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Dutch confuses me.

I started taking the Dutch course and I am so confused about the difference between "ze" and "zij", "ben" and "bent", etc. Is the latter of both of those accusative, or is it just something that I'll have to learn when to use like "de" and "het"? Someone please help.

Sincerely, An Ignorant American

May 21, 2017


Sorted by top post


Dutch verbs are conjugated, and so a regular conjugation (let's use werken as an example) would look like:

  • Ik werk
  • Jij/Je/U werkt
  • Hij/Zij/Ze/Het werkt
  • Wij werken
  • Jullie werken
  • Zij/Ze werken

Notice how -en is always in the plural, and -t is in the singular except for in the 1st Person Singular. Now the verb zijn 'to be', is irregular, so that's why it probably confuses you. Here is the conjugation for zijn:

  • Ik ben
  • Jij/Je/U bent
  • Hij/Zij/Ze/Het is
  • Wij zijn
  • Jullie zijn
  • Zij/Ze zijn

Looks strange, but it's pretty simple if you realize the 3rd Person Singular 'is' is the same as in English and the 1/2/3 Person Plural is just the same as the infinitive!

For the difference between ze and zij:

  • Zij is the regular form
  • Ze is the less emphasized form, pronounced differently, and can be used to differentiate if there are two zij's in a sentence (e.g. zij is blij, ze zijn moe)
  • Ze is also used if you don't want to have a bunch of "ij"'s (e.g. zij zijn blij OR ze zijn blij)
  • In order for zij/ze to mean 'she', it takes the 3rd person singular -t ending. For it to mean 'they', it takes the 3rd person plural -en ending. Example: ze werkt vandaag and zij werken vandaag
May 21, 2017


If you're using the app, consider starting each new section on the website version where you are given grammar Tips that explain quite a bit of what you need to complete the units in that section.

I am proceeding through Dutch slowly, on purpose, to try to internalize the lessons, and I often go back to review. Without the tips and helpful advice in the forum, I would have been far more confused. Cheers!

May 21, 2017


Ik ben - I am

Jij/je bent - you are

However, if "jij/je bent" inverted, drop off the "t" off "bent".

Ben jij kunstenaar? - Are you an artist?

Now, for ze and zij, one is stressed and one is unstressed. This is the same with jij and je and wij and we.

Ze/zij means both she and they. But you can see which one it means by looking at the verb's conjugation.

Zij eten - They eat. but zij eet = she eats

If zij/ze means they, the verb will end in an "n" (the infinitive) but if it means she, it will end in a "t" (unless it is an irregular verb). More examples:

Zij/ze zien = They see. Zij/ze ziet = she sees.

Zij zijn = they are. zij is = she is

zij fietsen = they cycle. zij fietst = she cycles.

zij drinken = they drink. zij drinkt = she drinks.

You get it.

Use this link to help: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/3852773/Grammar-The-Dutch-Personal-Pronouns-Subject-vs-Object

There are 4 yous : jij, je, jullie, and u. Jij is stressed, je is unstressed, jullie is plural, and u is formal.

Wij is stressed and we is unstressed.

Zij is stressed and ze is unstressed.

Het can also mean "it" or "they" (het zijn) as well as the.

Sincerely, an English monolingual (who is trying to learn French and Dutch)

May 21, 2017


In the Dutch discussion section, there is a lot of good information on the Dutch language. Click on Discussion, then click on Dutch discussion. Here is a link to help you: https://www.duolingo.com/topic/897 In order to get to the Dutch discussion section, you need to subscribe to it.

May 21, 2017


It's not an easy language to learn, but one Dutch course contributor wrote a post about some grammar rules, which you can read here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/3732817.

May 21, 2017


Off-topic: Dutch, like every other language, presents challenges for learning. In time, all those challenges can be overcome.

I was just very struck by your observation that Dutch is not an easy language to learn. I have heard and believe myself that Dutch is probably the easiest language to learn for a native English speaker. What other language could be easier?

May 22, 2017


"I have heard and believe myself that Dutch is probably the easiest language to learn for a native English speaker." Not everyone learning Dutch is a native English speaker.

May 22, 2017


I'm not a native English speaker and Dutch is a whole lot more complicated than English. Moet dat niet vertellen aan de Englanders. I can write English fluently, maar wanner ik probeerde Nederlands schrijven voel ik als een kleine jongen. I'm now "learning" English from het Nederlands net om meer Nederlands te oefenen. Apparently I have "Engels spreekvaardigheid van 3%." Dat was een grote grap.

August 27, 2017


I use to be confused too, but I'm barely on 4 level. However I find some similarities with english and german, so It has helped me a lot. I certainly hope to finish this course. Spanish is my mother language, it's supossed to be more difficult for me. Be patient.

May 21, 2017


Yeah, Dutch can be quite confusing, even to native speakers. Don't worry too much about it. You're still in the ultimate beginner stage, so it's okay to be confused about these sort of things. I will have to warn you though, that while Dutch can look deceptively easy in the beginning, it will get harder, much harder.

But well, ze/zij is mostly a difference in emphasis. zwemmen= to swim. zij zwemmen vs ze zwemmen. In this case, 'Zij zwemmen' places the emphasis on 'Zij'. (it is they that are swimming) 'Ze zwemmen' on the other hand, places very little empahsis on 'Ze' and more on 'zwemmen.' (they swim)

Oh yes, ze/zij can mean both 'they' and 'she'. You can figure out which one you're dealing with by looking at the verb. In case of regular verbs: if it is in the indefinite form (which almost always ends in -en [lopen, zwemmen, zitten, praten, schaatsen, sporten, schrijven, lezen, eten, drinken, slapen, etc.]) it means 'they'. If not, ze/zij probably means 'she'.

If you want to know more about Dutch pronouns you can check out Wikipedia.

The function of de and het are also quite interesting, but here's a quick overview:

  • De: used for feminime and masculine nouns and for both plural and the plural + dimunitive.

  • Het: Used for neuter and dimunitive nouns, also used as 'it' and in the construction for the present continuous. (I am eating = Ik ben aan het eten. It rains = Het regent) Another fun use for 'het', is to differentiate between 'verbs versions' of words and 'noun versions' of words. A word can be both a noun and a verb you see. Het schaatsen = The physical action of ice-skating. De schaatsen = The ice-skates.

Veel plezier en succes met de cursus Nederlands! Ik hoop dat dit niet al te verwarrend is. Have lots of fun and good luck with the Dutch course! I hope that this isn't too confusing.

May 22, 2017


Dutch has a lot of particular grammar and it can be overwhelming if you try to understand it all in theh beginning of the course. Remember that you're only on level 3 now. When you get further in the course you will get to understand more and also discover more grammar topics explained, so it's okay if you don't understand much now, just take your time :)

If you like video's, this guy on youtube covers a lot of grammar and he explains it really well. Like when to use 'pas, maar or alleen', all meaning 'only' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYae9F2g9XM&t=116s

May 21, 2017


I'm confused! I had to translate the following from Dutch to English "Het paard loopt langs de straat." I typed something like "The horse walks beside the street." It should be "The horse walks down the street." Maybe I'm silly, but it would be safer for the horse to keep of the street. My English, she is not so good. Pardon, I don't know how to make words in bold in Google Chrome.

July 28, 2017
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