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"Hoewel hij oud is, is de man sterk."

Translation:Even though he is old, the man is strong.

July 26, 2014



Someone is going to have to explain Dutch word order to me because I am completely lost right now.

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You should use this website as a reference too: http://www.dutchgrammar.com/en/?n=WordOrder.00


I don't understand the sentence construction here. Why is it "is de man sterk" and not "de man is sterk". Is this just because of "Hoewel"? Or does this happen everytime?


The (relatively) simple case is when the main clause comes before the subordinate clause:

  • De man is sterk, hoewel hij oud is.

But if the subordinate clause comes before the main clause, the main clause gets the same word order as in questions:

  • Is de man sterk?
  • Hoewel hij oud is, is de man sterk.

There are three types of word order in Dutch. I will explain them with the example De man leest het boek because then I can refer to het boek as the object. (Oud and sterk are not objects, though they are in similar positions.)

  • [omdat] de man het boek leest. (SOV)

This is the original Proto-Germanic default word order that is familiar to some of us from Latin. (Both Proto-Germanic and Latin had very free word order because the cases prevented ambiguity. But SOV was the word order that speakers produced in ordinary sentences when they didn't want to stress anything in particular.) The verb comes last. In Dutch it is preserved in most but not all subordinate clauses, e.g. in those that are introduced by omdat (because). The Michel Thomas Dutch course refers to this word order as the omdat effect.

  • De man leest het boek. (SVO, V2)

This is the normal word order for main clauses. The verb comes second. Instead of the subject (de man) you can also put other parts of the sentence first, e.g. the object (het boek), to stress them. But even then the verb always comes second: Het boek leest de man. This is why this word order type is called V2. The only exception is that if you put the verb first in order to stress it, you obviously don't repeat it in second position. So the result is VSO word order, not VVSO.

When the predicate is more complicated than a single verb (e.g. heeft gelezen rather than just leest), only the main verb is in second position and the remainder of the predicate follows at the end of the sentence: De man heeft het boek gelezen. So Dutch (like German) is not really V2 in main clauses but actually a weird mixture of V2 and SOV.

  • Leest de man het boek? (VSO)

This is the normal word order for main clauses of questions without a question word such as why, where etc. You can think of it as a special case of the previous one: If there is a question word, we obviously want to stress it, so we put it first. If not, we usually want to stress the verb, so we put the verb first.

It is also the normal word order for main clauses that are preceded by a subordinate clause.

If the predicate is more complicated than a single verb, the same complication as for Dutch V2 clauses occurs: Heeft de man het boek gelezen?


Thank you so much! :)


When talking about the omdat effect, why is the sentence not, " Hoewel hij oud is, de man sterk is" if the verb is supposed to go last?


"De man is sterk" is the main clause. As I explained, the main clause is normally in V2 order - verb group comes last, but the finite verb is moved to second position. But when the main clause comes after the subordinate clause, as here, then it is in question word order - verb group comes last, but the finite verb is moved to first position.

In this case, the verb group is is sterk, and the finite verb is is. We have to move is to the start of the sentence, leaving only sterk at the end: "is de man sterk".


So just to clarify, this exact same sentence (hoewel hij oud is, is de man sterk) could mean "Though he is old, is the man strong?" if we follow it with a question mark?


Only in the same way in which you can turn almost every sentence into a question by replacing the period by a question mark. In our sentence the subordinate clause is stressed by putting it before the main clause. Normally, doing this is not appropriate for questions. For this reason and probably also because of the very phenomenon you are wondering about (questions wouldn't have a special word order in this case), people almost never do this with questions. That leaves only the usual word orders:

  • De man is sterk, hoewel hij oud is.
  • Is de man sterk, howel hij oud is?

(Extrapolated from my native German. If it doesn't quite apply to Dutch, I am sure a native Dutch speaker will point this out.)


Don't worry, it's exactly the same in Dutch (as almost always is the case with word order stuff). :)


So, I just asked my boyfriend for help understanding this word order as he's Flemish, and he's stated explicitly that it sounds really wrong to say 'is de man sterk' at the end rather than 'de man is sterk'.

Does anyone know if this is because of his regional dialect or is it Belgian dialect in general? It's so hard sometimes to keep in order what's the right way to say things because of small differences like this and I obviously want to sound as fluent as possible when I'm over in Belgium :')

Not saying he's right and everyone else is wrong, I'd just like to know which sentence structure to prioritize when I'm speaking to Belgians :)


Grammar rules are the same, so it shouldn't matter and I would have expected that your boyfriend would know that you cannot say de man is sterk here.


That's why I was just clarifying whether or not that's just the way people speak in his particular area. He didn't say that the other way was wrong or his way was right, just that it sounds wrong/ weird so obviously he's used to people saying it another way.

Thank you for clarifying however.


I think it's just because the verb goes second, so you have subordinate clause + verb and then the rest. If you didn't want the subject after the verb, you'd have to put the main clause first. But I don't know for sure, so don't take my word for it.


A bit confused with hoewel (although) and hoeveel (how many) because they sound the same..


Not the same, but similar. 'hoewel' is pronounced /'ɦu'wɛl/ whereas 'hoeveel' is pronounced /ɦuˈveːl/


V is pronounced as an F and W is pronounced as a V (using English or Spanish as a reference) :)


Spanish V does not sound as English V. In Spanish V sounds as B. So, Barcelona and Vancouver sound the same.


Simply not true - it depends where and who you are speaking to. Countries like Argentina and Uruguay have a much harder time differentiating it but it's very distinct in Spain and Mexico, for example. That said, the difference is much less pronounced in Spanish than English overall.


I would like to know in which part of Spain is B and V differentiated, in Standard Spanish.

Here is what La Real Academia de la Lengua says about it ....



This discussion is getting a little offtopic methinks... Maybe raise a different thread on the Spanish duo?


when I see such a structure, I want to learn Dutch from German, to be honest. For English I would would just swap the subjects of these sentences, sounds more English to me that way


It does seem odd...I thought it was a pretty universal thing (in 'proper' speech, at least) to define the pronoun before you use it (unless it's an undefinable one, like in fixed phrases--'het regent.')


Interesting point. There could be such a strict rule some day, but we are not there yet. If this ever happens I am sure it will take a while, since it's also normal to use definite articles with objects right before we define them. Also, relative pronouns routinely appear between the noun they refer to and the relative clause that defines their precise meaning. You could argue that both must occur before the relative pronoun is used, but that's not feasible.

But even in languages that have such rules, it is likely that they can be broken in situations such as the one we have here. The normal order of clauses (both in English and in Dutch) would be this: "The man is strong even though he is old." Our sentence is the result of moving the subordinate clause to the front to give it more weight. Rules are typically not formulated for the result of such a transformation (i.e. of a so-called syntactic movement) but for the original sentence.


You have some good replies in here, mate. You a linguist?


yep, you could say that


English allows constructions like this. When a pronoun that references an object precedes it instead of following it as usual, it's called a cataphoric pronoun, or cataphora (as opposed to anaphora, which follow their co-referents). This sentence means that cataphora are at the very least tolerated to some extent in Dutch. Other languages may dissallow them completely.


how do you know if the verb is to be put in front or at the end if there is a subordinate conjunction?


This link should help explain, you might have to copy and paste it into your address bar to work: http://www.unilang.org/course.php?res=62subid=2#ci-l7conjunctions :)

Actually because the link is so temperamental, I'll screen cap it:

From the link I provided.


Geen probleem! :D

Also keep in mind when there's a subordinate at the beginning of a sentence, as the first item the word order generally goes like this:

subordinate - subject - object - verb, [after the comma]: verb - subject - object.

Think of it this way, if a subordinate is at the beginning of the sentence then inversion occurs where the verb goes at the end, and the next verb then starts after the comma (or clause). That's how I've learnt it and so far it's stuck :)

Conjunctions were really the devil for me up until recently. Just keep at it and you'll get the hang of it!


What is wrong with: "Although he is an old man, he is strong."


It has the same meaning, but is a pretty loose translation because you moved man from the main clause to the subordinate clause. If someone had come up with it before and reported it as a variant, I guess it would be accepted by now - though I can't really see a reason for this transformation.


I am getting my masters in translation and so some of my translations on here do not always fit the prescribed method that duolingo is looking for. I believe that the sentence structures on here are a bit awkward in English although they are (definitely) technically correct, but my job as a translator is to make it readable for the audience. Anyway - I understand the reasons for these sentence constructions as a learning methodology but I guess I just wanted to know if it was still correct and you answered my question. Thank you! I'm having fun with Dutch, although I find it hard coming from a strong Romance language background. Also - how did you get to level 16 in Spanish? I tapped out at 11 and duolingo said I could go no further. I'm fluent in it, so it was good fun - just curious. Thank you!


The sentence in its original structure isn't that awkward. To the extent that it is, I think it's exactly the same thing in Dutch. This is why I said I can't see a reason for the transformation - although admittedly this does depend on your goal.

The Duolingo levels reflect the amount of work that you have put into a target language more than the lessons you have mastered. Theoretically you can reach level 25 (the maximum level) while staying in lesson 1. You get some extra XP for doing shortcuts, but it's less than what you would need realistically to do all the lessons that you are jumping over. I got to level 16 in Spanish by doing all lessons without shortcuts and also refreshing them for a while. Whenever I start doing the Spanish from French course, this will also contribute to my Spanish level because it's combined for all courses with the same target language.


Sorry I didn't mean it was that awkward, it's just not perhaps the most typical way I would say it, but if someone did say it I probably wouldn't even notice - but depending on the circumstance, of course. Thanks for explaining that! I jumped way ahead in Spanish so less points - but I can go back and refresh some if I want more.


When I use my phone to use DuoLingo, I can switch my keyboard to offer predictive text in Dutch, and it didn't recognize 'hoewel' as one word (it suggested 'hoeveel' first, and 'hoe wel' second). Is it not an everyday sort of word?


It is quite common. So only the people who provided the dictionary database for the predictive text can answer your question i think.


never trust autocorrect, they even think my name is written wrong...


Autocorrect isn't supplied by Duolingo, it's in your browser. If you want to actually use it, make sure it's set to the right language and make it learn additional words such as your name by right-clicking and selecting the appropriate option.


Just a simple question about "Hoewel". Can i use it when i'm saying "Even if"?


Even though means exactly the same as even if. So yes.


Bedankt :) I asked this because i wrote "even if", but duolingo said that it was a mistake.


That's fine. Please make sure to use the 'report' button next time. Translations are verified by human beings, so the more feedback you provide the more accurate the answers are.


Why isn't "Even though he is old, the man's strong" a correct answer? I think this is a bug.... :S


It is correct, but the contraction "man's" for "man is" is not used very often. Presumably, nobody has suggested it yet.


I've read the below about word order, but just out of curiosity, would it be completely incorrect to say simply in Dutch "Hoewel hij is oud, de man is sterk". Can someone give me an English translation equivalent of why this would be incorrect?


I wrote while instead of even though and it was accepted. Is it correct, though? :) Does it mean the same thing?


Yes. While can be used in the sense of even though, whereas. This phenomenon exists in many languages: Dutch terwijl, German während, French pendant que, ... They all have a primary temporal meaning, and a secondary meaning as even though.


Thank you!

Edit: Dank je!


why not "Althouth he is old, is the strong man" ?


Because of the incorrect word order, that's not a full English sentence - except perhaps a rather odd one. Correct: "Although he is old, the man is strong."

In Dutch, the word order of the main clause changes to question word order when it is preceded by a subordinate clause. In English this is not the case. Therefore, when just looking at the English sentence, we can safely drop the subordinate clause, getting (in your case): "Is the strong man."

The most fundamental problem is that you replaced predicative use of the adjective sterk/strong (the man is strong), which claims a property, into attributive use (the strong man), which assumes it. The second problem is that you gave it the word order of a question, even though you didn't put the question mark. And the third problem is that even after adding the question mark it's quite an odd sentence:

  • Is the strong man? I.e., does the strong man exist?

This has nothing to do with the meaning of the Dutch sentence. What is odd about this sentence is that it uses the copula is without a complement. When you here this kind of question you would normally answer: "What do you mean? Is the strong man what? What did you mean to say: Is the strong man here? Is the strong man old? Please complete your sentence!"

If we correct attributive use to predicative use, then this is what we get:

  • Is the man strong?

It's still a question, but much closer in meaning to the Dutch sentence. Finally, we have to turn it from a question into a statement:

  • The man is strong.

Now, adding the subordinate clause again, we get the correct full sentence from my first paragraph: "Although he is old, the man is strong."

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