in Dutch phonology and how it is used. The Dutch language utilizes vowels that can be long or short: o (short: ɔ) or oo (long: oː), a (ɑ) or aa (aː), etc. I cannot and will not go into detail about these here, but if a verb ends in (single vowel) + (single consonant) + -en (such as: to walk – lopen, to guess – raden and to give – geven), then it is a safe bet that the single consonant is pronounced long. So, if we go back to the above example: geven is pronounced with a long vowel before the -en ending: (ɣ eː v ə n) would be a phonetic transcription. The reason I introduced long vowels as doubles (aa, oo) is that two of the same vowels right next to one another are in principle always long (there are, of course, exceptions). Thus, to retain the long vowel sound of geven, we add another -e to the -e in the stem: ik geef, jij geeft, hij/zij/het geeft.
Now you should be able to conjugate most Dutch verbs in the present tense. Try it out with any of these:
to walk – lopen
to hope – hopen
to live – leven
to bike – fietsen (a must for any wanna-be Dutch: the main mode of transport!)
to cook – koken
to smoke – roken
to relocate – verplaatsen
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