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"Nederland en België zijn de enige landen met grachten."

Translation:The Netherlands and Belgium are the only countries with grachten.

August 6, 2014



I was really hoping for The Netherlands and Belgium are the only countries with canals. to be the preferred translation of this sentence...


Lots of countries have canals, but perhaps only the Netherlands and Belgium have grachten. ;-)


Indeed! Gothenborg in Sweden has canals too, made by the Dutch...


I think maybe you should think of it as it is the only place (besides apparently frierichstadt, see a comment below) that have waterways that are called grachten. That in other places they are called something else./don't have the distinction between gracht and canal.

My (dutch) city use to have a lot of waterways. Sort of like Venice, it was the way of transportation (mainly of goods though, people would walk) only later most of those were filled and turned in to streets. Some only in quite recent history my mother will remember some of the streets still being canals. And well that is what we call them, canals. (Or in some cases actually vaart but besides in the names that word has become old fashioned so when refering back to them we call them canals. this street used to be a canal deze straat was vroeger een kanaal)

So not every man made waterway that goes through a city is called a gracht


After some research I think the definitions are as follows.

  • A canal is a man made waterway mainly for watertransport
  • A gracht is a man made waterway with brick sides and flanked with (a street with) buildings. Most commonly found in old cities and usually built with a function of defense. (Compare moat, we call that gracht aswell)
  • If a gracht doesn't have brick sides but a grassy slope it is actually called a singel

Here, (check singel and gracht) is one of the several sources I used and a waterway dictionary

Hope this clears up some confusion :)


Maybe you should read my post again and think a smiley at the end. :)


Sorry, I did get a bit fascinated with grachten, but I also thought a smiley at the end. Probably I should have ended mine with a smiley, as well. Here's one now. :-)


That is what I translated it into, and it was wrong, which strikes me as funny.


I do agree with you. I ask my husband, who is from England, and even he said "grachten" is not the right word. But....................................:)


I did just that, and it was accepted. In fact, the word "canals" was included in the word bank.


I had to look this up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gracht

A gracht is a canal with streets on both sides of the water. In this sense the sentence might be true if we exclude atypical cities like Venice.

A nice example:


In that case I guess Saint-Petersburg in Russia should qualify as a city with grachten. Besides, it was built by Peter the Great after he had returned from Holland, fascinated by everything Dutch. :)


Yes, and it is indeed the example of an atypical city for the country. Like the aforementioned Venice and Gothenborg.


I read somewhere that's also where the russian flag originated from. He asked a dutch person to design a flag for him, and they simply moved the red banner to the bottom.


I'm not sure if Venice qualifies for "having grachten" since it doesn't really have streets on both sides of canals but only houses - as far as I can recall. :P


Most cities with rivers have streets on both sides: think Paris, Lyon, Budapest, Vienna, Prague etc.


A canal is not a river :D


The Canal Saint-Martin in Paris is indeed a canal, with streets on both sides. Canal du midi in Toulouse is another famous example but there are thousands of canals with streets on both sides all around Europe.


But a "gracht" is a city canal, which disqualifies Canal du Midi.


You're right, maybe it would be a gracht inside the city if it only changed name once outside. Let's say the Canal de Brienne then, to stay in Toulouse. My point was that they exist by hundreds everywhere. It could be that the one writing the sentence only meant it as a joke, meaning that in no other place they'd use the word "gracht" itself.


Malmö in sweden has it too, almost all the way through the city. Don't know how to post pics here or else I would.


Surely grachts should be accepted as the English plural


I agree. If we were supposed to inflect fierljeppen the standard English way (fierljepped), I don't think it makes much sense to require gracht to be inflected the Dutch way.


Languages don't always make cense though. Besides, fierljeppen is not Dutch but Frisian.


"Fierljeppen" may be of Frisian origin, but has since been incorporated into the Dutch language, which makes it a Dutch word.


"Gracht" is not an English word (my spell checker is rejecting it in this comment), hence, neither is "grachts." I think it is great that the Dutch have the ability to describe waterways more precisely than English, but that doesn't make a Dutch word English. To become English, some group of English speakers would have to use it in normal usage, but that has not happened yet. English speakers often use "hors d'oeuvres," borrowing the phrase from the French, and it is now English. The English translation of "gracht" is "canal."


If you were to ask an English-speaking visitor to Amsterdam what the 'grachtengordel' is they would call it "the canal belt", which is what the guide books call it. I only say 'the grachts' when speaking with other people with a knowledge of Dutch. Otherwise people will ask, 'what's a gracht' and I'd say 'a canal" Have never heard the expression "city canal" before.


I agree, this is needlessly complex


"City canal" seems natural enough in English (it's a canal that's in a city), even though I've never heard that term until I was reading about Amsterdam.


Friedrichstadt. In ... Germany.

And then there was Venice.


Birmingham, England, has them too, but not as pretty!


True, there are a lot of cities with beautiful city canals, from Beijing to Mexico City, sometimes more prominent than others.

Friedrichstadt is unique for a non Dutch/Belgian city (or at least special) because the canals are actually called Grachten - because the city was built by and for Dutch immigrants.


Interesting because my initial thought when seeing that picture was, that's a canal. I would not call that a gracht (dutch native ). I guess because the edges are sloped and green and not straight and stones/bricks. And though I see houses it doesn't look like (but could be) it is ín the city, or city center. But just a waterway passing by/through.


This picture reminded me of several waterways near where I live and we all call them canals.

Here is an example picture

You would be laughed at if you call any of those a gracht


My knowledge of Birmingham is mostly restricted to the city center and being a passenger on the M6 and M42. From that limited knowledge, it appears that there are plentiful canals, but generally they don't have streets running along them in the way that grachten do.


I'm all for accepting "gracht" as a word to be used in English, but as an English speaker I would naturally form the plural with an "s" (gracht -> grachts).


Yes, so would I, but it still isn't accepted. I'll try reporting it.


Is a gracht also a ditch?


Yes, it is. Though I'm not sure Duolingo accepts that as correct.


It's either a city canal or a moat around a castle


This translation really bugs me city-canals is a terrible use of English. If you want to describe something as being related to cities, the correct adjective is "urban".


Not necessarily. After all, we refer to city streets, city parks, city water, city buildings . . . .


Do we? City streets is the only one of those I recognise. Indeed, "City parks" would be redundant to refer to an urban park, because rural parks (in the modern sense) are not a thing.


In the US, we have city parks, state parks, regional parks, and national parks. The distinction is primarily in the jurisdiction; "urban" vs. "rural" is another typology.

City water is managed by the city authorities; it's distinct, for example, from the well water or spring water that a more isolated area might have.

City streets are within the city, but also maintained by the city authorities; presumably city canals are as well. Thus, again, "urban" vs. "rural" isn't necessarily the only applicable typology.

[US English native speaker]


I agree. City is more constrained than urban. Urban can refer to the city and its suburbs, as opposed to the countryside. We often speak of the urban/rural interface, meaning those areas where the suburbs have invaded areas bordering wild lands (national parks, forests, wilderness areas) etc, but those areas may have city water and sewer systems.


Well, I do, and the terms are common everywhere I've lived. In any case, "city streets" would be enough to make the point regarding city canals.


How about Peter the Great visiting The Netherlands and copying grachten to Russia? ;)


True, but this sentence is not about their origin ;)


I'm sorry, but 'gracht' is not an English word. I grew up in a Canadian city that had a canal - with streets on both sides - and everyone called it 'the canal' since it was the only one in the city.


They don't say it's an English word, they use the Dutch word in the translation because they consider that's something typically Dutch/Flemish therefore as no translation (hence the debate in the comments on either being allowed to call it a canal or not because there's a difference...). Though I agree, it seems to me it should be translated because it's not a very known word and I don't think we can consider it as something cultural that has to keep its original name.


What about Italy?


Yeah, what about Venice? O_o


From Wikipedia:

"In Dutch, the word gracht is used only when canals are located inside the city, while canals outside a city are called kanaal. However, Venice is an exception. In Dutch, one does not say "de grachten van Venetië" (the city-canals of Venice), but "de kanalen van Venetië" (the canals of Venice)."


Yep indeed, there are a lot of them .


So can average English speakers even properly pronounce the word gracht? Or is the proper English pronunciation gwaght?


the r is pronounced like the r in French trois


Is the term "gracht" actually used in Flanders as well? My monolingual Dutch dictionary seems to refer to it as being restricted to the Netherlands, if I understand it correctly.


Yes it is, but we use the word also for 'sloot' (ditch), because we love to make things confusing. ;)


I know that Heerengracht, Buitengracht and others in Cape Town now have the canals running underground and not on the surface, but conceptually they are/were canals with streets on both sides in a city, hence grachten - or does this now mean open canals only :-)


Grachten are also found in Northern Germany, apparently: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gracht


The Netherlands and Belgium are the only countries with grachts. Is still not accepted. Previously I translated gracht to canal but with this sentence that would make the sentence patently untrue. So I left it at gracht but changed the plural to 's' as it is English.


To me a 'gracht' is primarily a defensive work, and a 'kanaal' is primarily for transportation. Of course , the defensive function was lost and the meaning of gracht shifted a little. English has 'moat', but I wouldn't use that to refer to the kind of moat-converted-to open-sewer-with-streets-and-houses we have in NL.


Literally, gracht is something that was dug (gegraven). On old maps, you'll find "graft" instead of "gracht". I am not sure if a gracht was always meant for defense. In Amsterdam, for example, the 17th century grachten may have had transportation/fire extinguishing as their main functions. After all, they were within the city and not on the outskirts of the city (except for the outmost one).


Cities in England have canals through them but they are not called grachten


Isn't there a direct English translation for grachten?

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