https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra

De nederlandse taal, ik vind HET mooi.

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I learned that de words can be divided into masculine and feminine, and are referred back to as such in the object form.

de trein = ik zie hem

de literatuur = ik lees haar

Although, in everyday speech in the Netherlands, most people use 'hem' as the object form to refer back to de words because many native speakers don't know anymore what the correct gender is. In Belgium, however, they still strictly follow the above mentioned rule.

Therefore: I would say 'de nederlandse taal, hij is mooi (subject) or Ik vind hem mooi (object). But I have been corrected a number of times by different Dutch speakers to: De nederlandse taal, HET is mooi or Ik vind HET mooi. The same goes for 'de literatuur' = ik vind HET mooi (niet haar).

The closest explanation of this I've been able to squeeze out of any of them is that 'hem' only refers back to a tangible de word. 'Het' is used for intangible or abstract de words. The best explanation I've been given was the vague: 'a train is a SOMETHING, whereas literature is NOT a something', from which I'm extrapolating this tangible/non-tangible idea.

According to my grammar texts and onzetaal.nl this use is utterly wrong, but most of the Dutch I've spoken to seem to stick to their guns that it is correct, although they can't explain why.

Can anyone tell me if I have understood this 'tangible/non-tangible' difference correctly? And if so, would using the (I'm assuming) correct forms seem / sound snobbish or pompous to Dutch ears?

Bedankt!

Post edit: Here is a more realistic sentence I was just corrected on: "Spaans, dat is een geweldige taal, niet? Ik vind HET wel leuk (HET = de taal) ofschoon ik met Italiaans bezig ben."

My 'hem' was changed to 'het' and the notice (HET = de taal) added. How can 'het' refer to any de word?

2 years ago

15 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/El2theK
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I think the main problem you are running into is that you are trying to create sentences that are normally not used in Dutch.

To take your literature as an example. I cannot recall anyone saying Ik lees (de) literatuur. While in English it may be common to say that you are reading the literature on a certain topic in Dutch you would generally refer to what specific thing you are reading book/magazine/article. Though still if you like a book for example you would say Ik vind het een mooi boek /Ik vind het boek mooi.

Another issue may be is that when you say something like mooi in combination with hem/haar one tends to assume you are talking about a person/pet etc. and not so much an object. So this is a bit more tricky then just saying I'm referring back to something, it is masculine so I use hem.

In the case of Ik vind het mooi it is best to just see it as a general statement regarding the object, rather than referring back to the object. E.g.:

  • If someone is doing something you can ask that person Vind je het leuk? regardless if the thing that the person is doing is masculine/feminine/neuter
2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
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My examples were deliberately overly simple to show off the problem and maybe I didn't express my question well enough with them. :-)

Let me clarify what you seem to be saying:
If I say something like: Ik vind de nederlandse taal leuk. Ik spreek HET graag. I should use 'het' not hem, even though I mean the language, not the speaking.

or: Ik lees vaak nederlandse literatuur. Ik vind HET leuk. Not haar, even if I'm talking about Dutch literature in general and not the act of reading it, nor 1 specific book.

These are more often the sorts of sentences I'm corrected on and I've added a 'real' example in a post edit above.

  • If someone is doing something you can ask that person Vind je het leuk? regardless if the thing that the person is doing is masculine/feminine/neuter

That's like German. Gefällt dir das? or Findest du das gut? when referring to a general activity. But that is not the same as: Ich lese gern die niederländische Literatur, ich finde SIE einfach Klasse. die Literatur -- sie. You wouldn't use a general 'das' in this case but a feminine object pronoun. I know Dutch isn't German, but they often think along similar lines.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/grey236
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I think that if you were following the Belgian rules it would probably be better to say: Ik lees vaak nederlandse literatuur (,) ik vind haar leuk. (From what I've read using a comma here is fine) Using a period instead of a comma would make ik vind haar leuk mean either 'I like hair' or 'I like her' instead of referring back to ..nederlandse literatuur. I would say the same for your first example as well. IMO I would never use hem or haar when referring back to the object of a sentence unless you're talking about a girl or boy (animate). I guess this course is teaching either Dutch Dutch not Belgian Dutch or you've found a really weird grammar rule in Dutch that isn't commonplace anymore.

Chances are I did something weird to the grammatical structure of each sentence by adding the comma, but like I said I just think that if you're using the Belgian rules it would sound better with a comma

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
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Thanks for your reply, Greyson! Yes, in Belgium you MUST say 'hem/haar', most of my Belgian contacts demand this. But my question is about standard (Netherlands) Dutch, where it's normally 'hem' for all de words. That's why I find this so weird -- with or without a comma. ;-) (But I do see your point! Thank you!)

My grammar book says: Inanimate objects of common gender (de words) must be referred to by hem. Example:

Ik verkoop de auto. -- ik verkoop hem. (not het) Therefore: Ik spreek de taal -- ik spreek hem.

Why Dutch people want/use 'het' with taal/ literatuur, but 'hem' with auto/ trein when all of them are de words, is a mystery to me. That's why I'm asking!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/xMerrie
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I think El2theK is right about using 'het' for referring to languages and literature. We often don't say something like 'Ik spreek het'. We use the name of the language instead. If you say 'Ik spreek hem' I would be thinking that you would speak to a boy/man. ;)

As for your literature question, the 'het' refers to 'het lezen van literatuur'. Therefore, 'het' is used instead of 'hem'. This is the case with all verbs (as all verbs are referred to as 'het').

It's the same for the question: 'Vind je het leuk?', as 'het' always refers to a verb. If you would use 'hem' or 'haar' (or any other object pronoun) in this sentence, you would refer to people.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/xMerrie
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(I cannot reply to your last comment)

It's okay if you get confused, that's why we are here! :D

In your first example, you still replace 'de Nederlandse taal' with 'het'. It's because 'het' does not refer to 'de taal' but to 'het Nederlands'. I'm not sure why, but this is how it works for languages.

For the verb 'leuk vinden', yes, if you use 'hem' or 'haar', and the sentence is on its own, it will refer to a person. Therefore, you use 'het' with 'leuk vinden' when you are speaking of an object:

But I can hear you thinking: 'My sentence was not on its own, so what about that?'

Again, this refers to an action. 'Leuk vinden' in this cases always refers to an action.I would translate your example as: 'Ik lees vaak Nederlandse literatuur en dat vind ik leuk om te doen' (or something like that).

I know it does not answer your question about how to referring to 'de literatuur'. But to be honest, I can't think of another example using 'de literatuur', where it is used as an obect.

For your last part, those sentences (about the train, and such) they are correct, and you can say that.

  • De trein komt - Ik zie hem komen
  • De deur gaat open - Hij is niet dicht (or 'Zij is niet dicht', as 'deur' is feminine)

Another reason for using 'het' is when you are referring to a whole or part of the sentence. Or when the thing you are referring to is after 'het'.

  • Als je de komende dagen toch weer pijn krijgt, moet je het direct zeggen.
  • Het is erg vervelend dat we niet naar de voorstelling konden.
2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
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Does this mean that I must repeat myself when I want to say: Ik leer de nederlandse taal en ik spreek vaak de nederlandse taal. I can't replace the second 'taal' with a pronoun? I learn the Dutch language and I speak IT often. I must say the name of the language twice? And with literature: how then do I refer back to literature itself and not the reading of it? For example: I often read Dutch literature and I like reading IT. Not the reading, the literature, if using hem make you think of a man? (yes, I understand that verbs always use 'het' but I'm not talking about a verb, I'm talking about a noun) It seems like both of you are saying there is no way to do this in Dutch. Would then a sentence with something like 'de trein' also use het instead of hem?: Ik zie het (de trein) binnenkommen. If I say 'ik zie hem binnenkommen' would you think I am talking about a man even if we were at a railway station? If this is true, than the grammatical information about de-woorden always using 'hem' or 'haar' as an object pronoun is completely wrong! (I'm very confused!)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Nilfisq
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Interesting question Larry, I think you received a lot of useful comments. I just wanted to add that Dutch speaking people (in both NL and B) nowadays get more and more sloppy when it comes to the correct usage of the personal pronouns. You are right when you say that het can never refer to a de-word. Nevertheless, many people use het when referring to de-words. I used to teach translation at university level and noticed that this confusion also occurred in written texts, students using a lot of het where it was not correct. The title of your post sounds absolutely odd to me. On the other hand, "De Nederlandse taal, ik vind HEM mooi" would be grammatically correct but sounds also slightly artificial. That is because in spoken Dutch there is a tendency to avoid the use of hij/hem and zij/haar to refer to abstract de-nouns. In that case it is better to use die: "ik vind die mooi" or even better: "die vind ik mooi" (in which die is emphasised).

Other examples:

❤❤❤ is het met de pijn in je schouders? Die is bijna over nu.

Hebben zij een probleem met de communicatie? Ja, je kan die niet fantastisch noemen.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
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Bedankt Nilfisq! That clears up the last point of my question!

So, to summarize: it IS technically incorrect to use 'het' with de-woorden, but probably so common, that native speakers will correct learners to this usage (especially in conjunction with abstract de-woorden) because they believe it to be correct. (Use dictates correctness) That explains why this use is not talked about in grammars, or is said to be wrong, but also why my Dutch contacts insist that it is correct and their utter bafflement when presented with an entry from a grammar text that says it isn't. Or, their correcting a form I learned from another native speaker, as they feel it is also 'wrong'.

A special case may be 'de taal' where the het + language (het Spaans) is being subconsciously referred to, and not 'de taal', as one might logically think. Due to the confusion amongst native speakers, it's best to always use the relative pronoun 'die' when referring to any abstract de-woord. De trein, ik zie HEM binnekommen. (tangible) De pijn in mijn schouder, DIE is nu over. (abstract)

It seems to me that the Dutch language is in a state of change and is evolving quickly towards the next stage of its development. This could account for the gulf between what is considered 'correct' spoken Dutch and what people actually believe to be correct (which sometimes varies wildly from native speaker to native speaker) Fascinating for linguists -- frustrating for learners! :-D

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Nilfisq
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Hallo Larry_the_Zebra, I am not sure if Dutch is in a particular state of change. I think any language is continuously evolving and changing. Fact is that the Dutch and the Flemish may suffer from gender confusion LOL

Mistakes are also made the other way round, i.e. die referring to het-words.

An example: het meisje, strictly spoken this is a neutral noun.

Het meisje, dat daar op straat loopt, is 12 jaar.

But you will often hear het meisje, die... (logical gender vs grammatical gender)

A similar mistake is made in a very famous football song by Dutch comic and singer André Van Duin: Nederland, die heeft de bal (Nederland is a het-word). Have a look here and ask yourself if you really want to learn Dutch, haha. www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8uMYvW4xHU

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Eleonora188

Just to emphasize: Belgian Dutch is way more conservative than "Dutch Dutch", so these idiomatic difficulties are quite common, since the development of the Dutch language is very much dictated by use.

Don't panic though! A language is more than a set of rules (I would advise you to learn by heart these kind of "weird" expressions, rather than focussing on gender-rules. Male/female genders are going extinct anyway -like the subjunctive... just try and ask a Dutch person about that, a century ago it still existed!)

So about your phrases: "Spaans, dat is een geweldige taal, niet? Ik vind het leuk" is actually quite simple, because the actual phrase is: "(Het!!!!) Spaans, dat (in fact dat is neutral) is een geweldige taal, niet?" Het refers to the noun: Het Spaans. I would say that the Dutch inconsciously translate "De Nederlandse taal" to "Het Nederlands", because referring to a language they usually use the Het variant. It's a contagious analogy.

The tangible / non tangible issue, referring to "literature" is BS, so forget about that. The Dutch simply have a great issue with feminine words (sorry, feminism). In referring to feminine words, they often refer back to them as being neutral or male, which technically is wrong, but you know: USE dictates.

So if you see a train coming in, refer to it as male. If it's a male or neutral noun, the problem shouldn't exist (I hope... coz EXCEPTIONS, THEY ARE EVERYWHERE 0_o)

As to female nouns, AVOID THE PROBLEM, God knows Dutch people do! Instead of saying: De nederlandse literatuur is mooi, ik vind haar leuk; say: De nederlandse literatuur is mooi, die vind ik leuk. (Also sounds more natural to me anyway).

So this should be your rule in speaking Dutch Dutch: In referring to male or neutral nouns, use any type of pronoun you like (hem, het, die, dat), male, for male, neutral for neutral. (And "Het" for an activity, referring back to a verb / phrase)

In referring to female nouns, use DIE. Always. You will always be safe (I hope).

I'm editing cause you are all getting me confused XD I thought that was a pretty safe rule, but I'm already starting to have doubts... I will check this darn thing out.

Untill then: USE RELATIVE PRONOUNS (die, dat) instead of hij/zij/het

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
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Bedankt xMerrie en Eleonora! Ik begrijp het, denk ik! I thought my question was about object pronouns but it seems that it is actually about phrasing, as phrasing appears to be the key to the whole thing! Phrasing is really something you can only learn through exposure to / observation of a language. It's something I've asked Dutch (and Belgian) correspondents of mine to help me with-- how to phrase things in Dutch (and not translate from German) -- but they never seem to comprehend what I'm talking about. Great advice, Eleonora, I'll do exactly that in future!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/xMerrie
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Welcome! :)

I don't know when you edited your first post, so I might already answered your question.

Post edit: Here is a more realistic sentence I was just corrected on: "Spaans, dat is een geweldige taal, niet? Ik vind HET wel leuk (HET = de taal) ofschoon ik met Italiaans bezig ben."

My 'hem' was changed to 'het' and the notice (HET = de taal) added. How can 'het' refer to any de word?

In this sentence, the 'het' does not refer to 'de taal', but to '[het] Spaans'. That's why it's 'het'. ;)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/maartenvdbent

I feel like something is missing here. In Dutch, you can use 'het' as an impersonal pronoun in case what is referred to is not actually mentioned in the sentence, i.e. is exophoric. Compare the following sentences:

  • Ik heb gisteren de film gezien. HET was een mooie film.

  • Mijn zus heeft twee zoons. HET zijn leuke jongens.

  • Sophie ging boodschappen doen voor haar oma. HET is een lieve meid.

In these cases, saying "hij was een mooie film," "zij zijn leuke jongens" and "zij is een lieve meid" would be grammatically correct, but you would be hard-pressed to find a native say it like that.

It works the same way in German, which in this case would use the pronoun "es".

9 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LucPluym
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With my Flemish language feeling I would actually argue 'taal' is feminine. So I would say De Nederlandse taal, ik vind haar mooi. Van Dale dictionary seems to agree that feminine is preferred, though masculine is possible.

2 years ago
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