Ah, grammar. The tedious yet essential skill to learning any new language, especially learning Dutch. Each language has its particular way of organizing parts of speech in a sentence, and Dutch is no different. You'll need to know where the subject, verb, or adjective goes in a sentence to communicate effectively.
It can be a bit of a head-scratcher learning Dutch sentence structure, but once we show you some Dutch word order within sentences, it will make much more sense.
If you're an English language learner, know that Dutch word order is very similar to that of English because word order changes around a lot depending on intended meaning and context.
This guide to Dutch sentence structure will cover statements (declarative, commands, imperatives) and how to form questions.
Okay, it's grammar time!
When looking at the main clause (a statement or independent clause), this is the general Dutch sentence structure:
However, time, manner, and place adverbs will move accordingly to the purpose of your statement. Also, not every sentence will need so many parts! Some sentences are simple and compound, while others are complex.
It's possible to form a sentence in Dutch using only a subject and a verb. Let's see some examples:
Now let's add an object to our Dutch sentence structure. In Dutch, the object (or direct object) is called 'lijdend voorwerp.' Generally, the 'lijdend voorwerp' goes after the verb in a sentence like so:
In the above examples, the objects were direct, meaning something was being directly done to them. You can also use indirect objects in a sentence like this:
Subject + Verb + (Direct) object + (Indirect) object
In these examples, the objects, 'mother,' 'paint,' and 'paws,' are all indirect objects because nothing is being done directly. 'Sister,' 'fence,' and 'food' are direct objects because the sister is being spoken to, the fence is the object being painted, and the food being eaten.
Like in English, adjectives are used to describe nouns (people, places, and things). In English sentence structure, the adjective goes before the noun. Thankfully the Dutch follow the same rule for most Dutch adjectives:
Now let's make things more interesting. We're going to add adjectives to our earlier sentences:
As you can see in these examples, the adjective goes immediately before the noun.
When adding adverbs to sentences, the Dutch word order is different from the English sentence structure. In English, the adverb can go either before or after the verb. However, in Dutch sentence structure, the adverb goes after the verb.
Ik eet veel. (I eat a lot.)
Zij praat veel. (She talks a lot.)
De jongen schildert snel. (The boy paints quickly.)
What happens when you add two adverbs into a Dutch sentence? What happens to the word order in Dutch?
Ik eet altijd veel. (I always eat a lot.)
In Dutch, the last two words are the adverbs - altijd veel. Both go after the verb. Let's see another example:
Ze praat snel en vaak. (She talks quickly and often.)
Snel and vaak are the adverbs after the verb.
The modifying adverb comes after the verb and before the adverb or adjective when this occurs.
Subject + Verb + Adverb + Adjective + Direct object
Adverbs of time and place can go at the start, middle, or end of a sentence. However, adverbs of manner don't typically go at the start of a sentence. Let's look a how to use adverbs of time and place at the beginning of a Dutch phrase:
Moving on from declarative statements, let's look at imperative sentence structures. Imperatives are commands such as, 'Go to your room!' or 'Clean up, now!'
The English sentence structure for an imperative usually begins with a verb or a subject. In Dutch, their commands begin with a verb.
Let's see a few different examples of commands in Dutch:
Was de auto zorgvuldig. (Wash the car carefully.)
Verf de deur geel (Paint the door yellow)
Ga snel naar de winkel. (Go quickly to the store.)
The common question words in Dutch are:
|English Question Word||Dutch Question Word|
Like in English, the Dutch word order for questions is that the question words go at the beginning of question sentences. The Dutch sentence structure for sentences is:
Here are some examples:
|Dutch Question||English Translation|
|Wie verft de deur?||Who is painting the door?|
|Wat doe je met de deur?||What did you do with the door?|
|Wanneer verf je de deur?||When do you want to paint the door?|
|Waar verf je de deur?||Where will you paint the door?|
|Waarom verf je de deur?||Why did you paint the door?|
|Hoe verf je de deur?||How did you paint the door?|
Okay, that was a lot to take in, but learning a language does take dedication. Be sure to bookmark this page so you can learn to read and speak Dutch more fluently.
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