Verbs & Tenses

There is a wide variety of verb conjugation in Dutch. Verbs have inflections according to tenses, moods, person and if they are singular or plural. There are weak and strong verbs, mixed verbs, basic verbs, prefixed and separable verbs.

Past tense

The past tense changes whether the verb is considered weak or strong. Weak verbs are the verbs that change by the addition of a suffix to the main stem when conjugated to the past tense:

Ik kook → Ik kookte

Strong verbs are verbs that are formed with a vowel change in the stem:

Ik zing → Ik zong

Weak verbs in the past tense are formed with an addition of +te in singular and +ten in plural when the stem ends in a voiceless consonant (t, k, f, s, ch, p):

Ik straf → Ik strafte → Wij straften

Verbs that do not end in one of those consonants have an addition of +de in singular and +den in plural:

Ik bestel → Ik bestelde → Wij bestelden

Verbs stems that end in t will have a doubled tt and d a doubled dd:

Ik praat → Ik praatte
Ik antwoord → Ik antwoordde

The past participle consists of an inflection using ge- + stem + d or t. When the verb stem ends in one of the consonants t, k, f, s, sch, ch or p, the past participle should end in +t:

Hak → Gehakt

When there is no case of an ending in each of these consonants then the past participle ends in +d:

Haal → Gehaald

Stems ending in t or d naturally do not require an additional t or d in the past participle (e.g. praatgepraat; antwoordgeantwoord). No prefix is used when the verb already has a natural and unstressed prefix itself (e.g. bepalenbepaald; verenigenverenigd).

Strong verbs do change from vowel when they are conjugated in their past tense. Each strong verb in the singular has no inflections in suffixes, plural verbs have an addition of +en:

Ik zing (present) → Ik zong → Hij zong → Wij zongen → Jullie zongen
Ik loop → Ik liep → Hij liep → Wij liepen → Jullie liepen

The past participle of a strong verb has the prefix ge- + stem + -en:

Bleef → Gebleven

Present tense

When verbs are conjugated in the present tense they inflect according to if they belong to the indicative mood or subjunctive mood and the person:

Ik helpHelp ik?Wij helpenHelpen wij?
Jij helptHelp jij?Jullie helpenHelpen jullie?
Hij / zij / het helptHelpt hij / zij / het?Zij helpenHelpen zij?
U helptHelpt u?

In most cases when the verb goes with the first singular pronoun, it has no inflection apart from using the verb stem.

The second and third singular pronouns go with a verb +t. Sometimes the verb belonging to a second singular has no inflection and only the stem remains. Plural verbs inflect with +en.

The present subjunctive mood in Dutch expresses an action that has not occurred yet, those verbs inflect adding +e in singular and +en in plural:

Ik mag → Ik moge → Jullie mogen

The present participle always describes a progressive action, the verbs have an addition of the infinitive +d, +end or +ende depending on the noun they go along with:

Schrijven → Schrijvende jongen
Staan → Staand huis

The imperative mood in present only consists of the verb stem in singular and +t for the second person formal:

Loop door
Loopt u door

Future tense

The future tense which is used to describe future events is used by adding the auxiliary verb zullen (will/shall) or gaan (to go) with addition of a second verb in its infinitive form.

Ikzal / ga + infinitiveWij/wezullen / gaan + infinitive
Jij/je/uzal/zult / gaat + infinitiveJulliezullen / gaan + infinitive
Hij/zijzal / gaat + infinitiveZij/zezullen / gaan + infinitive

Ik zal naar huis lopen
Jullie zullen rijk worden
Ik ga morgen het gras knippen
De vrouwen gaan de vereniging opheffen

Note that the auxiliary verbs in most cases stand after the pronoun and the infinitive verb at the end of the sentence.

The auxiliary verb zullen is the more formal way to express something that will occur in the future. On the other hand, the auxiliary verb gaan is a more informal way to express, most people use this form in the daily spoken language.

Another common form to express future events is to use the simple present, in this case the specific time in which it will occur is necessary to be mentioned:

Ik rijd straks naar het stadium (I will drive to the stadium later)
Patrick speelt morgen tegen een sterker team (Patrick will play to a stronger team tomorrow)

Perfect Tenses

Future perfect

To make the future perfect add future zullen (will) + past participle + hebben; the past future perfect is made by adding zou (should) + past participle + hebben (the past participle can be put before and after hebben in both cases):

Wij zullen gedanst hebben
Wij zouden gedanst hebben

Present perfect

The present perfect is made by adding present hebben (to have) or zijn (to be) + past participle:

Ik heb gedanst
Wij zijn beoordeeld

Past perfect

The past perfect is made by adding past had/hadden (had) or was/waren (was/were) + past participle:

Ik had gedanst
Wij waren beoordeeld

Passive voice

The passive voice is made by adding worden (will be) + past participle:

Wij worden beoordeeld

Perfect passive

The perfect passive is made by adding zijn (to be) + past participle:

Wij worden beoordeeld

Progressive aspect

The progressive is made by adding the auxiliary verb zijn (to be) + aan het + infinitive verb:

De vrouwen zijn aan het lopen

Conditional mood

The conditional mood is made by adding the auxiliary verb in the past tense zou (would) in singular and zouden in plural:

Ik zou niet door lopen