Sentence structure and word order 6
Specific types of subordinate clauses 4
Om + te + infinitive 2
Order and position of other elements in the clause 2
In the ‘normal’ word order of a Dutch declarative sentence, the subject precedes the finite verb. In interrogative sentences this word order is reversed. However, it is not uncommon to find another element than the subject before the finite verb in a declarative. In that case the subject immediately follows the finite verb, becaue the finite verb must be in second place. This phenomenon is called inversion. When the clause has a verb form of the second person singular (informal), inversion triggers a slight change in form.
In the following examples the finite verb is in bold and the subject is underlined.
Heb jij huisgenoten?
Have you got housemates?
Ik studeer Nederlands.
I study Dutch.
In mijn land lijken de cafés op huiskamers.
In my country, the pubs resemble living rooms.
In Nederland gaan kinderen vaak vroeg het huis uit.
In the Netherlands, children often leave the (parental) home at an early age.
Inversion happens because the first position of a sentence has an important highlighting function, it signals what the sentence is about, its topic. This is often the subject, of course, but not necessarily. If it is not, the subject occurs in the third position (after the finite verb).
Schematically we can analyse the earlier examples in this way:
|In mijn land||lijken
|| op huiskamers
|In Nederland||gaan||kinderen||vroeg het huis uit
In the context of inversion it is important to remember what happens to the verb when it precedes the subject pronoun jij/je. The verb form of the second person singular informal (jij/je) normally consists of stem + t. However, when jij/je follows the verb, i.e. in cases of inversion, the ending -t is dropped (see also Present tense). In the following example, the first sentence has no inversion and the 2nd-person verb form hebt. In the second sentence, with inversion, the verb form is heb.
Jij hebt toch vijf huisgenoten? Of heb je er vier?
You have five housemates, don’t you? Or do you have four?