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Dutch language facts for kids

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Native to Netherlands and Flanders
Region Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname;
also in Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, French Flanders
Native speakers 22 million  (2016)e19
Total (L1 plus L2 speakers): 28 million (2018)
Language family
Early forms:
Old Dutch
  • Middle Dutch
    • Dutch
Writing system
  • Latin (Dutch alphabet)
  • Dutch Braille
Official status
Official language in
Regulated by Nederlandse Taalunie
(Dutch Language Union)
Linguasphere 52-ACB-a
Map Dutch World scris.png
Dutch-speaking world (included are areas of daughter-language Afrikaans)
Idioma neerlandés.PNG
Distribution of the Dutch language and its dialects in Western Europe

Dutch (Dutch: Nederlands) is a West Germanic language. It comes from the Netherlands and is the country's official language. It is also spoken in the northern half of Belgium (the region called Flanders), and in the South American country of Suriname. A language known as Afrikaans was developed from Dutch by the people in southern Africa and is now spoken mainly in South Africa but also in nearby Namibia. About 22 million people around the world speak Dutch.


Dutch is a West Germanic language The West Germanic branch is divided into English, Frisian, German and Dutch. It is why Dutch is very much like English in its vocabulary and grammar, though it resembles German more than English does.

The North Germanic languages of Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic are also part of the Germanic language branch. Dutch is also in some cases like these languages.

The Dutch of before 1170 is called Old Dutch (Oudnederlands). The Dutch between 1170 and 1500 is called Middle Dutch (Middelnederlands), which is also called Diets. That's why Dutch is called Dutch in English. The word "Dutch" itself came from the Proto-Germanic word theodiscus, which means "language of the common people" and which at the time was also used to refer to the Germans and their language. Over time, the modern English usage is now used to refer to that of the Netherlands and not the Germans. The Dutch word for German, Duits, comes from the same origin.

The oldest Dutch book known is Wachtendonckse Psalmen which was written in 900. The first Dutch writer we know by name is Hendrik van Veldeke, who was born around 1150.


Dutch uses the same roman alphabet (letters) as English.


Short Long
a – like the a in art. aa – somewhat like the "i" in Fire
e – like in pet ee – like the "a" in space
o – like in organic oo – like in no
u – somewhat like the "e" in the uu – like the "ü" in the German word für
i – like in lip ie – like in piece

Note: The e can also be a schwa (like in the)

  • oe – like the "ou" in you
  • eu – like the French "eu" in fleur
  • ui – typical Dutch sound, but almost identical to the French word oeuil (= eye)
  • ou/au – like in sound
  • ij/ei – typical Dutch sound, the same as "ej" in esperanto (not in polish)
  • aai – like the "i" in ice
  • eeuw – typical Dutch sound
  • ieuw – somewhat like "iew" in view

Open and Closed syllables

The way of how vowels are pronounced, depends on the fact if the syllable is open or closed. If a syllable is open, short written vowels are spoken as long ones. Short written vowels are only spoken short if the syllable is closed. Example:

The word praten can be divided into 2 syllables: Pra|ten. Because pra is open, the a is pronounced like aa.
The word plat only has one syllables, and the a is therefore short (just a).

There is, however, an exception to this rule. This is the "e". This is because "e" can also be a "mute e" (Schwa) (IPA character ə). In most words, where an open syllable ends with e it is a short e. Therefore, open syllables with a long e (ee) are written as ee. Example:

The word "me" contains an e and is not pronounced as "mee". (Mee has a totally different meaning).

There are, however, exceptions to this rule as well. This can be seen in the word meenemen. This word can be divided into three syllables: mee|ne|men. The e's in the first two syllables are long ones, but the last one is a mute e.

The mute e also occurs in the ending of verbs (usually -en).


  • b
  • c
  • d
  • f
  • g/ch – not pronounced as the English G; the Dutch G is pronounced in the back of the throat with a "scratching" sound. In the south of the Netherlands, the G is spoken differently (so called soft G) than in the north (hard G).
  • h
  • j – like "y" in you
  • k
  • l
  • m
  • n
  • p
  • q – only used rarely; spoken as k
  • r – not like English; the Dutch R is a more rolling R
  • s
  • t
  • v
  • w
  • x – only used rarely, mostly in foreign words, pronounced as ks
  • z

Note: In words that end with "-d", the "-d" is pronounced like "-t".


The grammar of Dutch is slightly different from English. The order in which words are put in sentences are different in complex sentences. The most simple sentence-structure is "Subject - Verb". The Dutch language has few grammatical tenses. The most used are:

  • onvoltooide tegenwoordige tijd (present simple)
  • onvoltooide verleden tijd (past simple)
  • voltooide tegenwoordige tijd (present perfect)
  • voltooide verleden tijd (past perfect)

Onvoltooid tegenwoordige tijd

The most simple verb-time is the onvoltooide tegenwoordige tijd (ott; present simple). The ott is used when something is occurring now, or regularly (like: Hij eet regelmatig (He eats regularly)). Most verbs are conjugated (changed) in a regular form (these verbs are called regelmatige werkwoorden (regular verbs)). The word stem of the verb is still there in all of the conjugations (changes). The correct way of doing this is

Person Verb conjugation Example with "lopen" (to walk)
Ik (I) Stem Ik loop
Jij (you) Stem+t Jij loopt
Hij/Zij (He/She) Stem+t Hij loopt
Wij (we) stem+en* (infinitive) Wij lopen
Zij (they) stem+en* Zij lopen
Jullie (you, plural) stem+en* Jullie lopen
U (you, polite) stem+t' U loopt

Note*: The stem of a verb is the infinitive of the verb without the final -en. In some verbs, the first syllable is open, and any vowel therefore is long. The stem changes to a written long vowel. So the stem of lopen becomes loop. If the -en is then added to the stem (for example with wij), the written form becomes short again (but it still will be spoken as a long vowel).

Onvoltooid verleden tijd

The past form of the ott is the onvoltooid verleden tijd (ovt; past simple). The way how verbs are conjugated (changed) in the ovt is not easy to understand, and is mistaken often. This is because some verbs are conjugated by adding a D, while others are conjugated while adding a T. A way of solving this problem is the socalled 't kofschip. If the verb without -en (the stem in most verbs, but not always) ends with a consonant which is also in "'t kofschip", the verb is changed with a T. Example:

The verb praten (to talk) is changed with a T, because prat ends with a T.

The verb can now be changed as the following:

Person Verb conjugation (with T) Result with praten
Ik stem+te Ik praatte
Jij stem+te Jij praatte
Hij/Zij stem+te Hij praatte
Wij stem+ten Wij praatten
Zij (they) stem+ten Zij praatten
Jullie stem+ten Jullie praatten
U stem+te U praatte

There are however words in "'t kofschip" are not so easy. This is for instance in the word vrezen (to fear). The stem of the verb is vrees, so it seems that the verb is changed with a T. This is not true (it changed with a D), because vrezen minus -en is vrez. The Z is not in "'t kofschip", so the verb is changed with a D.

The verb can now be changed as the following:

Person Verb conjugation (with D) Result with Vrezen
Ik stem+de Ik vreesde
Jij stem+de Jij vreesde
Hij/Zij stem+de Hij vreesde
Wij stem+den Wij vreesden
Zij (they) stem+den Zij vreesden
Jullie stem+den Jullie vreesden
U stem+de U vreesde

Continuating verbs

Although the Dutch have a kind of present continuous (the -ing form of verbs in English), they do not use it much. Example:

The senctence "I am eating", is in Dutch "Ik eet", which is literally "I eat".
The present continuous in Dutch would be "Ik ben etende", but this is almost never used.

Actually, there are three types of continuous verbs in Dutch.

  1. The first type is a form of the verb zijn (to be) with the actual continuous verb. This is done, by adding de on the infinitive. It's not wrong to use this in Dutch, but it will sound very odd. It is only used in very formal texts.
  2. The second type is a type where the verb actually functions as an adverb. Depending on subject, the verb is changed by adding either a "d" or "de" to the infinitive. The verb then has the function of while..... An example: Hij liep drinkend de supermarkt uit. In English this is He walked out of the supermarket, while drinking .
  3. The third type is a type which is used a lot. The use of this type can be compared with the English type of continuous. It is used when something is being done, at that moment, but still not completed yet. It is made up by a form of zijn + aan het + the infinitive. Example: Ik ben aan het lopen, which means I am walking (at the moment).


hallo (hello)
Ik heet ... (my name is...)
Ik hou van je (I love you)
ja (yes)
nee (no)


een (one)
twee (two)
drie (three)
vier (four)
vijf (five)
zes (six)
zeven (seven)
acht (eight)
negen (nine)
tien (ten)
elf (eleven)
twaalf (twelve)

In number with three digits (e.g. 100), the Dutch change the u into o and replace 1 of the r's. Example:

The number 100 becomes: honderd, which literally means hundred.

Basic Dutch expressions

Dutch English
Hallo Hello
Hoi Hi
Dag Bye (formal)
Doei! Bye! (informal)
Tot later! See you later!
Goedemorgen/Goedemiddag Good morning/Good afternoon
Goedenavond/Goedenacht Good evening/Good night
Hoe gaat het met je? How are you? (informal)
Hoe gaat het met u? How are you? (formal)
Met mij gaat het goed! I am fine!
Dank je/Dank u Thank you (informal/formal)
Graag gedaan You are welcome
Spreekt u Engels? Do you speak English?
Spreekt u Nederlands? Do you speak Dutch?
Ik begrijp het niet I do not understand
Tot ziens Goodbye
Mijn naam is... My name is...
Ik ben... I am...
Alsjeblieft Please (informal)
Alstublieft Please (formal)
Wat is je naam? What is your name? (informal)
Wat is uw naam? What is your name? (formal)
Waar kom je vandaan? Where are you from? (informal)
Waar komt u vandaan? Where are you from? (formal)
Ik kom uit Nederland/België I'm from the Netherlands/Belgium
Wat is er? What's wrong?
Sorry, waar is het station? Excuse me, where is the train station?
Hoeveel kost deze trui? How much is this sweater?
Mevrouw Miss/Mrs.
Meneer Mr.

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