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[Dutch Grammar] Aan Het - The Continuous Aspect


Hoe gaat het met jullie? ^_^ I haven't been here in ages, I took my learning elsewhere I'm afraid, but I'd like to still come here and write articles, since my Dutch has much progressed. Also, just to get it clear, I KNOW there is a lesson in this. This is to teach people either not up to that yet, or to go a bit more in depth and provide reference

My friend, who alongside woordenboeken, is one of my main sources of help for Dutch, taught me a new thing, called the continuous aspect, using aan het.

The continuous aspect puts emphasis on the fact that the action is being performed now. It translates pretty much the same as the simple present tense, but more emphasis.

One comparison is:

  • Hij eet een appel (Simple Present NL)

  • Hij is een appel aan het eten (Continuous Aspect NL)

  • He eats an apple. (Simple Present EN)

  • He is eating an apple. (Continuous Aspect EN)

Also, it is one way to say something in the future.

-I'm swimming in Belgium on Tuesday. (EN)

-Ik ben op Dinsdag in België aan het zwemmen. (NL)

To define the continuous aspect, it is for: describing something which is happening at the exact moment of speech or describing an event which is planned in the future, both shown in above examples.

Right, lets talk about forming the aan het aspect now!

A simple word order for this would be:

S = Subject. 'Ik' 'Hij' etc.

Z = Zijn. Give the correct conjugation of zijn in accordance to the subject. So, so far you should have, 'Ik ben', 'Het is', 'Zij zijn' etc.

T = Time. If you want to say something like 'I am racing on Tuesday' then you need to say the time here. 'op Dinsdag', 'morgen' for example. Look up time phrases if needed.

M = Manner. Good description here.

P = Place. Not too hard to understand. This is where you put the place of the SUBJECT.

C = Continuous. Just write 'aan het' here.

V = Verbs. This is where you put the other verbs than zijn. Ik ben een appel aan het eten. Wij zijn in België aan het rennen.

And that is how you use the continuous aspect in Dutch! I hope I helped some of you! Here are some quick examples to help you.

Ik ben op Dinsdag in België aan het zwemmen. I am swimming in Belgium on Tuesday.

Wij zijn naar Amsterdam aan het rennen. We are running to Amsterdam (right now!).

Je bent Nederlands aan het spreken. You are speaking Dutch (right now!).

I really hope I helped someone here c: Please feel free to ask anything!

-Sam <3

August 26, 2014



Hi guys!

I am a native Dutch-speaker from Belgium (yes, also in that tiny country about 6 million people speak Dutch) and I actually need to tell someting.

Although this grammar overview is total correct, you should know that in fact the whole 'aan het'-construction is not right. It's true that we use it to describe "right now"-actions, but actually we just should use the present simple there.

Just keep in mind: when you're hanging out with friends: use as much times 'aan het' as you want. But in formal, especially written, converstations/texts: try not to do so.



Although KwintenF.'s comment was somewhat helpful on the topic of this construction, I've been very confused by using the present simple and this way of expressing present continuous. I can't seem to understand why anyone would ever use this if the other, shorter and easier construction does the same thing. I mean, if you can say "I'm reading," with both "Ik lees." and "Ik ben aan het lezen.", why would you ever choose to use the second version?


I believe it's mainly for emphasis, and for present continuous. For example, if you've ever studied for a final or a big test and someone comes in the room and starts watching tv, most people probably get annoyed and with somewhat of an attitude say, "Hey, I'm studying so blah blah..". In my opinion, that's where you would use 'aan het', not because of the attitude, but because you're trying to show that you're currently doing something "important". I don't know how to explain it very well with an example but I hope you see how it could be used for emphasis of a current action.


Wow, thanks for the positive response and addition to the grammar overview ┌(・。・)┘♪


Dit is heel nuttig! I love the word order chart, did you make that, or is there a site with more to explain other sentence structure?


I made and wrote that word order chart, but there is an extended one at dutchgrammar.com that will give you a much more indepth outlook on it c;


very helpful .thanks


Hello, just some questions about the word order.

Would it be possible for me to say: 1) Wij zijn aan het rennen naar Amsterdam? 2) Zijn wij naar Amsterdam aan het rennen? 3) op dinsdag ben ik in Amsterdam aan het rennen? Thank you!


P.lucht: 1) Wij zijn naar Amsterdam aan het rennen (word order). 2) Sound ok 3) I would make this either "Elke dinsdag ben ik in Amsterdam aan het rennen" because "op dinsdag" specifies one specific moment in time and you're using a continuous tense (for a repetition that would be ok-ish), or "Op dinsdag zal ik in Amsterdam aan het rennen zijn" (this is something you could use in a conversation for instance to indicate why you can't go to a party on Tuesday evening, because you'll be doing something else). Or if you're using the past continuous, "op dinsdag was ik in Amsterdam aan het rennen toen er plots een hond voor mij opdook" (I was running in Amsterdam when a dog appeared in front of me - the dog interrupts the running that was going on).


"Ik ben op dinsdag aan het zwemmen" is not a good example. :) "Ik zal op dinsdag aan het zwemmen zijn", "ik ben elke dinsdag aan het zwemmen wanneer X op TV is". But it is indeed the Dutch continuous form of the verb. :)


Thank you so much for explaining this so well!


Yes, for sure...job well done

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