Dutch Present Tense

This post talks about how to form the Dutch Present Tense. It also deals with useful spelling rules for verbs.

What situations does the Dutch Present Tense cover?

In English we have two main present tenses, one of which is in the format ‘I talk’ and the other is in the format ‘I am talking’. In English we also sometimes use a further alternative of ‘I do talk’ (usually for emphasis).

Luckily in Dutch we use just one tense for all three senses, so ‘ik maak’ translates as both ‘I make’ and ‘I am making’* and ‘I do make’ depending on the context. Therefore in Dutch you use the one tense for the present tense.

* We will discuss an alternative structure at some point of ‘an het + infinitive’, for example ‘ik ben an het studeren’ = I am studying.

Words you should become familiar with

The following words are used with verbs:

  • ik means ‘I’

  • jij means ‘you’ – it is a singular and informal version of you, so you would not use it in formal situations or when you are talking to more than one person

  • hij means ‘he’

  • zij means ‘she’

  • u means ‘you’ – it is only formal version of you in the Dutch language and can be used when speaking to one or more people.

  • wij means ‘we’

  • jullie means ‘you’ – it is a plural and informal version of you, so you only use it when talking to more than one person in an informal situation

  • zij means ‘they’

U

The word u is the formal version of ‘you’.

Je

The word je is commonly used as an alternative to jij when the verb is inverted (e.g Wat wil je? = What do you want?).

Hij/Het

In most of the Netherlands when you want to say ‘it’ in Dutch hij is used as the subject pronoun for common gender objects and het for neuter objects. I have decided not to include ‘it’ in verb tables, but it is always the same as he/she.

How to form the Dutch Present Tense

In Dutch most verbs are shown in the dictionary form end in ‘en’. The dictionary form of the verb is known as the infinitive.

An example of an infinitive is ‘bouwen’ which means ‘to build’.

This verb is a regular verb (i.e. it follows the usual pattern) and is as follows in the present tense:

Bouwen = To build

  • Ik bouw = I build (= Remove the ‘en’)
  • Jij bouwt (Bouw je?*) = You build (singular & informal) (= Remove the ‘en’ then add ‘t’)
  • Hij/Zij bouwt = He/She builds (= Remove the ‘en’ then add ‘t’)
  • U bouwt = You build (formal) (= Remove the ‘en’ then add ‘t’)
  • Wij bouwen = We build (= Do nothing!)
  • Jullie bouwen = You build (plural & informal) (= Do nothing!)
  • Zij bouwen = They build (= Do nothing!)

This pattern is the same for all regular en type verbs.

* One point to note is you drop the ‘t’ when you revert the jij form, for example ‘Wat bouw je?’ = What do you build?/What are you building?/What do you build?

Another important point is you do not put a t onto a verb that already ends in t. (The reason for this is you may never end a word with two identical consonants in Dutch).

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Infinitives which end in ‘n’ rather than ‘en’ (e.g. Slaan = To hit)

Infinitives which end in ‘n’ rather than ‘en’ have a similar pattern in the present tense. Two examples of ‘n’ ending verbs are as follows:

  • Slaan = To hit
  • Ik sla = I hit*
  • Jij slaat (Sla je?) = You hit (singular & informal)
  • Hij/Zij slaat = He/She hits
  • U slaat = You hit (formal)
  • Wij slaan = We hit
  • Jullie slaan = You hit (plural & informal)
  • Zij slaan = They hit

The verb above has the same pattern as an ‘en’ verb, but instead of removing ‘en’ you instead remove ‘n’.

It is not possible to end a Dutch word with two vowels of the same letter, therefore ‘Ik slaa‘ is changed to ‘Ik sla‘.

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Dutch Spelling Changes in Dutch Present Tense

Next let’s look at some examples of other spelling changes, which are common for Dutch verbs.

Verbs with ‘o’ followed by a single consonant then ‘en’ (e.g. lopen = to walk)

  • Lopen = To walk
  • Ik loop = I walk
  • Jij loopt (Loop je?) = You walk (singular & informal)
  • Hij/Zij loopt = He/She walks
  • U loopt = You walk (formal)
  • Wij lopen = We walk
  • Jullie lopen = You walk (plural & informal)
  • Zij lopen = They walk

Note for these types of verbs:

  • For the first four verb forms the o is doubled to oo; and
  • For the last three verbs forms the o is not doubled o.

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Verbs with ‘e’ followed by a single consonant then ‘en’ (e.g. studeren = to study)

Studeren = To study

Ik studeer = I study

Jij studeert (Studeer je?) = You study (singular & informal)

Hij/Zij studeert = He/She studies

U studeert = You study (formal)

Wij studeren = We study

Jullie studeren = You study (plural & informal)

Zij studeren = They study

Note for these types of verbs:

  • For the first four verb forms the e is doubled to ee; and
  • For the last three verb forms the e is not doubled.

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Verbs with ‘u’ followed by a single consonant then ‘en’ (e.g. sturen = to send)

Sturen = To send

Ik stuur = I send

Jij stuurt (Stuur je?) = You send (singular & informal)

Hij/Zij stuurt = He/She sends

U stuurt = You send (formal)

Wij sturen = We send

Jullie sturen = You send (plural & informal)

Zij sturen = They send

Note for these types of verbs:

  • For the first four verb forms u is doubled to become uu; and
  • For the last three verb forms the u is not doubled.

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Verb stems with ‘a’ followed by a single consonant then ‘en’ (e.g. Maken = To make)

Maken = To make

Ik maak = I make

Jij maakt (Maak je?) = You make (singular & informal)

Hij/Zij maakt = He/She makes

U maakt = You make (formal)

Wij maken = We make

Jullie maken = You make (plural & informal)

Zij maken = They make

Note for these types of verbs:

  • For the first four verb forms the a is doubled to aa; and
  • For the last three verb forms the a is not doubled.

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Infinitives ending in ‘ven’ (e.g. Blijven = To stay)

  • Blijven = To stay
  • Ik blijf = I stay
  • Jij blijft (Blijf je?) = You stay (singular & informal)
  • Hij/Zij blijft = He/She stays
  • U blijft = You stay (formal)
  • Wij blijven = We stay
  • Jullie blijven = You stay (plural & informal)
  • Zij blijven = They stay

Note for these types of verbs:

  • For the first four verb forms the v changes to f; and
  • For the last three verb forms the v does not change.

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Infinitives ending in ‘zen’ (e.g. Blazen = To blow)

  • Blazen = To blow
  • Ik blaas = I blow
  • Jij blaast (Blaas je?) = You blow (singular & informal)
  • Hij/Zij blaast = He/She blows
  • U blaast = You blow (formal)
  • Wij blazen = We blow
  • Jullie blazen = You blow (plural & informal)
  • Zij blazen = They blow

Note for these types of verbs:

  • For the first four verb forms z changes to s; and
  • For the last three verb forms z does not change.

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Hopefully this post helps you to see the patterns that most Dutch verbs have in the present tense.

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