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
Sentence structure in subordinate clauses
In a subordinate clause the finite verb occurs towards the end of the clause, together with any other verbs (i.e. inifinitives or past participles). A subordinate clause is always linked to a main clause by means of a subordinating conjunction (or a relative pronoun in the case of relative clauses). In the examples below the subordinate clause is underlined and its verb is in bold.
Ik ga vaak naar de universiteit, omdat ik bijna elke dag college heb (subordinate clause with subordinating conjunction).
I often go to the university because I have lectures nearly every day.
De stad die ik het liefst bezoek, is Rotterdam. (relative clause with relative pronoun)
The city I like visiting best, is Rotterdam.
If a subordinate clause contains any other verbs (inifinitives or past participles), they will occur together with the finite verb in a single verbal cluster. The arrangements for the order of this verbal cluster are very similar to those in a main clause.
1. One auxiliary, one past participle
If the cluster consists of an auxiliary for the perfect tense or the passive (i.e. forms of hebben or zijn) plus a past participle, the order is free. In the example below, hebt is the perfect tense auxiliary and gegeten the past participle. The order of hebt and gegeten is free and there is no difference in meaning between the two sentences.
De trainer wil dat je voor de wedstrijd hebt gegeten.
De trainer wil dat je voor de wedstrijd gegeten hebt.
The trainer wants you to have eaten before the training.
2. One modal verb, one infinitive
If the cluster consists of a modal verb plus an infinitive, the modal verb usually precedes the infinitive. Note, however, that for some speakers of Dutch the reverse is also acceptable. This often depends on regional variation. There is no difference in meaning.
Je weet dat je als student Nederlands woordjes moet leren.
You know that as a student of Dutch you must learn words.
3. One modal verb, more infinitives
If the cluster consists of a modal verb plus more infinitives, the main verb (i.e. the verb carrying most meaning) comes last. The order of the (modal) auxiliaries depends on the intended meaning. The two sentences below have different meanings.
Je weet dat je als student Nederlands woordjes moet kunnen leren.
You know that as a student of Dutch you must be able to learn words.
Je weet dat je als student Nederlands woordjes kan moeten leren.
You know that as a student of Dutch you may have to learn words.
4. Two auxiliaries, one past participle
If the cluster consists of a past participle and two auxiliaries, there are three possible variations in their order, depending on regional variation and/or style, but without a difference in meaning. In the following examples the first variant is typical of standard spoken Dutch in the Netherlands, and the second one of standard spoken Dutch in Belgium. The third variant is more typical of a written style.
Ik denk dat je als student Nederlands veel woordjes geleerd moet hebben.
Ik denk dat je als student Nederlands veel woordjes moet geleerd hebben.
Ik denk dat je als student Nederlands veel woordjes moet hebben geleerd.
I think that as a student of Dutch you must have learnt many words.