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Dutch Sentence Structure: #1 Ultimate Guide

May 10, 2022

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!

 

Main Structure Of Dutch Sentences

Basic Dutch sentence structure

When looking at the main clause (a statement or independent clause), this is the general Dutch sentence structure:

Subject + Finite Verb + Adverb Of Time + Adverb Of Manner + Adverb Of Place + Other Verbs

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.

 

Constructing A Basic Sentence In Dutch

 Dutch sentences

It's possible to form a sentence in Dutch using only a subject and a verb. Let's see some examples:

Subject Verb

  • Ik ren (I run)
  • Het meisje zingt (The girl sings)
  • Een man eet (A man eats)

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:

Subject Verb + (Direct) Object

  • Ik praat met mijn zus. (I talk to my sister.)
  • De jongen verft de schutting. (The boy paints the fence.)
  • De kat eet zijn eten op. (The cat eats its food.)

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 

  • Ik praat met mijn zus over onze moeder. (I talk to my sister about our mother.)
  • De jongen schildert het hek met verf. (The boy paints the fence with paint.)
  • De kat eet zijn eten met zijn pootjes. (The cat eats its food with its paws.)

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.

 

Adding Adjectives To Dutch Sentence Structure

Adjectives in Dutch sentence structure

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:

Adjective + Noun

Let's see some simple examples:

De zwarte kat. (The black cat.)

Een prachtig schilderij. (A lovely painting.)

Now let's make things more interesting. We're going to add adjectives to our earlier sentences:

Subject Verb Adjective + Direct object Adjective + Indirect object 

  • Ik praat met mijn lieve zus over onze mooie moeder. (I talk to my sweet sister about our beautiful mother.)
  • De jongen schildert het gele hek met zwarte verf. (The boy paints the yellow fence with black paint.)
  • De kat eet zijn stinkende eten met zijn zachte pootjes. (The cat eats its smelly food with its soft paws.)

As you can see in these examples, the adjective goes immediately before the noun.

 

Adding Adverbs To Dutch Sentence Structure

Adverbs in Dutch

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.

Subject Verb Adverb

Examples:

ik eet veel. (I eat a lot.)

zij praat veel. (She talks a lot.)

De jongen schildert snel. (The boy paints quickly.)

Subject Verb Adverb Adverb

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.

What Happens When An Adverb Modifies An Adjective Or Another Adverb?

The modifying adverb comes after the verb and before the adverb or adjective when this occurs.

Subject Verb Adverb + Adjective + Direct object

  • Ik praat met mijn zeer lieve vader. (I talk to my very sweet father.)
  • Ze eet haar vreselijk soets toetje op. (She eats her terribly sweet dessert.)

How To Add Adverbs Of Time, Manner, And Place To Dutch Sentences

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:

Adverb of time Verb + Subject +  Adverb Of Manner Adverb Of Place + Direct Object Adjective Direct Object + Indirect ObjectAdjective Indirect Object

  • Vandaag praat ik rustig in de tuin met mijn lieve vader over ons mooie huis. (Today, I talk today quietly in the garden with my dear father about our beautiful house.)

Adverb Of Place + Verb + Subject + Adverb Of Manner + Direct Object Adjective Direct Object+ Indirect Object Adjective Indirect Object

  • In het huis verft de jongen al uren aandachtig de gele deur met zwarte verf. (In the house, the boy has been painting the yellow door carefully with black paint for hours.)

 

Forming An Imperative Command In Dutch

Commands in Dutch sentence structure

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:

Verb Direct Object Adverb

De auto zorgvuldig wassen. (Wash the car carefully.)

Verb Direct Object Adjective

Verf de deur geel (Paint the door yellow)

Verb Adverb Direct Object

Ga snel naar de winkel. (Go quickly to the store.)

 

Making A Question Using Dutch Sentence Structure

Questions in Dutch

The common question words in Dutch are:

English Question WordDutch Question Word
Who -Wie
What -Wat
When -Wanneer
Where -Waar
Why -Waarom
How -How

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:

Question Word Verb + Subject + Direct Object

Here are some examples:

Dutch QuestionEnglish 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?

Ready To Learn More?

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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.

Our blog is a great resource to learn in-depth information such as how to introduce yourself or how to greet in Dutch. But if you're looking for a quicker way to learn Dutch, check out Ling Language App. It offers the world in your pocket. With Ling, you'll easily pick up a new language in about 15 minutes a day through fun activities, quizzes, listening to real native conversations, and more!

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