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Dutch Phrasebook

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Introduction

Just Passing Through

Just Passing Through

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Spoken in The Netherlands, the north of Belgium (Flanders) and Surinam. It also used to be spoken widely in Indonesia. Afrikaans, the language of South Africa, is historically related to Dutch but has evolved into a language of its own. Dutch is spoken by relatively few. Many native speakers are consequently also fluent in English, German or French, making it almost pointless to learn the language as a traveller.

However, for a keen traveller looking to impress a local with some linguistic skills, this guide will introduce a few basic phrases that could get you out of a sticky spot.

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Alphabet

Just like in English, the Dutch alphabet has 26 letters: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z. The digraph /ij/ is not strictly speaking a letter, but is occasionally put in the place of /y/ which only occurs in loan words.

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Pronunciation

Consonants

Most of Dutch consonants have a pronunciation similar to English: exceptions are mentioned below.

  • c = can be pronounced as a k or a s. just like in English. (think of circus) when followed by a by /h/: lucht (air; pronounced as 'lugt')
  • g = the pronountian of the g in Dutch is pretty close to the way the j is pronounced in Spanish. Think of mojito.
  • h = in some words that originate in French, the h is silent (like in Haute Culture), but this is not that common.
  • j is a glide, as in English yay
  • x as in English sex, also at the start of a word

Vowels

The Dutch vowel system is completely different from English. Most importantly, Dutch makes a distinction between short and long vowels when they occur in the middle of a syllable; all vowels at the end of a syllable are long. Confusingly, all vowels at the end of a syllable are written as a single character; a graphical distinction between long and short vowels is only made where it matters, i.e. in the middle of the syllable. Hence, we have:

  • ka-no, 'canoe', pronounced with two long vowels even though you don't write them;
  • ka-naal, 'canal', pronounced with two long vowels of which one is written because it occurs in the middle of a syllable;
  • ka-non, 'canon', pronounced with a long and a short vowel

For long /ee/ and /ie/, the rules are still different. When they occur at the end of a syllable, they retain their 'long' writing:

  • hoe-zee, 'hurray!'
  • ka-na-rie, 'canary'

Monographs

  • a sounds like the Cockney a in cat
  • aa sounds like a lenghtened a (like the aargh, when you impersonate a pirate)
  • e sounds like English e as in get
  • e at the end of words sounds like the English article a
  • ee sounds like English e as in mere when followed by r
  • ee sounds like English ai as in bait in all other circumstances
  • i sounds like English i as in stiff
  • ie is the lengthened i. It sounds like English ea as in mean
  • o sounds like English o in pop
  • oo sounds like English o in open
  • u sounds like English u in luck
  • uu has no English counterpart. It sounds like a German ü, as in über

Digraphs

  • oe sounds like English ou as in you
  • ou and /au/ sound like English o as in vowel
  • ui is a sound unique to Dutch (and Norwegian). Try rapidly to combine English y as in by and o as in now, and you get approximately the right thing
  • ei and ij sound like English ie as in lie, pronounced by someone with a strong Scottish accent
  • eu sounds like Norwegian Ø. When followed by r, it is lenghtened

Stress

The stress rules of Dutch are a nightmare. There are so many exceptions that it is useless to give them here. However, as a VERY general rule, you may want to stress the syllable which has a lengthened vowel in it. When there's two of them, stress the first one. When all syllables end in a consonant, stress the first one (lots of exceptions to this last rule!). Hence:

  • Af-gaan, 'Afghani'
  • la-ma, 'llama'
  • tur-bi-ne, 'turbine'
  • kap-stok, 'hallstand'
  • lam-pen, 'lamps'

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Grammar

Noun phrases

Dutch has a two-way gender distinction in its nouns. It is reflected in the choice of article, and in the inflection of adjectives. Adjectives precede the noun under all circumstances.

Use of article
Neuter gender nouns take het as their definite article; non-neuter nouns use de. The indefinite article (een) is the same for both.

Inflection of adjective
Adjectives take a silent /e/ (pronounced as the English article 'a') in all circumstances, except when used with a neuter noun in an indefinite noun phrase. Here's a couple of examples:

  • het paard - the horse; het grote paard - the big horse; een groot paard - a big horse
  • de stoel - the chair; de grote stoel - the big chair; een grote stoel - a big chair

Pronouns

  • ik - I; mij/me - me
  • jij/je - you
  • hij/zij - he/she; hem/haar - him/her
  • u - you (formal, singular)
  • het - it
  • wij/we - we; ons - us
  • jullie - you
  • zij/ze - they; hen/ze - them
  • u - you (formal, plural; inflected as hij, and therefor the same as the u singular.)

Verbs

Verb inflection in Dutch is complicated due to large numbers of exceptions to a relatively simple basic rule. Regular verbs are inflected as below:

  • ik loop - I walk
  • jij loopt - you walk
  • hij loopt - he walks
  • wij/jullie/zij lopen - we/you/they walk

Second-person singular looses its final -t in questions:

  • loop jij? - do you walk?

Dutch has two auxiliaries that are used in composite past tenses: hebben ('have') and zijn ('be'). If you know some French, stick to the rules of that language and you'll be right for 90% of your time. The highly irregular inflection of zijn is given below:

  • ik ben - I am
  • jij bent - you are
  • hij is - he is
  • wij/jullie/zij zijn - we/you/they are

Clauses

Dutch word order is affirmative clauses is the same as in English:

  • JohnSbj slaatVerb het paardObj - 'John hits the horse'

In questions, the order of Subject and Verb is reversed. Dutch has no do-support:

  • SlaatVerb JohnSbj het paardObj - 'Does John hit the horse?'

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Travel words and phrases

Travel Vocabulary

  • train – trein
  • bus - bus
  • taxi - taxi
  • car - auto
  • tram - tram
  • metro - metro
  • bicycle - fiets
  • airport - vliegveld
  • plane - vliegtuig
  • seaport - haven
  • ferry - veerboot or veerpont
  • one way – enkele reis
  • return – retour

Numbers and counting

Numbers

  • 0 – nul
  • 1 – één
  • 2 – twee
  • 3 – drie
  • 4 – vier
  • 5 – vijf
  • 6 – zes
  • 7 – zeven
  • 8 – acht
  • 9 – negen
  • 10 – tien
  • 11 – elf
  • 12 – twaalf
  • 13 – dertien
  • 14 – veertien
  • 15 – vijftien
  • 16 – zestien
  • 17 – zeventien
  • 18 – achttien
  • 19 – negentien
  • 20 – twintig
  • 21 – een en twintig
  • 30 – dertig
  • 35 – vijf en dertig
  • 40 – veertig
  • 50 – vijftig
  • 60 – zestig
  • 70 – zeventig
  • 80 – tachtig
  • 90 – negentig
  • 100 – honderd
  • 200 – twee honderd
  • 300 – drie honderd
  • 400 – vier honderd
  • 500 – vijf honderd
  • 600 – zes honderd
  • 700 – zeven honderd
  • 800 – acht honderd
  • 900 – negen honderd
  • 1,000 – duizend
  • 2,000 – twee duizend
  • 3,000 – drie duizend
  • 10,000 – tien duizend
  • 100,000 - honderd duizend
  • 1,000,000 - miljoen
  • 2,000,000 - twee miljoen
  • 1,000,000,000 - miljard

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Greeting, Pleasantries and basic phrases

  • Hello - Hallo
  • Good morning – Goedemorgen
  • Good afternoon – Goedemiddag
  • Good night –Goedenavond
  • Goodbye – Tot ziens / Dag
  • See you later - Tot ziens / Dag
  • How are you? - Hoe gaat het?
  • I'm fine - Prima
  • I'm sorry - Sorry
  • Please – alstublieft (formal) / alsjeblieft (informal)
  • Thank you – dank u wel (formal) / dank je (wel) (informal) / Bedankt
  • You're welcome - graag gedaan
  • Cheers - proost
  • Yes - ja
  • No - nee
  • Maybe - misschien
  • I don't understand - Ik begrijp het niet
  • Please wait - Wacht even
  • Do you speak English? - Spreekt u Engels? (formal) / Spreek je Engels?(informal)
  • Can you speak a bit slower? - Kunt u (formal) / Kan je (informal) wat langzamer praten?
  • Congratulations! - Gefeliciteerd

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Question words

  • Who? - wie?
  • What? – wat?
  • Where? - waar?
  • When? - wanneer?
  • Why? - waarom?
  • How? - hoe?
  • How much? – hoeveel?

Prepositions and directions

  • At - bij
  • By (me) - door (mij)
  • With - met
  • From - van
  • To - naar
  • For - voor
  • Here/There - hier / daar
  • Inside/Outside - binnen / buiten
  • Front/Back - voorkant, achterkant
  • Next to - naast
  • Opposite - tegenover
  • Up/Down - op/onder
  • Left/Right - links/rechts
  • Middle - midden
  • North/South/East/West - noord/zuid/oost/west
  • Centre - centrum

Terms of address

  • I - ik
  • You - jij / u (u is polite, used for older persons)
  • He/She/It - hij / zij / het
  • They/Them - hun
  • Our - ons
  • You (plural) - jullie
  • Person - persoon
  • Male/Man - man
  • Female/Woman -vrouw
  • Child - kind
  • Boy - jongen
  • Girl - meisje
  • Children - kinderen
  • Mr - meneer
  • Mrs - mevrouw
  • Miss - mejuffrouw
  • Father - vader / papa
  • Mother - moeder / mama
  • Brother - broer
  • Sister - zus
  • Cousin - neef (male)
  • Niece - nicht (female)
  • Grandfather - opa
  • Grandmother - oma
  • Uncle - oom
  • Aunt - tante
  • Foreigner - buitenlander

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Common Questions

  • Where is the bathroom? - Waar is de WC / Waar is het toilet? (WC is pronounced something like Way Say)
  • What time is it? - Hoe laat is het?
  • Where is the hotel? - Waar is het hotel?
  • Where can I find a telephone? - Waar kan ik hier een telefoon vinden?
  • When does the train arrive? - Wanneer komt de trein? / Hoe laat komt de trein aan?
  • How much does this cost? - Hoeveel kost dit?

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Dates and Time

  • today - vandaag
  • tomorrow - morgen
  • the day after tomorrow - overmorgen
  • yesterday gisteren
  • What day is it? - Welke dag is het?
  • What month it is? - Welke maand is het?
  • What's today's date? - Wat is de datum?
  • What's the time? - Hoe laat is het?

Days of the week

  • Sunday – zondag
  • Monday – maandag
  • Tuesday - dinsdag
  • Wednesday - woensdag
  • Thursday - donderdag
  • Friday – vrijdag
  • Saturday – zaterdag
  • Weekend – Weekend

Months of the year

  • January - januari
  • February - februari
  • March - maart
  • April - april
  • May – mei
  • June - juni
  • July - juli
  • August - augustus
  • September - september
  • October - oktober
  • November - november
  • December - december

Special Days

  • New year's day - Nieuwjaar
  • Good Friday - Goede vrijdag
  • Easter - Pasen
  • Queen's day (30th of April) - Koninginnedag
  • Remembrance Day (4th of May) - Dodenherdenking
  • Liberation day (5th of May) - Bevrijdingsdag
  • Christmas - Kerstmis
  • New year's eve - Oudjaarsavond

Telling time

  • hour – uur
  • minute – minuut
  • 1:00 – een uur
  • 2:05 – vijf over twee
  • 3:10 - tien over drie
  • 4:15 – kwart over vier
  • 5:30 - half zes (this literally translates to "half six")
  • 5:35 - vijf over half zes
  • 10:50 - tien voor elf
  • 11:55 - vijf voor twaalf
  • 12:00 – twaalf uur (or at night: middernacht)

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Colours

  • White - wit
  • Black - zwart
  • Red - rood
  • Orange - oranje
  • Yellow - geel
  • Green - groen
  • Blue - blauw
  • Purple - paars
  • Brown - bruin
  • Pink - roze

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This is version 52. Last edited at 14:09 on Nov 2, 09 by Utrecht. 19 articles link to this page.

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