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Differences between Dutch and German (for German learners)

This list was taken from the site "Fluent in 3 months", and written by Benny Lewis. I wanted to share this to help you, German learners, understand Dutch more easily.

Differences between Dutch and German

  • G is always guttural. {as pointed in the comments, this characteristic is stronger in the North} In German G is like in English go (never like in general) but in Dutch it's usually the guttural sound like the ch in loch. Also ch is guttural in exactly the same way (in the Netherlands, not in Belgium), but has various possibilities in German depending on the dialect.

  • Different vowel sounds. I was warned about this, but told that I could actually mimic the ui sound pretty accurately when I was focused. (It's like “oy” but said in the front of your mouth)

  • Quite different spelling rules. In Dutch you must never end a (non-loan) word with two of the same letter. Even though ga (to go) has an “open” a sound you cannot write it as gaa. And wil (want, as in German) cannot be written as will. Also ‘c' is used in Dutch at the start of words (corrigeren, certificaat etc.), and only ever done so in loan words in German.

  • Capital (uppercase) letters follow more or less the same rules as in English (with some exceptions like days of the week), unlike German which capitalises every noun.

  • Different phonetics. oe is the “oo” sound in Dutch (like in English boot), sj is the English “sh” sound (unlike in German sch), and somewhat confusingly for German speakers, sch is simply an s sound followed by a (guttural) ch sound (So Amsterdam's well known airport Schiphol is S-[guttural]-ip-hol), w is almost like half way between a German and an English w (v & w) depending on the dialect. And n at the end of words/syllables is not pronounced in many dialects. So verbs like lopen, spreken, gesproken, ziekenhuis etc. are [lope, spreke, gesproke, ziekehuis].

  • Easier plurals. In German, the irregular and quite varied plurals can be quite difficult for learners, but in Dutch it is consistently -en or -s, and the rules for which to use are easy to learn.

  • Only two “genders”. German has masculine, feminine, neuter. Dutch has common and neuter, where common simply corresponds to both masculine and feminine. If you already speak German, this means that most of the time if you know the article in German you know it in Dutch (das Haus –> het huis). However, since common is twice as likely you can get by pretty well at first by guessing it will be common until you have learned which words are neuter. And indefinite (a/an) is always “een”. [Edit: one exception to masculine & feminine basically being the same for nouns that was pointed out in the comments is when referring back to nouns using the possessive, such as “De regering en haar leden” however most Dutch people do not apply this themselves. Belgians on the other hand may do it.]

  • No cases! This one is great news for learners, as it operates exactly like in English, with no cases ever applied to articles, adjectives or nouns. In German you have tables of der, die, das… den, die, das… dem, der, dem etc., but in Dutch it's always just de & het (plural always de). No need for accusative, dative, genetive etc. In het huis, over de computer.

  • Lots of turns of phrase: today/tonight/this morning are all phrased as “van” (of) the word. Vanavond, vannacht, vandaag, [From avond, nacht, da(a)g] and of course many other expressions and a lot of vocabulary will be totally different.

  • Use of gaan for future. Like in English you can say “go to” to express the future in Dutch. This is not possible in German, where present tense (plus context) or future “werden” (will) is used.

  • Verbs ending in -eren require a ge- prefix in the past, unlike their corresponding -ieren verbs in German. So noteren –> genoteerd, activeren –> geactiveerd

  • Different end-verb orders. While the second verb does go to the end in a lot of situations in both languages, Dutch is a lot more like English in some cases of the order of these end-verbs, like Hij komt niet, omdat hij vandaag moet werken (He is not coming, because he has to work today). In German this would have to end with arbeiten muss, which is reversed. Also in Dutch, in some cases you can do both, while you must do only the second form in a similar German sentence: Zij zei dat ze het niet (heeft gevonden)/(gevonden heeft) (She said that she hasn't found it).

Original: https://www.fluentin3months.com/dutch-vs-german/

June 9, 2017



One more: Many people stumble on the adjective endings in German, since these are not that simple and also always require you to know both the correct gender and the correct case to use. So if you haven't learned these basics well, you have little chance of getting the adjective ending right. In Dutch, there's either an -e or there isn't. So you still have to learn the rules, but it's a LOT easier.


Dutch still has masculine, feminine, and neuter. It is just that in the nominative, the masculine and feminine have the same form. They are still distinguished.


I must disagree with the guttural "g" point. The use of this sound varies the further from Noord Holland you go. I was an exchange student in Noord Holland, so I did speak with that dialect, but in the south it begins to go away, and in Limburgs the g is almost a hissing sound.


The extreme "CHHHHHH!!!" you hear in most audio courses is definitely not par of the norm. According my Dutch teacher only the royal family talks like that. Still in most of the taalunie a guttural g is a safer bet than a palatal pronunciation (Like German -chen), ebven if it dooesn't have to be quite as harsh as most courses have you believe.


Where I lived (an hour north of Amsterdam) they definitely used the crazy guttural g. But everywhere else it wasn't so pronounced (even in Amsterdam, with all its foreigners). I think the royal family must because they hail from that region (Willem-Alexander grew up in the Utrecht region).

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