June 27, 2014 at 9:30 am #530
Adjectives are words that qualify nouns. They express a particular quality of the noun. Colours, for example (geel, rood, zwart) can be adjectives, or words indicating dimensions (groot, lang, klein). Adjectives can also express more abstract qualities. For example: gezellig, interessant or aardig. Most past participles of verbs can also be used as adjectives: verstopt or gebakken, to name just two.
Adjectives can be used in two ways:
- after the noun they qualify (predicative adjectives)
- before the noun they qualify (attributive adjectives)
Special forms of adjectives are:
Predicative adjectives are adjectives used in their base or dictionary entry forms (also known as citation form), as in the sentences below:
Note that predicative adjectives do not change their form and follow the nouns they qualify: zonnig and zacht occur in their citation form and follow oktoberdag, and fraai follows weer.
When adjectives immediately precede the noun they qualify, we talk of attributive adjectives. Examples of attributive adjectives are:
Note that these adjectives precede the noun they qualify: knallende precedes ruzie, mooi and blauw precede jasje, and verstopte (a past participle in origin) precedes neus.
Note also that some of these adjectives do not occur in their citation form: knallende and verstopte. They decline.
When placed before a noun, adjectives in most cases decline, i.e. they receive the ending -e. Whether or not an attributive adjective declines, depends on:
- the gender of the noun it qualifies
- whether the noun it qualifies is definite or indefinite
A noun is indefinite if it is preceded by the indefinite article (een) or by no article at all (for example in the plural). Geen (as in Ik heb geen nieuwe auto = ‘I have no new car’) and welk(e) also act as an indefinite article.
Attributive adjectives have the ending -e unless:
- the noun it qualifies is a neuter gender noun (het-word)
- that noun is indefinite
form definite indefinite singular de word de gezellige kamer
die gezellige kamer
mijn gezelige kamer
een gezellige kamer
geen gezellige kamer
welke gezellige kamer?
*plural de word de gezellige kamers* gezellige kamers* singular het word het mooie boek
dat mooie boek
jouw mooie boek
een mooi boek
geen mooi boek
welk mooi boek?
*plural het word de mooie boeken* mooie boeken*
*Note that all plurals are de words, so adjectives preceding them always decline: they have the ending -e.
This is a schematic representation of the rule for adjectival endings:
gender definite indefinite common (de word) -e -e neuter (het word) -e ø
There are some common exceptions to these rules.
Adjectives ending in -en
All adjectives that end in -en do not decline at all (i.e. never receive an end -e) and are therefore an exception to the general rule.
Most of these are adjectives describing materials. For example:
Some other adjectives that naturally end in -en behave in the same way:
Some past participles of verbs naturally ending in -en also behave in the same way (i.e. they do not receive an end -e):
On the whole, when new adjectives are added to the language, or when adjectives are ‘borrowed’ from other languages, they are declined like all other adjectives. There are some, however, whose adaptation to the Dutch grammar system is not so simple. The adjective plastic for instance, does not decline:
Some recently imported English words like cool can be declined, but language users tend to avoid having to do so. So, even though a sentence like Dat is een coole tas can be heard, it is preferable to say Die tas is cool.
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