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Grammar: The present participle and the past participle

The present participle

The present participle of a verb is a form that can be used as an adjective or an adverb. It tells you that the corresponding noun is performing a certain action at the moment (in the case of an adjective) or that the action is performed alongside the main verb of the sentence (in the case of an adverb). Some examples will make this more clear:

  • De lopende man - The walking man
  • De man gaat lopend naar huis - The man goes home walking (or: on foot)

In English, the present participle ends on -ing. This is a very common form, which is also used in the present continuous (I am walking), as a gerund (I like walking) and in various other constructions. In Dutch, however, the participle is far more rare and only used as an adjective or adverb.

The Dutch present participle is formed by adding -d or -de after the infinitive. When used as an adjective, it follows the standard rules for adding -e at the end:

  • De zingende man
  • Een zingende man
  • Het zingende meisje
  • Een zingend meisje

The past participle

The past participle of a verb is the form most commonly used in the present perfect. However, it can also have the function of an adjective:

  • I have cooked the potato.
  • The cooked potato

When used as an adjective, the past participle has a passive meaning. In other words, the corresponding noun ("potato") is the object of the verb ("to cook"), not the subject. This is a difference between the present and past participle (in addition to the difference in tense!).

In Dutch, the past participle can be used in exactly the same way:

  • Ik heb de aardappel gekookt.
  • De gekookte aardappel

If the verb is weak (i.e. regular, like "koken"), then the past participle ends on either -d or -t (see the Present Perfect grammar notes). In this case, it might get the extra ending -e as an adjective, like in the example above. This follows the standard rules of adjective declension, as before:

  • De gekookte aardappel
  • Een gekookte aardappel
  • Het gekookte ei
  • Een gekookt ei

However, if the verb is strong (i.e. irregular, such as "snijden" = to cut), then the past participle ends on -en. In this case, the adjective never gets the ending -e:

  • Ik heb de aardappel gesneden.
  • De gesneden aardappel

NOTE: The form "gesnedene" does not exist!

Return to grammar overview!

November 26, 2017



dank u, wished we'd add these kinds of discussions to somewhere near the related course to look it up again if required.


This information can also be found in the Tips & Notes of the corresponding skills, which are accessible on the web.


no, I mean not on the Web, directly near the course, especially on the phone.

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