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Grammar: Dutch plural nouns

Content

  1. Plurals with -en
  2. Plurals with -s
  3. Plurals with -eren
  4. Other plural forms

Forming the plural in Dutch

There are quite a number of ways of forming the Plural in Dutch, so here is an explanation to help you understand exactly how it works.


Plurals with -en

The plural ending -en is the most common plural ending in Dutch. You first get a taste of it in Basics 2 with words like “vrouwen” (“vrouw” in the singular) and “mannen” (“man” in the singular).

If you’ve read the thread about Dutch spelling you now know that a word like “man” becomes “mannen” due to a spelling rule.

This is to be noted when adding the plural ending -en:

  • de kat (cat) + -en = de katten
  • de maan (moon) + -en = de manen
  • de man (man) + -en = de mannen

Other spelling rules, such as f -> v and s -> z, must also be observed:

f ->v

  • de brief (letter)-> brieven
  • het bedrijf (company) -> bedrijven

s -> z

  • de prijs (price) -> prijzen
  • het huis (house) -> huizen

However, there are some exceptions where these changes don’t occur.

For the following words:

  • de dans (dance) -> dansen
  • de kaars (candle) -> kaarsen
  • de kans (chance) -> kansen
  • de mens (human) -> mensen
  • de prins (prince) -> prinsen
  • de wens (wish) -> wensen

For loanwords ending in -graaf and -soof:

  • de fotograaf (photographer) -> fotografen
  • de filosoof (philosopher) -> filosofen

There are also nouns that have a short vowel in the singular get a long vowel after -en is added:

  • het bad (bath) -> baden
  • het bedrag (amount) -> bedragen
  • de dag (day) -> dagen
  • het dak (roof) -> daken
  • het gat (hole) -> gaten

In other words, the vowel sound changes.

For these words:

  • het lid (member) -> leden
  • het schip (ship) -> schepen
  • de stad (city) -> steden

And for words ending in -heid:

  • de mogelijkheid (possibilty) -> mogelijkheden

If a noun ends in -ee or a stressed -ie, a trema is added:

  • het idee (idea) -> ideeën
  • de kopie (copy) -> kopieën

Note: If there is no stress on the -ie, the plural is formed by adding an -s ending.


Plurals with -s

There are also a number of nouns that end with -s in the plural, because they either end a certain way or are borrowed words.

The following nouns get the ending -s in the plural:

  • Nouns with two or more syllables ending on an unstressed -el, -em, -en, -er, -erd, -aar, -aard, and all diminutives:
    • de tafel (table) -> tafels
    • het modem (modem) -> modems
    • de jongen (boy) -> jongens
    • de vader (father) -> vaders
    • de stommerd (dummy) -> stommerds
    • de adelaar (eagle) -> adelaars
    • de luiaard (sloth) -> luiaards
  • Most loanwords that end in a consonant, which also end in s in the language of origin:
    • de film (film/movie) -> films
    • de computer (computer) -> computers
    • de roman (novel) -> romans
  • Nouns ending in an unstressed -ie:
    • de familie (family) -> families
    • de organisatie (organization) -> organisaties
    • Exceptions to this are “de bacterie” (bacteria) -> “bacteriën” and “de porie” (pore) -> “poriën”

The ending ’s (apostrophe s) is added to words ending in -a, -i, -o, -u or -y. This is necessary because otherwise the vowel length would change (think of the spelling rules):

  • de firma (firm) -> firma’s
  • de taxi (taxi) -> taxi’s
  • de auto (car) -> auto’s
  • de paraplu (umbrella) -> paraplu’s
  • de baby (baby) -> baby’s

Plurals with -eren

A small number of nouns end in -eren in the plural:

  • het ei (egg) -> eieren
  • het kind (child) -> kinderen
  • het blad (sheet/leaf) -> bladeren (leaves (on a tree)) or bladen (sheets (of paper))

Other plural forms

Here are some other plural forms for some common words:

  • het album (album) -> albums
  • de catalogus (catalog) -> catalogi
  • de crisis (crisis) -> crises
  • de cursus (course) -> cursussen
  • de koe (cow) -> koeien
  • het museum (museum) -> musea (or museums)

Return to grammar overview!

July 18, 2014

3 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PopTartTastic

For catalogus, crisis, and museum, those are all taken from Latin, so they use Latin plurals. In 2nd declension, "us" when plural is "i", and "um" is "a". In 3rd declension, nouns use "is" and the ending.

July 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Atcovi

Thought eagle was "arend"

January 19, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El2theK

Can both be arend or adelaar.

January 19, 2016
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