Conjugating Verbs: Present Tense (2)

Present tense verbs are normally conjugated by taking the stem of the verb then applying the appropriate ending to it depending on the subject of the sentence. However, there are some spelling rules to observe in certain situations.

Long vowels

Screenshot from Duolingo
Screenshot from Duolingo
Screen shot from Duolingo
Screen shot from Duolingo

The verb spreken (to speak), and some others like it, needs some additional adjustment.

Spreken consists of two syllables, an open syllable and a closed syllable (spre~ken). However in the singular forms the verb changes (Ik spreekJij spreekt). This is because the stem on its own is a single closed syllable. This means that the long vowel must double up, hence the “e” becomes “ee”.

Short vowels


Screen shot from Duolingo
Screen shot from Duolingo
Screen shot from Duolingo
Screen shot from Duolingo

The verb kennen (to know) consists of two closed syllables (ken~nen). Because the vowels are not doubled up they are short vowels. When the verb is reduced to its stem it becomes simply ken. In the singular persons the conjugations are ik ken, and jij/hij/zij kent.

Consonant shifts

Some verbs change the last consonant of the stem when the ending changes. The z and s interchange, and v and f interchange.

For example, the z in lezen (to read) becomes an s in the following forms: ik lees, and jij leest, but wij lezen stays the same as the infinitive.

Another example is that the v in schrijven (to write) becomes an f in the following forms: ik schrijf, and jij schrijft, but wij schrijven stays the sam

Related Posts


Spelling rules

Vertaalwoordenboek Nederlands Engels
Vertaalwoordenboek Nederlands Engels
Bilingual Dictionary Dutch English

There are some spelling rules that have to be observed in Dutch. They become especially important when modifying words into different forms as the spelling can change.

The first two rules rely two different types of syllable. They are:

  • Open syllable: A syllable that ends in a vowel
  • Closed syllable: A syllable that ends in a consonant.

Short vowels are always in a closed syllable. So, for example man (man, husband) is a single closed syllable, but in its plural form it is mannen (men, husbands). The extra “n” is needed to close the first syllable so the two syllables are man~nen.

Long vowels end an open syllable, but must be doubled up in a closed syllable. So, for example kool (coal) is a single closed syllable with a long vowel, it becomes kolen (coals) in the plural, the syllables are ko~len.

Words that end in the letter “f” changes to “v” and words that end in the letter “s” changes to “z” if the additional ending starts with a vowel. For example, huis (house) becomes huizen (houses), and wolf (wolf) becomes wolven (wolves).

Conjugating verbs: Present Tense

There are likely going to be many posts about verbs. However, to start with here’s how to conjugate the regular form of the present tense.

De man springt op de trampoline.
De man springt op de trampoline.

Using the verb “to jump” (springen) as an example:

First take the “en” ending off the verb to get the stem. So in this example, “springen” becomes “spring”. Then use the following table to conjugate it into the form needed depending on the subject (I, you, he, she, we, they, etc.) of the sentence.

Subject Example Ending Translation & Notes
ik spring I jump
jij springt t You (informal singular) jump
u springt t You (formal singular) jump
hij springt t He jumps
zij springt t She jumps
het springt t It jumps
wij springen en We jump
jullie springen en You (informal plural) jump
u springen en You (formal plural) jump
zij springen en They jump

There are some spelling rules that come in to play in certain cases, but that will be covered later. The above is the basics of conjugating a regular verb in the present tense.


Introducing Personal Subject Pronouns

The subject pronoun is the word you use to describe who is performing the action in a sentence.

Number Person Stressed Unstressed Translation & notes
Singular First ik ‘k I
Second jij je you (informal)
u you (formal)
Third hij ie he
zij ze she
het ‘t it
Plural First wij we we
Second jullie you (informal)
u you (formal)
Third zij ze they

So, when to use each?

Featured image

Going by the Duolingo app they seem to be interchangeable. However, it seems it is much more common to use the unstressed versions in speech than in writing.

Introducing the Definite Article

I like to know why things are the way they are in languages, so even although I’m following the Duolingo course to learn Dutch, when I come across a grammatical construct that differs from the way it works in English, I want to find out why. Duolingo doesn’t teach this way, but my curiosity gets the better of me. Most of the time I’ll try and work it out, and sometimes if I can’t figure it out I’ll look it up.

De vs. Het

So, why “het meisje” (the girl) or “het sap” (the juice), but “de man” (the man) & “de jongen” (the boy)?

At initial inspection I thought Dutch must have masculine and feminine articles, but “de vrouw” (the woman) which I’d seen earlier doesn’t fit that hypothesis.

Dutch has a concept of common (“de”) and neuter (“het”) nouns. I asked a dutch person how you tell the difference if you’ve never seen the word before and all I got was a shrugged response back.

Unlike Spanish, where there is a rule that covers most cases in determining the type of noun, in Dutch you just have to remember each on a case-by-case basis. In fact there are some general rules, but all seem to have exceptions – I’ll go into them later on. Having said that there are many more common nouns, hence the name, than neuter nouns.