Though 'bij' often means 'close to' or 'near' (something), this meaning really isn't recognized in this context.
What you can say is that the children live 'near us', for example:
- "De kinderen wonen in de buurt (van ons)." = "The children live near/close (to us)."
Literally: "The children live in the vicinity."
- "De kinderen wonen dichtbij/vlakbij ons." = "The children live near/close to us."
When we're talking about 'wonen bij', however, what is conveyed is that the children live with someone (in this case 'us'). It is a combination of a verb with a preposition that expresses a particular meaning or activity: people living together or someone living in the house with someone else, the latter person who owns the house. :)
- "Ik woon bij mijn tante." = "I live with my aunt." or "I live at my aunt's."
- "Hij woont bij zijn vriendin." = "He lives with his girlfriend."
- "Hij woont bij zijn vriendin (in)." = "He lives in the house of his girlfriend, together with his girlfriend."
OK, so it's "live with us." Then, we've got a case of a guy who's got three wives and 55 kids in the rural area of Brazil in the state where I live, so that would be "Vijfenvjftig kinderen en drei vrouwen wonen bij zij"
Oops not "Vijfenvyftig kinderen en drei vrouwen wonen bij hij.", see below. Thank you narion_k.
I think you'd need the object pronoun hem rather than the subject pronoun hij. Also be careful with the spelling of "vijfenvijftig" and "drie".
"Vijfenvijftig kinderen en drie vrouwen wonen bij hem."
Is "wonen bij" its own expression? Like "chez" in French? Why not "met?"
In this case it is the same as German "bei" and French "chez", as in "in [x]'s house".
I don't think it's specific to the verb wonen, though; I think it's more about the construction bij + [personal object pronoun]. To exemplify, I think "Zesentwintig kinderen zijn bij ons" would mean "Twenty-six children are at our place".
"with is not part of the verb "to live" but the expression with them together means something specific.
I think the reason is that if you don't write out "zesentwintig", then you're not showing that you've actually learned how to say or write that number in Dutch! (Also, just generally speaking, you wouldn't switch between the short and long forms when performing a proper translation.)
When do you use met and not bij? I had the same question in a previous bubble thing about a man who had a glass of water with his dinner but the Dutch say bij and not met.
I'm sure it's because they want us to spell out zesentwintig even though we know its 26.