https://www.duolingo.com/HerrLoewe

Dutch Continuous and Noun Placement

I'm having trouble with noun placement in Dutch, and I've constructed the following sentence to explain the trouble I'm having: Hij (de man) is een robot aan het ontwerpen. Does this mean that: A. The man is designing a robot; B. The man IS a robot and he's busy designing.; or C. Either A or B depending on context.

3 years ago

20 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/surky1

It's A. If it was option B, the sentence would've looked like this: Hij is een robot en hij is aan het ontwerpen (He is a robot and he's busy designing).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrLoewe

The only issue I have with your option B sentence is that it's just two separate sentence joined by a coordinating conjunction, which is simple to do but inelegant (if that makes sense.) I should have expressed that I was looking for an example in Dutch that is as elegant and succinct as the two English sentences:
He is designing a robot, and,
He is a robot designing.
Similarly:
He is eating a horse, and,
He is a horse eating.

::edit:: OH! Can you say, "Hij is een aan het ontwerpende robot," and, "Hij is een aan het etend(e?) paard," or does that sound too awkward in Dutch? I'm trying to work with my knowledge of German and English to make an educated guess here. Would this be the time to go back to the simple present and drop the "aan het"?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Multitaal
Multitaal
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Hij is een aan het ontwerpende robot, and Hij is een aan het etend paard, would not really be used in Dutch, simple present is customary.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrLoewe

So just drop the "aan het" and treat the verb participle like an adjective?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Multitaal
Multitaal
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Yes, with Hij is een etend paard that would work but a sentence with ontwerpend not really. This 'continuous' tense is not formally taught at Dutch schools so I have to really think about it.
On wikipedia there are several methods mentioned with examples you might find helpful.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BasCostBudde
BasCostBudde
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Ik denk dat die varianten niet kloppen zelfs. "aan het" + infinitef maakt een werkwoord beschikbaar voor in een naamwoordelijk gezegde, dus na een koppelwerkwoord. Die hele groep ombuigen tot een adjectieve vorm, door "een aan het <infinitief>de" voelt voor mij over de grens van de normale gesproken taal. Associatie: "Hij is een architect aan het tekenen" bevat precies wel die dubbelzinnigheid. Is hij nu een architect die zit te tekenen, of zit hij een architect te tekenen?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Multitaal
Multitaal
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Ik zou dan niet zo gauw denken dat het een architect is, die aan het tekenen is. Misschien als ik het zou horen met de juiste klemtoon. Wat wel zou werken is "Hij is een architect die bezig is met tekenen" of de vorm die jij gebruikt: "Hij is een architect die zit te tekenen" .

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrLoewe

Can you offer a translation of this conversation?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BasCostBudde
BasCostBudde
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Absolutely. I think those variants are incorrect. "aan het" + infinitive enables the use of the verb in a nominal predicate, so after a link verb. Bending that group into an adjective form using "een aan het <infinitive>-de" feels across the border of normal spoken language to me.

I had an association. "Hij is een architect aan het tekenen" contains exactly this ambiguity. I this architect drawing or being drawn?

answered Multitaal: I would not be inclined to think of a drawing architect. Maybe if said with the right accents. What would work is "Hij is een architect die bezig is met tekenen" or the form you use "Hij is een architect die zit te tekenen" .

said me: Yes but those clarify, don't ambiguate. Wait. I'm losing the original question. The meaning was not finding an ambiguity but solving it. Right?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrLoewe

Thank you for your translation. If it is true that "Hij is een architect aan het tekenen" contains some ambiguity, then you have answered my question. So if I said this sentence to a Dutch speaker, is there at least some question about whether the Architect is drawing or being drawn, depending on context?

In other words, are the following conversations sensible?

Vraag: Wat tekent hij nu?
Antwoord: Hij is een architect aan het tekenen. (Hij tekent nu een architect.)
of/en
Vraag: Wat is het beroep van de man, en wat doet hij nu?
Antword: Hij is een architect aan het tekenen. (Hij is een architect, en hij tekent nu.)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BasCostBudde
BasCostBudde
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They would be to me. The common understanding, however, is strongly in favour of the first reading, so you could meet a risen eyebrow on the second.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrLoewe

Another ambiguous sentence to me would be: Hij is een paard aan het eten. Is this a story about a man eating a horse? Or am I talking about an "etende paard"?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Multitaal
Multitaal
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A. The man is designing a robot.
for B you could use: hij is een robot die aan het ontwerpen is.

He is eating a horse.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrLoewe

Thank you. Could you take a look at my reply to surky1? Do you have a suggestion for how to express those sentences?

I like your solution because it's identical to German (my second language) and it makes it easy for me to comprehend, but I'm thinking that I want to find something more compact.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Multitaal
Multitaal
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You cannot express the meaning of these sentences in Dutch as compact as in English because Dutch does not have a separate tense for it.
You could try hij is een ontwerpende robot, but that does not really say that he is doing it now.

How exactly would you translate the sentence Hij is een robot aan het ontwerpen into German?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrLoewe

I can't reply directly to your other comment because the nest has gone down too far. If I were you, I would always use gerade if you need to express this. It is by far the most common method, and it is understood across all dialects.

I lived in the Ruhr Area, so I'm familiar with the ist am/beim construction, but I never use it. I'd say that it's fairly common in that area, but in that area alone. I imagine the same is true of the the tun construction, which I never heard in the Ruhr area.

If you want my advice, don't invest too much time and energy into learning the regional variations unless you, for some reason, want to convince people that you're from that area. Instead, learn only to recognize them when they are used and stick to gerade in your own speech. This way, you don't even run the risk of sounding like you don't know proper German. (There's a bit of dialect-based classism in Germany. It's hilarious.)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrLoewe

You can't exactly. Officially, German doesn't have a present continuous tense, so you have to add words like "currently" to convey the message. I would say, "Er entwirft gerade einen Roboter."
The gerade has the same effect as aan het, in that it implies that the action is happening right this moment. To make it simple present, you just remove the gerade.

::edit:: I used slang. Fixed it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Multitaal
Multitaal
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Thanks, I'm still working on my German. Wikipedia mentions three methods:

  • gerade
  • am/beim
  • tun

Your method sounds normal to me. Do you know whether the other two methods are used frequently?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/surky1

The man is eating a horse here :)

3 years ago
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