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Grammar: The Dutch present simple


  1. The conjugation of verbs in the present tense (present simple)
  2. The irregular verbs in the present tense (present simple)
  3. Functions of the present simple

1. The conjugation of verbs in the present tense (present simple)

How does the conjugation of the regular verbs in the present tense work?

  1. The first person singular is formed by the stem of the infinitive – ‘en’.
  2. The second person singular receives the suffix -t, added to the stem. However, if the personal pronoun comes after the conjugated verb, inversion occurs and this suffix is dropped.

    Example: “Loop jij vandaag niet?” = “Are you not walking today?”

  3. For the plural forms, the first, second and third person, -en or in some cases -n is added to the stem of the word. As a student of Dutch, this is where you’ll catch a break: these forms are all simply the same as the infinitive!

2. The irregular verbs in the present tense (present simple)

These are the verbs which are conjugated irregularly in the present tense (present simple):

  1. hebben = to have
  2. kunnen = to be able to/can
  3. mogen = may/to be allowed to
  4. willen = to want
  5. zijn = to be
  6. zullen = will

Of these irregular verbs, zijn (to be) and hebben (= to have) are used the most frequently and feature as both auxiliary and main verbs. These are the conjugations of the two verbs:

Note!: “U heeft" is also an accepted, a correct, conjugation of 'hebben'. Thus, for the formal you form, the formal second person singular, both heeft and hebt can be used. I am not putting this in the scheme above because it is easier to learn 'u hebt' as the standard form conjugation, 'u' being a second person singular pronoun. However, in principle, both forms are ok and can be used.

3. Functions of the present simple

  1. First, we use the present simple when an action or event is taking place right at this moment, now. For example: “Hij leert Nederlands.” (= He is studying Dutch). This individual is said to be studying right now.
  2. When an action or event is going to take place in the future. Note that therefore the present simple can also be used in some of the cases that English uses the future tense. Example: “Morgen eten wij kaas.” (= Tomorrow we are going to be eating cheese).
  3. When a general truth is put forward. For instance: “Nederlanders dragen klompen” (= The Dutch wear clogs).

Return to grammar overview!

July 18, 2014



So future and present are the same. Good to know!


There's also a separate future tense, but you may come across the present simple being used for denoting a future action or event. :)


I'll keep that in mind! Thanks!


Did you mean to say that "u heeft" is also acceptable? Because "u hebt" seems to be the "normal" form, and you later go on to say that "both heeft and hebt can be used" for "u". Or am I misunderstanding something?

But I think that these grammar explanation are really a great thing. I haven't come across anything like it for any of the other courses that I tried so far.


Edit: Yes, you are very right, that's what I meant. Thanks for letting me know about that typo. :)

Both u hebt and u heeft are correct forms.
This means that when you're speaking or writing Dutch, using either form is fine.

U hebt is a frequently used form and may make more sense to learners, since 'u' is a second person singular we are talking about. Yet, u heeft is a little bit more common. :)

The fact that both forms can be used for 'u' probably has something to do with the origins of the pronoun 'u', for which there are two theories (Dutch source). It may either have something to do with the cases that Dutch used to have centuries ago, or with 'u' being derived from 'Uwe Edelheid' ('You noble one').


I think what they meant is that you mistyped, it should say that "u heeft" is also acceptable.


Ah right. I hope the note is clearer now. :)
Thanks for the clarification. ^^


On this page, you give "U hebt" in the chart, saying this will be easier to learn, while mentioning that "U heeft" is OK too and actually more common.

But when we start the "Basics 2" lesson in the Dutch tree, in the tips and notes section, we see the form "U heeft" without any alternatives or any further explanation. I know both are accepted, but perhaps it would be better to emphasize the same form on both pages ("U hebt" here and in the tips notes of Basics 2)?


Are those all the irregular verbs, or are there more?


Those are the only verbs with an irregular simple present conjugation. :)
These also tend to be the verbs that are irregularly conjugated in other tenses.

There may be other verbs which have exceptions in their conjugation, but those I'd have to search for. For now, these verbs are the only irregular ones which really need to be learned. :)


Yay! No irregular verbs, or at least not as many as in French :)


In fact, the verb used here as an example of regular verbs (lopen) is irregular in the past tense! I think the amount of irregular verbs in Dutch is of a similar proportion as in English. So don't get too comfortable...


Would someone please create a section on separable verbs?


It is good to know this before to follow studing Dutch, but when I am going to talk in the Future, Do i use a Particle?...As in English, e.g. I WILL eat cheese? Dutch: Morgen eten wij kaas? where is the particle in it? or it is like: I go to eat cheese tomorrow?....

It seems simple but...It is not. Instead, WE HAVE TO PRACTICE!

Pardon voor mijn Engels, Ik spreek geen goed Engels.

P.D. I wanna know when I have to NIET in Nederlands!!!!!



Please do correct any of these if I'm wrong!

The phrase "Morgen eten wij kaas" is all in the present tense, and implies "Tomorrow we eat cheese." I think with the phrase "I WILL eat cheese" you have to switch the word order after your main verb...

I want to eat cheese = Ik wil kaas eten.

I can eat cheese = Ik kan kaas eten.

I am going to eat cheese = Ik ga kaas eten.

I will eat cheese = Ik zal kaas eten.

(I try to remember the verb "zullen" as "shall" in English)


I'm a bit confused with the "U" form of conjugation. Does it always follow the 3rd person singular? (with regular and irregular verbs) I never know how to conjugate it! Thanks :)


Hi Marie! :)

'U' is the formal version of the second person, and though it can refer to one person or multiple people, it always takes the second person singular for verb conjugation.

So you'll get: U loopt / U slaapt/ U rent.

Perhaps thinking of the word 'alstusblieft' helps: als het u blieft. <-- 'blieven' is an archaic verb but as you can see it is in the singular form! :)


Ok, this clears things up for me. Thank you very much!


"Morgen eten wij kaas", why is it not "Morgen wij eten kaas"? Would that be wrong?


See the grammar notes on Dutch word order. The short answer is that the finite verb has to always be in the second position in Dutch. Therefore, if the first position of your sentence is already occupied by an adverbial of time like "morgen" ("tomorrow"), the finite verb (in this example "eten") has to follow directly afterwards. "Morgen wij eten kaas." would be wrong.


'U heeft' is the form taught in Basics 2 because it is the normal form, and the more common form. It is because 'U' originally took the third person singular forms, even though it means 'you'. It is like German, where the more polite form for 'you' is 'Sie', which also takes third-person verb forms; it is also like Spanish, where the more polite word for 'you', 'Usted', uses third-person verb forms.


I've noticed in a few of the practices that verbs are sometimes used almost interchangeably. Where take lopen for example; the prompt asks Ik loop- I walk, then a few questions later it would ask me je loop saying the answer is you are walking. Is this correct and I am just misunderstanding? How can loop mean both walk and are walking?


Well, in Dutch there isn't much of a difference between the present simple and the present continuous, you can use both. Most of the times we use the simple as in: Ik loop, which can mean I walk and I'm walking. Though, you can express progression, or very linguistically speaking, the progressive aspect by a form of ‘zijn’ + ‘aan het’ + the infinitive. So I am walking is literally: ‘Ik ben aan het lopen’. But ‘Ik loop’ is also a good translation of ‘I am walking’ and if you would ask me, a native Dutch speaker, I would advice you to use the simple, ‘Ik loop’, form. Succes with learning!


Can someone please explain why the -t is dropped from the stem in second person singular inverted word order? At first I though it might be a pronunciation rule, but quickly realized that tj combinations occur all the time in Dutch. Is there a reason why this happens in this very specific case beyond "Just because"?


Does anyone have a list of Dutch verbs where the vowel of the stem is doubled in the singular - as in lopen?

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