"Als ik groter was, zou ik een olifant eten."

Translation:If I were bigger, I would eat an elephant.

September 4, 2014

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Yes, English can use a subjunctive here, but Dutch cannot.


I don't know why someone had downvoted you, because you're right: I were is the Subjunctive, indeed!

I don't know how the Subjunctive is formed in Dutch, anyway, of whether it has a separate form from the Simple Past ir not.


"Was" here is not conditional, rather past tense, if I'm not mistaken. For example, in English there is a difference between:

"If I were bigger, I would eat an elephant" -> "were" and "would" match, cond. "If I was bigger, I would eat an elephant" -> technically wrong, commonly said "If I was bigger, I would have eaten an elaphant" -> matching again, past tense

I feel like "als ik groter was, zou ik een olifant eten" is the equivalent of the second sentence I wrote. Any tips from native speakers on this in Dutch?


From the book:

Similarly to English, Dutch also uses preterit forms in conditional statements:

Als zij hier was, zou zij meegaan.  (If she were here, she would go along.)

Ik zou dol worden als ik hier zou wonen. (I would go crazy if I lived here.)


We need a native speaker for a final verdict, but I have a Dutch grammar book (iRef Guide to Dutch Grammar) that states that preterit tenses in Dutch can be used to express conditional statements.

So in this example, "was" is being used to make a conditional statement.


Well not a linguist so I can't say anything about pretenses etc, but as a native Dutch speaker I can definitely say 'was' in this sentence has the same function as the word 'were' in the English sentence.


Thanks for the confirmation


How would you say, "If I were bigger, would I eat an elephant?"


Als ik groter was, zou ik (dan) een olifant eten? Or more common: Zou ik een olifant eten als ik groter was?


So it's the same? Als ik groter was, zou ik een olifant eten can mean "If I were bigger, I would eat an elephant" AND "If I were bigger, Would I eat an elephant?"

Is it inflection that decides it?


Yes. Normally it would be:

Ik zou een olifant eten. --> Zou ik een olifant eten?

So then you have an inflection.

But since this is a compound sentence, the second sentence is already inflected (helping verb before subject). So it does not have to change anymore to make it a question.

Als ik groter was, zou ik een olifant eten. --> Als ik groter was, zou ik een olifant eten?


You mean 'intonation', surely. Right?


Technically "inflection" is okay, since it can be used to describe the modulation of the voice, but I agree that "intonation" would be better to use in a language course, leaving "inflection" to describe changing the form of a word for grammatical purposes.


Yeap, that's why I was confused, I'm used to using inflection to refer to morphological changes and intonation to refer to changes in pitch,


[deactivated user]

    wat een rare zin, bigger betekent in omvang groter zijn ik denk dat hier bedoeld wordt dat je meer jaren gaat tellen. Gebruik deze verwarrende zinnen liever niet, ik zie het ook in andere talen, met name Frans


    Nee, in deze zin betekent het letterlijk de omvang. Anders zouden we "ouder" gebruiken. ;)

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