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"Als jij hem niet hebt, waar is de tas dan?"

Translation:If you do not have it, then where is the bag?

August 3, 2014



Does anyone know why it is "hem" and not "het"?


The uses of the object personal pronouns

When it comes to referring to things, ideas or inanimate objects, we use het and hem. Again, when the word concerned is a het word, we use het. When it is a de word, we use hem.

I copied this from the full grammar explanation here


Could a de word be replaced by haar instead of hem?


Yes, that's the correct way to do it for feminine nouns. However since there usually is no difference between masculine and feminine nouns in Dutch (both use de), lots of native speakers (myself included) will usually make lots of mistakes, because they don't know which nouns are masculine and which are feminine. For this reason I personally try to avoid these sentences. Some examples:

  • het kabinet en zijn ministers (het is neuter, so it uses zijn)
  • de stad en haar inwoners
  • Amsterdam en zijn inwoners
  • de spreker en zijn/haar publiek (depends on the gender of the speaker)
  • de bioscoop en zijn publiek
  • de bloem en haar blaadjes


Thanks for the clarification.


Would it have been incorrect to say "Als jij het niet hebt" in this case, or are both terms acceptable?


It would be correct if you used 'tasje' instead of 'tas' ;)


What does tasje mean?


tas = bag
tasje = handbag

The word "tasje" is neuter (all words ending in -je are neuter), so "het" is used to mean "it" when referring to it.


All nouns ending in -je are neuter.


In this sentence that's incorrect, because de tas is a de woord. When refering to a het woord your sentence would be correct. See my post above (and the link in that post for a full explanation).


Got it. De tas en het tasje.


But could "het" refer to something else, not the bag, some object which was mentioned in a former sentence? I know it is a bit far-fetched, but I just wonder if the sentence might be grammatically correct whit "het" too.


Yup, with het it's far-fetched, but grammatically correct.


the link will not work on android tablet


I see. thank you very much


So "het or hem" is the reason they say Dutch lost most of the feminine gender a while ago. Not as simple as English, but I guess easier than most other European languages.

If I said "De zon was de hele dag tussen wolken, maar wanneer ik heel verdrietig werd, zag ik haar weer en haar vreugd raakte mijn ziel aan", would that be wrong?


In other languages with grammatical gender, it is common to switch to the natural gender of the referent eventually if you start using pronouns instead of the original noun. Would Dutch speakers also switch to het in this case? How quickly would the typical Dutch speaker switch?


As a native English speaker, I believe that "If you do not have it, where then is the bag?" should be accepted in English.


It sounds a bit unnatural to me, but it has essentially the same meaning, so fair enough.


Needs commas. "...where, then, is..."


indeed it does although as a CanMerican (scratch that, Canada is far and away better than America) as a native speaker of American English, I don't think that most of my mostly unrefined fellow citizens of America would say anything as sophisticated sounding as that, Exhibit A, the Cheeto!


"Do not assume, Oscar, because when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me." - Felix Unger, The Odd Couple.


An explanation regarding the word order for this sentence, please! Baffled to see 'niet' in front of verb for the first time.


Exactly this is so confusing, I thought the verb should always take second place in dutch but with all the inversions and conditionals its getting out of hand


It does take the second position in main clauses ("waar is..."), whereas in subordinate clauses goes to the end ("als...hebt").


Re upping this point made several times, as early as 3 years ago by "RoweYvonne": « As a native English speaker, I believe that "If you do not have it, where then is the bag?" should be accepted in English. ». I think she is right. The program accepts only "…then where…".


Wow. That really confused me. I did not know where to usethe dan (then).


why dan comes last? shouldn't it be "dan waar is de tas"?


In the main clause, the second element must be the verb. In the sentence we are given here, the first element of the main clause is the question word "waar". So the first two elements must be "waar is".

So your suggestion -- "dan waar" -- does not work.


You are so patient to explain the same grammar rule to all users who came up with the same question, I benifit a lot by reading your comments. It's so nice of you, please have some lingots.


If it wasn't enough with the "het/de" dicotomy now here we go with "het/hem".. although in reality it's "het/hem,haar".... mmm, I just hope this is also dropped in the near future in the same way the "hem/haar" discussion became only "hem".

Just hope hehe


I wrote "If you don't have him, then where is the bag?" Surely that's an acceptable translation? How am I supposed to know 'hem' in this context meant "it" and not "him"?


"... where is it then" is also fine and should be accepted


No, it should not be accepted. Take another look at the original Dutch sentence. In the main clause it mentions "de tas", which you must translate as "the bag", not as "it"!

You could rewrite the sentence (in both English and Dutch) to first mention the bag in the opening clause: "If you do not have the bag, then where is it." But that is not the sentence we are given here.


Bumping moparmike's question. Why isn't "Als jij hem niet hebt, dan waar is de tas" correct?


In the main clause, the verb must be the second element. In the sentence you suggest, we have, counting from the start of the main clause, dan = 1, waar = 2, is = 3. So that is wrong, as V2 is required in the main clause here.


You're right that the verb is always second in a sentence, but this sentence has 2 clauses, and the first part, the subordinate clause "als jij hem niet hebt", is considered the first piece. The verb should follow next in the sentence, as in the sentence "als jij hem niet hebt, zal ik Martijn bellen" but it doesn't. Seems to me that's because the main clause is a question, so the question word has to appear after our subclause followed by the verb. This forces "dan" to the end of the sentence. I'm not a grammar expert but it seems more like that's the situation here.


Were you replying to me? I agree with much of what you say. But note that I said above that the verb must be the second element "in the main clause". I did NOT say the verb must be the second element in the sentence.

You are right that the first element in the entire DL sentence here is a subclause. But looking just at the main clause, the first element is a question word (waar) and the second element is the verb "is". In my reply to Doug, I was counting from the beginning of the main clause.

And of course the V2 rule does not apply even to all "main clauses" It is a rule of thumb that applies to ordinary declarative clauses, not necessarily to questions or commands or exclamations.


Could the phrase be 'waar dan is de tas?' This seems more natural to me, and honours the V2 rule. And thank you for the brilliant ex[lanations from various contributors.


If the verb "is" is third here, after "waar" and "dan", is the V2 rule still honored?


Point well made, and humbly acknowledged. Dank u wel!


»Wrong« answer: Where is the bag if you don’t have it?

Some of DUOLINGO’s English translation items oscillate between the exhilarating and the irritating. Anything that can be done about that?


Artur, your proposed sentence is not the best translation of the Dutch we are actually given. In the Dutch we are given, the "it" is mentioned first, and "the bag" second. It is possible to form a similar grammatical English sentence with the same pattern, so that is the most faithful way to translate. (You might want to argue that the Dutch sentence itself would be better if it had reversed the two terms in the first place, but that is a different story.)


So we learned that if the "subordinating conj" comes in the beginning of the sentence, the second sentence changes so that subject and verb switch places. but what will happen to the second sentence if it's a question? like this example. can someone pls write me the word order? dank je


Hi Amir. What you are asking is better expressed as follows: "If a subordinate clause comes at the beginning of the sentence, the word order in the main clause changes so that subject and verb switch places."

The answer to your question is:
1. If the main clause is a question that includes a question word (such as "when", "where", etc), then the main clause begins with the question word, and the finite verb comes second. (That is what is happening in the DL sentence at the top of this page).
2. If the main clause is a question that does not include a question word (that is, if the main clause is a yes/no question), then the word order is the same as if the main clause were an inverted declarative sentence. That is, the verb comes first in the clause. For example: "Als jij hem niet hebt, is de tas verloren?" Notice that in this case, in Dutch it is only intonation (not word order) that distinguishes the question from a declarative statement:
Als jij hem niet hebt, is de tas verloren? = If you do not have it, is the bag lost?
Als jij hem niet hebt, is de tas verloren. = If you do not have it, the bag is lost.


Thank you @ion1122 . this is really helpful.


Why is "If you do not have the bag then where is it " considered wrong?


Karl, the sentence you propose mentions the bag first, then later refers to the bag as "it". But in the Dutch we are given the "it" is mentioned first, and the bag later. That is the pattern you should follow in your English translation.

Yes, the two different patterns mean almost exactly the same thing. But only one is the pattern we are actually given, and that is how you should translate. Of course it is never a good idea to translate blindly word for word. But it is also not a good idea to arbitrarily change things around as you translate, simply because you yourself would have expressed something otherwise.


Duo usually allows a reversal of grammar when one form is more common in one language, and the other, in the other language. In English, if you have not introduced the referent, it's rare to use "it"; and if you have introduced the referent (in a hypothetical prior sentence) you'd use "it" a second time.

Dutch seems freer in that regard (and actually, so does older / literary english). That grammar pattern is one of the very subtle "tells" that a person speaking otherwise excellent english is actually dutch.

Duo should accept the more idiomatic answer, not only the grammatically closest translation.


Exactly! It did not ask for a literal translation,it said to 'write it in English', and it is more common/natural to identify the item first and then subsequently refer to 'it'. Thanks, JFSPA


I don't understand why remove the masculine and feminine from nouns and only use "de", BUT then one needs to know if something is masculine or feminine to refer to them! Either go all the way and use het for everything or keep the sexes in nouns. I guess that is the reason behind people adding a -je suffix to everything!! They can refer to it with "het"


Vasily, in standard Dutch, all de nouns (common gender nouns) are referred to by hij/hem/zijn.

So you do NOT need to know whether a noun is masculine or feminine to refer to it correctly. Just use hij/hem/zijn.

On the other hand, you DO need to know if a noun is neuter rather than common gender. Then you use het/het/zijn to refer to it.


her = haar
his = zijn

So you are correct that one does not say "de stad en hem inwoners". The standard Dutch would be "de stad en zijn inwoners".

In other words, in standard contemporary Dutch, the pronouns used to refer to any de word are:
hij -> subject
hem -> object
zijn -> possessive

Keep in mind that until recently, Dutch did distinguish between masculine and feminine among nouns that refer to things. So it is quite possible that some Dutch speakers will use zij/haar/haar to refer to certain non-human things. I understand that that is more common in Belgium than in the Netherlands itself.

So there are exceptions. But as a learner, you usually will not be wrong to use hij/hem/zijn for any de noun.


Ah I see so it is not only haar inwoners that is valid but also zijn inwoners as well. I guess those intricacies will become easier with more practice. Thanks a lot!


@ion1122: Now I suddenly feel very old...:-). I indeed belong to one of the generations that still learned the externals of feminine nouns at school. I didn't have to learn a list of those words off by heart, so it wasn't that bad.

Quality newspapers usually still apply the rules, but the less people apply them in everyday speech, the stranger those will eventually sound; it's already very remarkable.


I too am no longer young and have seen a number of changes during the past 60 years in everyday (if not academic) English usage. For example, "who/whom" was already disappearing when I was a boy. Since then "I've got" has replaced "I have" and the intransitive verb "lie/lay/lain" has been driven out by "lay/laid/laid", which is now used both transitively and intransitively by many native speakers. (For example, "she was just laying there" instead of "she was just lying there").


Another oldie here. 'Lay' for 'lie' is top of my personal pet hates - I am fighting a losing rearguard action against this!


Thank you so much for you comment! I still do not get it though. According to a comment I read in the top if this page, one needs to know that "de staad" is feminine so they can phrase the following phrase "de stad en haar inwoners". One cannot say "de stad en hem inwoners" can they? If instead of "de" for the "staad" there was a "die" or something, then the feminine sex would be explicit! Am I understanding something wrong?? Other examples I found in this comment (from Susande https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Susande) are : -de bioscoop en zijn publiek -de bloem en haar blaadjes


vasily, the comment you read is mistaken. It is NOT necessary to know whether a Dutch noun is feminine in order to choose which pronouns to use to refer to it. What you need to know is whether you are referring to a "de" noun or to a "het" noun.

You are correct that one cannot say "De stad en hem inwoners". But that is because you have used the wrong word "hem". Here you need the possessive pronoun/adjective "zijn" rather than the object pronoun "hem".

zijn = his, its
hem = him, it
haar = her (object pronoun) [or] her (possessive adjective/pronoun)


The advantage for me, of course, is that I didn't have to learn whether a noun is a de-word or het-word....


Does dan have to be at the end of the sentence? is the other way not understood


In English some times I have heard and said, "If you do not have it, where is the bag then?" Would Duolingo consider this an acceptable construct?


Can I say "Als jij de tas niet hebt, waar is het dan?"


Can I say "Als jij de tas niet hebt, waar is het dan"?

  1. To translate English "it", here you want "hij" rather than "het". Remember that when the reference is to a de word, to translate English "it" Dutch uses "hem" in the object position and "hij" in the subject position. (For more, see other comments on this page. ) So: "Als jij de tas niet hebt, waar is hij dan".

  2. While the sentence just mentioned (with "hij") is grammatical, it is not an accurate translation of the English we are given. The English we are given mentions the pronoun first, then the noun later. That is how you should translate into Dutch.


Why is is it not "haar" instead of "hem"? De tas is a feminine noun, thus it must be "Als jij haar niet hebt, waar is de tas dan?"


In contemporary standard Dutch (as used in the northern part of the Dutch language area), the gender categories of "feminine" and "masculine" are often not distinguished. Instead, the categories used are simply "de" nouns vs. "het" nouns.

In the object position, a "de" noun will be referred to as "hem", regardless of whether in older Dutch the noun was considered "feminine".

This point has already been thoroughly discussed on this page. Did you read the comments before posting your own question?


Why is it 'waar is de tas dan' and not 'dan waar de tas is'


The complete sentence here is:
Als jij hem niet hebt, waar is de tas dan?

The sentence consists of two clauses. The first clause, "als jij hem niet hebt", is a subordinate clause. The other clause, "waar is de tas dan" is a main clause.

In Dutch, the verbs go to the end in a subordinate clause, but not in a main clause. So your suggestion "dan waar de tas is" is not correct. You have confused the word order required in a main clause with the order required in a subordinate clause.

In a main clause the conjugated (finite) verb comes in second position (V2 rule). Here the main clause is a question that begins with the interrogative (question word) "waar". So "waar" is in the first position of the main clause, and the second must be the verb, here "is".


This is wrong the where two correct answers and they said that mine was not correct who was :If you do not have the bag where is it But they said that the correct answer is :If you do not have it where is the bag.You can say both


Lilly, it is true that you can say either. But only one is the correct translation of the sentence that we are in fact given.

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