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Some Dutch words Dutch learners need to understand

Hi guys! Hope you're all having a great learning experience here on Duolingo!

I thought I'd give you guys some insight on some fairly strange but very commonly used words. Words that are very hard to translate, but you will definitely encounter once you start reading or speaking Dutch. The Dutch language is filled with words that, while they may have a different meaning on its own, can completely alter the meaning or implication of a sentence.

Here are some examples:

<h1>Maar </h1>

Many of you will know this word as the Dutch translation of the word "but". However, this word can mean several other things.

To make a sentence sound like less of a command:

"Geef de appels aan mij." Sounds like an order, right?

"Geef de appels maar aan mij" By adding the word 'maar' you are now saying: just give the apples to me. In a friendly way.

Meaning 'only' or 'just':

"Hij heeft vier appels." No problem here. He's got four apples.

"Hij heeft maar vier appels." He only has four apples. What a loser.

"Doe normaal!" Be normal! Behave normally!

"Doe maar normaal." Just be normal, be yourself.

Meaning 'for lack of a better alternative':

"De appels waren op, dus nam ik maar bananen." There were no more apples, so because of this I opted for bananas.

This sentence can also be flipped around, to illustrate the cause and effect better: "Ik nam maar bananen, want de appels waren op." (I opted for bananas because they were out of apples)

<h1>Toch </h1>

Ah, a typical Dutch word with that nice gutteral GGGGG sound. There is no literal translation for this word, since it changes meaning all the time.


"Jij gaat morgen naar school, toch?" At the end of a sentence, it almost always implies that the person saying said sentence wants conformation of the statement made.

It can also be added in the middle, having the same meaning as the sentence above: "Jij gaat morgen toch naar school?"


This meaning only occurs in statements. It can be quite tricky, especially when written, because you have to look for the question mark see the implied meaning:

"Jij gaat morgen toch naar school?" You're going to school tomorrow, right?

"Jij gaat morgen toch naar school." You're going to school tomorrow anyway.

Same sentence, but in this case the question mark makes the difference.

"Hij is toch niet thuis?" He isn't home, right?

"Hij is toch niet thuis." He isn't going to be home anyway, so no use ringing the door bell.

Even though you said you wouldn't...

Imagine someone told you they weren't ever going bungee jumping (me). Now imagine that person telling you they did go bungee jumping last weekend. In English you would probably say: "I thought you said you would never go bungee jumping?" Or: "You did go bungee jumping?!" You would put emphasis on the word did because you're surprised that they have gone against their own statement. In Dutch we use the word toch.

"Ben je toch gaan bungee jumpen?!"

"Heb je toch chips gegeten?" (even though you're on a diet)

"Zij zijn toch weer bij elkaar." They did get back together, even though it was a bad breakup/they said they hated each other/there was a lot of drama etc.

<h1>Gewoon </h1>

Literally translated, this means 'normal'. But, as I think you might have gathered by now...we like to stick words into our sentences and have them magically change meaning! POOF!

As an explanation/'just'

"Ik wil niet." I don't wanna!

"Ik wil gewoon niet." I just don't wanna! Plain and simple. My mind is made up and I don't have to give you a reason, I just don't want to!

"Ik ben gewoon moe." I'm just tired. Forgive me for being cranky. Don't mind me, I'm just tired.

As per usual

"Moooom I feel sick! Nee, je gaat gewoon naar school." Meaning, I don't care if you feel sick little Timmy, you are going to school as you always do. Or as my mother used to say: Is your head hanging off? Nee? Dan ga je gewoon naar school!

"❤❤❤ ben je gekomen? Gewoon, met de trein." How did you get here? With the train, as usual. I always take the train, so why ask?

I hope this helped you in some way. We have many more, but these are the few I encounter the most. We Dutch are a weird people. Intonation, sarcasm, and just plain collocation is firmly embedded in our way of speaking and dealing with one another.

If anyone is interested, I will gladly give you some more examples. Happy learning!

September 12, 2015



Nice, I came upon two more of those words:


  • "Best" is de overtreffende trap van Goed: Goed, beter, best, in English: Good, better, best.

But there is more:

"Best" can make an adjective somewhat less absolute:

  • Ik ben bést moe - I am rather tired
  • Hij vindt haar bést leuk - He kind of likes her.
  • Ik ben bést opgeschoten - I made quite a bit of progress

BTW I put an accent on the stressed syllable. In Dutch we can use this accent (aigu) to indicate stress.


The primary meaning is the opposite of Not. I cannot find an English word for it, I'm sorry!

  • Ik ben wél vroeg opgestaan maar niet op tijd vertrokken - I did get up early but I left late.

"Wel" can also be used to emphasize something .

  • Ik moest wel tíén kilometer lopen - I had to walk as far as ten kilometres.

O, what a silly example! The meaning changes quite a bit when you put the stress in a different place.

  • ik moest wél tien kilometer lopen (maar toen kwam ik bij de zee) - I (reached the sea but only after having) walked, as far as 10 km.
  • Ik móést wel tien kilometer lopen - I had no other choice than to walk 10 km.
  • Ik moest wel tien kilometer lópen! (almost sounds like a punishement)

Like "Gewoon", simply adding "Wel" can make a sentence sound less like a command.

  • Je moet je tánden poetsen - you should brush your teeth.
  • Je moet wél je tánden poetsen - do not forget to brush your teeth.


Dank je wel. Een Lingot voor jou :-)

Puedes ponerme algunos ejemplos más?


Thanks :) Examples of sentences with these words, or completely new words?

  • 1996

Loved it. Thank you! :D


Wonderful post! Thank you very much :)




Thank you

This is a posting that I will write out longhand


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