Verbs according to function 4
Verbs according to meaning 7
Verbs according to form 3
Verbs according to conjugation 6
For purposes of conjugation Dutch verbs can be divided into regular and irregular verbs. Regular verbs follow a certain pattern in the way they are conjugated, whereas irregular verbs do not follow a pattern at all. The group of regular verbs is the largest, and this group can be divided further into weak verbs and strong verbs. The conjugation of a new verb (e.g. a verb borrowed from English) normally follows the rules of weak verbs.
Revision exercises: verbs 1
Perfect or imperfect?
Current relevance vs. description
The perfect tense is more common in Dutch than in English and it is used slightly differently. A Dutch perfect tense can often be translated with a perfect tense in English, but English also uses the past tense where Dutch uses the perfect tense. A good rule of thumb is that a past tense in Dutch is almost always translated with a past tense in English, but not the other way around.
The most important principle to bear in mind is that the perfect tense is used to refer to events in the past which are still relevant at the moment of speaking (or writing), whereas the past tense is used merely descriptive. The following excerpt from an email about a visit to Blijdorp zoo in Rotterdam is an example of this:
|We zijn vandaag met Luuk naar Blijdorp geweest.||Today we went to Blijdorp with Luuk.|
|Dat was een avontuur!||That was an adventure!|
|We liepen daar vrolijk rond,||We were walking around happily,|
|en kletsten over van alles en nog wat,||and we were talking about this and that,|
|maar ineens waren we Luuk kwijt.||but suddenly we had lost Luuk.|
|Na een uur hebben we hem weer gevonden.||After an hour we found him again.|
The first and last sentences of the above piece use the perfect tense. The first one introduces the ‘story’. The relevance here is that for the writer of the email it is still very much alive (it happened today!) and it gives a context for the rest of the story, which is also important for the receiver of the email. The last sentence concludes the email, but the fact that Luuk was found is still relevant at the moment of writing: he is no longer lost! Hence these two sentences are in the perfect tense. In contrast, the three intervening sentences give an almost factual description of (some of) the events in the zoo. Hence they are in the past tense.
You will find that recent news reports are often structured in a similar way. (Click on the front page of any news site e.g. nu.nl and read some of the top stories). Fairy tales, on the other hand, are purely descriptive. The standard opening of a Dutch fairy tale is: Er was eens een …
The past tense (but not the perfect) is also used to talk about habits of the past:
|Ik heb in Tilburg gestudeerd.||I have studied in Tilburg.|
|Ik studeerde daar taalkunde.||I studied linguistics there.|
|Ik woonde in een studentenhuis||I used to live in a student house|
|dat ik deelde met 8 andere mensen.||which I shared with 8 other people.|
|We aten altijd samen dus||We always ate together so|
|dat was een hele organisatie!||that took a lot of organisation!|
|Als je de kookbeurt had,||When it was your turn to cook,|
|moest je alle boodschappen doen.||you had to do all the shopping.|
|Gelukkig hoefde je dan niet af te wassen.||Fortunately you then didn’t need to wash up.|
|Nu woon ik niet meer in een studentenhuis,||Now I don’t live in a student house anymore,|
|en mijn man kookt altijd!||and my husband does all the cooking!|
In the above example the first sentence is in the perfect tense, as it is still relevant that the speaker has a degree for Tilbug University, but the rest of the text (except the last sentence) describes the day-t0-day organisation of the student house that they describe.
Perfect tense in English but PRESENT tense in Dutch
There is one context where a perfect tense in English requires a present tense in Dutch. This is when an activity has started in the past and is continuing into the present and future. This occurs in situations where you describe how long you have been somewhere and you are still there. In Dutch you then use the adverb al (or pas, if the time has been relatively short). For example:
|I have lived in Sheffield all my life.||Ik woon al mijn hele leven in Sheffield.|
|I have only studied Dutch for a year.||Ik studeer pas een jaar Nederlands.