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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!

July 18, 2014


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

July 18, 2014


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.

July 18, 2014


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').

July 18, 2014


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

July 18, 2014


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. :)

July 18, 2014


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!!!!!


October 19, 2014


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)

October 19, 2014


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 :)

April 15, 2015


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! :)

April 16, 2015

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