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10.2. In het + adjective: In het algemeen'In general'

The examples in (24) show that adjectives can enter the syntactic frame in het + A. A typical difference between the Dutch examples and their English counterparts is that these constructions contain the article-like element het in Dutch, whereas in English the adjective is normally bare. The complement of the preposition in therefore looks like a noun phrase in Dutch, but this is probably just seemingly the case as the phrases het algemeen'the general' and het bijzonder cannot be used in other NP-positions.

Example 24
a. in het algemeen
  'in general'
b. in het bijzonder
  'in particular'

A second reason to doubt that the complement of the preposition is a regular noun phrase is that the adjective is normally affixed with -e if a definite noun phrase does not contain an overt noun; cf. Section 5.4. This is shown in (25). That this ending is lacking in (24) shows that we are not dealing with N-ellipsis.

Example 25
a. Ik wil de blauw-e hebben.
  want  the blue  have
  'I want to have the blue one.'
b. Ik heb de grot-e gekocht.
  have  the big  bought
  'I bought the big one.'

      The phrases in (24) are more or lesss fixed in the sense that modification is excluded: nothing can be placed between the preposition in and the element het, and het and the adjective must also be adjacent. The number of adjectives that can enter the construction is, however, quite large. All color adjectives can enter the construction, and it is also quite normal with adjectives such as effen'unpatterned', gestreept'striped', geblokt'checked' that refer to a certain design.

Example 26
a. Marie trouwt in het wit/roze.
  Marie marries  in the white/pink
b. Ik wil zoʼn jurk, maar dan in het grijs/blauw/effen/gestreept/geblokt.
  I want such a dress  but  then  in the grey/blue/unpatterned/striped/checked
c. Marie heeft zoʼn jurk in het wit/effen/?gestreept/?geblokt.
  Marie has  such.a  dress  in the white/unpatterned/striped/checked

A peculiar property of the examples in (26) is that some notion of completeness is implied: example (26c) with the adjective wit, for example, implies that the dress is entirely white, and (26a) implies that Marieʼs dress and main accessories are white. This notion of completeness is absent, however, if the color adjectives are replaced by, e.g., measure adjectives like lang'long' and kort'short', as in (27).

Example 27
a. Marie trouwt in het lang/kort.
  Marie marries  in the long/short
b. Ik wil zoʼn jurk, maar dan in het lang/kort.
  want  such a dress  but  then  in the long/short
c. Marie heeft zoʼn jurk in het lang/?kort.
  Marie has  such.a dress  in the long/short

      Occasionally, it is not easy to determine whether we are dealing with the in het + A construction or with a regular PP with a nominal complement. In (28), for example, geheim'secret' could in principle be either an adjective or a noun. Given the fact that a locational interpretation is not plausible, we may decide that we are dealing with an adjective here, which is also consistent with the fact that the article the is missing in its English rendering in secret (Carole Boster informs me that English also has the expression on the sly, in which sly is clearly adjectival).

Example 28
Jan doet het in het geheim/geniep.
  Jan does  it  in the secret
'Jan does it in secret.'

The adjective nauw'narrow (space)' can also be interpreted as either an adjective or a noun. Given that the verb drijven'drive' in (29a) requires a locational complement in the presence of an accusative object, we should conclude that we are dealing with a regular (metaphorically used) locational PP, and consequently also with a regular noun phrase het nauw. This conclusion seems to be supported by example (29b). Like drijven in (29a), the verb trekken'to pull' requires a locational phrase, and the adjectives belachelijk and absurd are adorned with an - e ending, which indicates that het belachelijke and het absurde are noun phrases with an elided noun; cf. Section 5.4, sub II. Observe that in the English translation of (29a) the article the/a must be present.

Example 29
a. Jan drijft Marie in het nauw.
  Jan drives  Marie in the/a corner
  'Jan drives Marie into the/a corner/Jan is pressing Marie hard.'
b. Jan trekt het in het belachelijke/absurde.
  Jan pulls  it  into  the ridiculous/absurd
  'Jan is ridiculing it.'

For the examples in (30), it cannot easily be decided whether we are dealing with a noun or an adjective. The element klad'draft' in (30a) is probably a noun, since it cannot occur in attributive or complementive position, whereas net'neat' is probably an adjective since it cannot be used in regular NP-positions (with the relevant meaning); Engels in (30b) can be used both as a noun and as an adjective. Example (31) provides some other potential cases of the in het + A construction.

Example 30
a. Jan schrijft het in het klad/net.
  Jan writes  it  in the draft/neat
  'Jan is writing a draft/final version.'
b. Jan schrijft de brief in het Engels.
  Jan writes  the letter  in the English
  'Jan writes the letter in English.'
Example 31
a. In het echt is de Nachtwacht mooier.
  in the real  is  the Night.Watch  more.beautiful
b. In het kort komt het op het volgende neer.
  in the short  comes  it  on the following  down
  'In short it amounts to the following.'
c. paling in het groen
  eel in the green
  'stewed eel in chervil sauce'

    This topic is the result of an automatic conversion from Word and may therefore contain errors.
    A free Open Access publication of the corresponding volumes of the Syntax of Dutch is available at OAPEN.org.