Grammar: The Dutch past simple
1. The conjugation
Below you can find the Dutch past simple, or the imperfect, conjugation forms:
As the conjugation table above may indicate, the past simple conjugations of the Dutch verbs have two main variants: the stem + – te(n) verbs and stem + -de(n) verbs. Whereas the singular verb conjugation forms end with –te or –de, the plural verb conjugation forms end with –ten or –den.
When does a verb end with –te(n)/-de(n)?
If the stem’s last letter is one of the consonants of the word ’t kofschip, so a t, k, f, s, ch or p, then the verb will be conjugated with –te(n).
If the stem’s last letter is another consonant (so not one of those listed above), the verb will be conjugated with –de(n)
The most important irregular verbs in the past simple are hebben (to have) and zijn (to be). Below you can find their past simple conjugations:
As you may have noticed, these verb conjugations really also only have two forms, depending on whether the subject is singular or plural: was (singular) vs. waren (plural) and had (singular) vs. hadden (plural).
Other verbs which are irregular in the past simple tense are, for example:
- brengen – bracht: to bring – brought
- komen – kwam: to come – came
- moeten – moest: to have to – had to
- weten – wist: to know – knew
There is also a large group of verbs in which undergo a vowel change for the past simple, such as:
- zingen – zong: to sing - sang
- bidden – bad: to pray – prayed
2. The Dutch Past Simple
- Unsurprisingly, the Dutch past simple is used for describing events which have taken place in the past or a previous situation.
- This tense is also used in the narration of a series of actions, events or situations which have taken place in the past.
- It is used when we are talking about habits or actions, events and situations that have been repeated or taken place multiple times, in the past.
- Lastly, the past simple can also be used for expressing an unreal condition in the present or future.
Example: “Als ik een zoon had, was ik een moeder.” = “If I had a son, I would be a mother.”
Useful to know: The adverb 'toen' usually introduces the past simple.
- Toen ging ik naar school = I went to school (back) then.
- Toen deed hij dat = He did that (back) then.
Once again an excellent explanation! The conjugation seems to be quite simple, although I think I might struggle a little in the beginning, especially when it comes to the word order. I guess it just takes some time to actually start "thinking" in the new language, instead of going for a word-by-word translation. Dank je wel, Lavinae and Team Dutch!