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1.3. Inflection
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Verbs can often be recognized by their inflection. This certainly holds for the finite forms and to a certain extent also for the non-finite forms. In the latter case, however, various complications may arise: infinitives, for example, can also be used as nouns, and participles can also be used as adjectives. This section provides an overview of the various forms of inflection and will briefly discuss the syntactic uses of these forms. The discussion in Subsections II and III will mainly focus on the regular paradigms of inflection; the irregular paradigms will be discussed separately in Subsection IV. However, before we can start discussing inflection, we first have to introduce the more abstract notion of verbal stem.

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[+]  I.  Verbal stem

The term verbal stem is a theoretical construct that refers to the underlying phonological form of the verb, as listed in the mental lexicon. For example, the stems of the verbs schoppen'to kick' and schrobben'to scrub' have the phonemic representations /sxɔp/ and /sxrɔb/, with respectively a voiceless and a voiced final plosive, despite the fact that, when no morphological material is attached to the stem, these strings would both be phonetically realized with a voiceless plosive as result of the Dutch rule that word-final consonants be devoiced; see Booij (1995) for details. Table (111) shows this for all Dutch obstruents, which, with the exception of the velar plosive /k/, all form systematic phonemic oppositions with respect to voice. The table also provides the orthographic representations that can be found; we will return to these in what follows.

Example 111
Verbal stems ending in an obstruent
verbal stem phonemic representation phonetic realization orthographic
representation
schop-'kick' /sxɔp/ [sxɔp] schop-
schrob-'scrub' /sxrɔb/ [sxrɔp] schrob-
groet-'greet' /ɣrut/ [ɣrut] groet-
baad-'bathe' /bad/ [bat] baad-
lok-'entice' /lɔk/ [lɔk] lok-
no stem ending in /ɡ/
straf-'to punish' /strɑf/ [strɑf] straf-
kliev-'cleave' /kliv/ [klif] klief- or kliev-
kus-'kiss' /kœs/ [kœs] kus
looz-'drain away' /loz/ [los] loos- or looz-
juich-'cheer' /jœyx/ [jœyx] juich-
zaag-'saw' /zaɣ/ [zax] zaag-

The postulation of the phonemic representations in the second column of Table (111) is motivated by the fact that these play an important role in the pronunciation (as well as the spelling) of plural present-tense forms, regular past-tense forms, infinitives and participles. Table (112) illustrates this for infinitives, which are homonymous to plural present-tense forms, but we will postpone discussion of the other cases to the relevant sections below.

Example 112
Phonetic realization of infinitival forms
infinitive phonetic representation infinitive phonetic representation
schoppen'to kick' [sxɔpə] straffen'to punish' [strɑfə]
schrobben'to scrub' [sxrɔbə] klieven'to cleave' [klivə]
groeten 'to greet' [ɣrutə] kussen'to kiss' [kœsə]
baden'to bathe' [badə] lozen'to drain away' [lozə]
lokken'attract' [lɔkə] juichen'to cheer' [jœyxə]
no stem ending in /ɡ/ zagen'to saw' [zaɣə]

      The final column in Table (111) shows that in the case of plosives, the spelling is fully determined by the postulated phonemic representations; the underlying voiced /b/ and /d/ are represented by the letters "b" and "d", even if they are devoiced in speech, as in the (a)-, (b)- and (e)-examples in (113).

Example 113
a. schrob [sxrɔp]
a'. baad [bat]
1sg
b. schrobt [sxrɔpt]
b'. baadt [bat]
2/3sg
c. schrobde(n) [sxrɔbdə]
c'. baadde(n) [bade]
past
d. schrobben [sxrɔbə]
d'. baden [badə]
infinitive
e. geschrobd [ɣəsxrɔpt]
e'. gebaad [ɣəbat]
past participle
f. schrobbend [sxrɔbənt]
f'. badend [badənt]
present participle

This does not hold for the fricatives /v/ and /z/, which are only represented by the letters "v" and "z" if they are in intervocalic position, that is, followed by the suffix -en (in infinitives and present plural forms) or -end (in present participles), as in the (d)- and (f)-examples in (114). In all other cases they are represented by the letters "f" and "s"; this includes cases in which they are voiced in speech, such as the past tenses kliefde'cleaved' and loosde'drained away' in the (c)-examples, which are pronounced as, respectively, [klivdə] and [lozdə].

Example 114
a. klief [klif]
a'. loos [los]
1sg
b. klieft [klift]
b'. loost [lost]
2/3sg
c. kliefde(n)[klivdə]
c'. loosde(n)[lozdə]
past
d. klieven [klivə]
d'. lozen [lozə]
infinitive
e. heb gekliefd [ɣəklift]
e'. geloosd [ɣəlost]
past participle
f. klievend [klivənt]
f'. lozend [lozənt]
present participle

      Verbal stems, of course, need not end in an obstruent but can also end in a nasal (/n/, /m/ and /ŋ/), a liquid (/l/ and /r/) or a glide (/ʋ/ and /j/).

Example 115
a. Nasals: ren -'run' (/rεn/), neem -'take' (/nem/), breng-'bring' (/brεŋ/)
b. Liquids: til-'lift' (/tIl/), hoor-'hear' (/hor/)
c. Glides: geeuw -'yawn' (/ɣeʋ/), aai-'stroke' (/aj/)

Verbs that end in a short vowel do not occur, which need not surprise us because Dutch has a general ban on short vowels in open syllables. Stems that end in a long vowel do occur but are relatively rare; there is a small number of commonly used verbs like gaan'to go', staan'to stand', slaan'to hit', zien'to see', and doen'to do' (and other formations like verslaan'to beat' that seem to be morphologically derived from these simple verbs). In addition to these simple verbs, the Van Dale dictionary gives an extremely small number of other cases like sleeën'to sledge', spieën'to fix with a pin', shampooën'to clean with shampoo', fonduen'to eat fondue', boeën'to yell boo', heuen'to rush', and keuen'to play billiards', which all seem to be denominal. The first set of verbs we will call contraction verbs, given that they form their infinitive/plural present-tense form by means of a reduced version of the suffix -en: -n. The denominal verbs differ from the simple verbs that end in a vowel in that they take the full form -en.

Example 116
Stems ending in a long vowel
end
vowel
contraction verb denominal verb
  stem phonetic realization stem phonetic realization
/a/ ga-'go'
sta-'stand'
sla-'hit'
[ɣa]
[sta]
[sla]
 
/e/   slee-'sledge' [sle]
/i/ zie-'see' [zi] spie-'fix with a pin' [spi]
/o/   shampoo-'shampoo' [sjɑmpo]
/y/   fondu-'eat fondue' [fɔndy]
/u/ doe-'do' [du] boe-'boo' [bu]
/ø/   heu-'rush'
keu-'play billiards'
[hø]
[kø]

      The discussion above has shown that, apart from the small set of contraction verbs, simple verbs never end in a short or long vowel. There are however, many cases in which the stem ends in a diphthong; some examples are given in (117). That diphthongs are easily possible need not surprise us because (115c) has shown that stems may also end in a glide.

Example 117
a. /εi/: vlei-'flatter' (/vlεi/); vrij-'snog' (/vrεi/)
b. /œy/: krui-'push' (/krœy/); spui-'spout' (/spœy/)
c. /ɔʋ/: rouw-'mourn' (/rɔʋ/), kauw-'chew' (/kɔʋ/)
[+]  II.  Inflection of finite verbs

Finite verbs are characterized by the fact that they agree in person and number with the subject of their clause and can be marked for past tense. Table 7 provides the finite inflection of the so-called regular (or weak) verbs. The final column shows that the past tense morpheme precedes the plural marker.

Table 7: Regular finite inflection
  present past
  singular plural singular plural
1st
person
Ik huil-Ø
'I am crying'
Wij huil-en
'We are crying'
Ik huil-de
'I was crying'
Wij huil-de-n
'We were crying'
2nd
person
Jij huil-t
'You are crying'
Jullie huil-en
'You are crying'
Jij huil-de
'You were crying'
Jullie huil-de-n
'You were crying'
3rd
person
Hij huil-t
'He is crying'
Zij huil-en
'They are crying'
Hij huil-de
'He was crying'
Zij huil-de-n
'They were crying'

The second person honorific pronoun u is special in that it has the -t ending both in the singular and the plural: U huiltsg/pl'you are crying'. Note that non-pronominal noun phrases are always third person, even if they refer to the speaker or the addressee; Haeseryn et al. (1997:62).

Example 118
a. Ondergetekende verklaart dat ...
formulaic language
  undersigned  declares  that
  'The undersigned declares that ...'
b. Mijnheer heeft zich zeker weer verslapen?
ironic address
  mister  has  refl.  there  again  overslept
  'Did you oversleep again, mister?'

The subsections below will discuss the present and past-tense forms in more detail while focusing on the regular paradigm; the irregular paradigms will be discussed separately in Subsection IV. Although the imperative and subjunctive forms of the verbs can also be considered finite forms, we will postpone discussion of these forms to Section 1.4.

[+]  A.  Present tense

The paradigm for the present tense involves two morphologically realized affixes: the invariant plural affix -en(which is pronounced as schwa), and the affix -t, which is used to mark the second and third person singular; the first person singular is not morphologically marked, which is indicated in Table 7 by means of the zero marking -Ø. Dutch does not exhibit gender agreement. The relevant examples are repeated here in a slightly different form as (119).

Example 119
a. Ik huil-Ø
  cry-1sg
a'. Wij huil-en
  we cry-pl
b. Jij huil-t
  you  cry-2sg
b'. Jullie huil-en
  you cry-pl
c. Hij huil-t
  he  cry-3sg
c'. Zij huil-en
  they cry-pl

Compared to languages like Italian, the present tense inflection in (119) is relatively poor. This fact is often taken to be related to the fact that, whereas in Italian the subject can be dropped if it refers to shared information of the speaker and the addressee, this is normally not possible in Dutch; argument drop only arises with first person subject pronouns in so-called diary contexts such as (120a), and with third person pronouns if they refer to the discourse topic in contexts such as (120b).

Example 120
a. Lief dagboek, (ik) ben weer erg dom geweest.
  dear diary   I  am  again  very stupid  been
  'Dear diary, Iʼve been very stupid again.'
b. Q: Is Peter hier? A: Nee, (hem) heb ik nog niet gezien.
  Is Peter here no   him  have  yet  not  seen
  'Is Peter around? No, I havenʼt seen him yet.'

      The (a)-examples in (121) show that the agreement marker -t in (119b) can only be used to express second person, singular agreement if the colloquial subject pronoun je/jij precedes the verb; if it follows the verb the agreement marker must be dropped. The (b)-examples show that this does not hold for the politeness (honorific) form u'you'. The difference between the regular and politeness form may be due to the fact that, synchronically, the politeness form behaves as a third person pronoun, given that it can be the antecedent of the reflexive pronoun zich(zelf) which normally takes a third person antecedent; see Section N5.2.1.5 for examples.

Example 121
a. Straks huil/*huilt je.
  later  cry  you
  'Youʼll cry later.'
a'. Huil/*Huilt je?
  cry  you
  'Are you crying?'
b. Straks huilt/*huil u.
  later  cry  you
  'Youʼll cry later.'
b'. Huilt/*Huil u?
  cry  you
  'Are you crying?'

Note in passing that more elaborate double agreement systems comparable to the Standard Dutch one for the pronoun je/jij can be found in various West-Germanic languages including some Dutch dialects; See Zwart (1997:136ff.), Postma (2011) and Barbiers (2013) for relevant discussion and references.
      The examples in (122) show the spelling of plosives in the coda of the stem. We see here again that the spelling is fully determined by the underlying form: /p/, /t/, and /k/ are represented by "p", "t", and "k", respectively; similarly, /b/ and /d/ are always represented by "b" and "d", even if they occur word-finally and are thus devoiced.

Example 122
a. schop, schopt, schoppen
stem: schop- /sxɔp/
b. schrob, schrobt, schrobben
stem: schrob- /sxrɔb/
c. groet, groet, groeten
stem: groet- /ɣrut/
d. baad, baadt, baden
stem: baad- /bad/
e. lok, lokt, lokken
stem: lok- /lɔk/

Observe also that the -t ending is not expressed in the spelling if the stem ends in a -t; this is not due to the fact that the phoneme sequence /tt/ will be reduced to [t] in speech, since the same thing holds for the phoneme sequence /dt/; it is simply that Dutch orthography does not allow two identical letters adjacent at the end of a word. For completeness' sake, note that the use of a single letter "a" in baden is due to the general orthographic rule that long vowels are represented by a single letter in open syllables: pra-ten versus praat; ba-den versus baad.
      The examples in (123) show the spelling of fricatives in the coda of the stem. In this case, the spelling is not fully determined by the underlying form. Although voiceless /f/, /s/, and /x/ and voiced /ɣ/ are always represented by, respectively, "f", "s", "ch" and "g", the realization of the phonemes /v/ and /z/ depends on the morphological context; they are represented by "v" and "z" in the plural present-tense form marked by -en, where they are also pronounced with voice, but by "f" and "s" in the singular forms, where they are devoiced. Note that the use of a single "o" and "a" in lozen and zagen is again due to the general orthographic rule that long vowels are represented by a single letter in open syllables.

Example 123
a. straf, straft, straffen
stem: straf- /strɑf/
b. klief, klieft, klieven
stem: kliev- /kliv/
c. kus, kust, kussen
stem: kus- /kœs/
d. loos, loost, lozen
stem: looz- /loz/
e. juichen, juicht, juichen
stem: juich- /jœyx/
f. zaag, zaagt, zagen
stem: zaag- /zaɣ/

      For completeness' sake, it can be noted that the stems of verbs like rijden'to drive' and houden'to keep', in which the diphthongs /εi/ and /ɔʋ/ are followed by an underlying /d/, are often pronounced without the [d] if they surface with the first person singular zero marking -Ø or the plural marker -en. First and second person singular forms without "d" are also frequently found in written language; the spelling with and without "d" in the primeless and singly-primed examples in (124) seem to alternate freely. Spellings of the plural forms without "d", on the other hand, are far less common: the spellings rijen and houen in the doubly-primed examples do occur, but are not accepted in formal writing. If the stem is followed by the person marker -t, the stem is always written with "d": the spellings Hij rijt and Hij hout are normally not accepted.

Example 124
a. Ik rij(d) straks.
  drive  later
  'Iʼll drive later.'
b. Ik hou(d) het boek.
  I keep  the book
  'Iʼll keep the book.'
a'. Straks rij(d) jij.
  later drive you
  'Youʼll drive later.'
b'. Hou(d) je het boek?
  Keep  you  the book
  'Will you keep the book?'
a''. Straks rij(d)en wij.
  later  drive  we
  'Weʼll drive later.'
b''. We hou(d)en het boek.
  we  keep the  book
  'We'll keep the book.'
[+]  B.  Past tense

Past tense is normally expressed by means of the affix -de, which must be directly adjacent to the verbal stem. This marker has the allomorph -te, which appears if the verb stem ends in a voiceless consonant. It is interesting to note that the final consonant of the stems kliev - and looz- are written with, respectively, an "f" and an "s", despite the fact that they are not word-final and thus pronounced as [v] and [z].

Example 125
Past tense
stem past stem past
  singular plural   singular plural
schop- schopte schopten straf- strafte straften
schrob- schrobde schrobden kliev- kliefde kliefden
groet- groette groetten kus- kuste kusten
baad- baadde baadden looz- loosde loosden
lok- lokte lokten juich- juichte juichten
no stem ending in /ɡ/ zaag- zaagde zaagden

Table (125) shows that subject-verb agreement is even more limited in the past than in the present tense, given that there is no person agreement at all; there is just number agreement marked by the plural marker -en. In fact, this plural marker is observable in the spelling only, since the plural marker -en is pronounced as schwa, and therefore elided under identity with the schwa in the past suffix. Consequently, the forms schopte and schopten, strafte and straften, etc. are phonetically indistinguishable; the first two are both pronounced as [sxɔptə] and the latter as [strɑftə]. That past forms are marked for number can therefore only be established by appealing to irregular verbs like lopen'to walk', which do not express past tense by means of the suffix -te, but by means of vowel change; Ik loop'I walk' versus Ik liep'I walked'. An example such as Wij liepen'We walked', which is pronounced with a schwa ending, thus shows that past-tense forms are indeed marked for plural.

[+]  III.  Inflection of non-finite verbs

Dutch has three non-finite forms, illustrated in (126): infinitives, past/passive participles and present participles. These will be discussed in the given order in the following subsections. We will focus on the regular paradigms; the irregular paradigms will be discussed separately in Subsection IV.

Example 126
a. Peter wil Jan kussen.
infinitive
  Peter wants.to  Jan kiss
  'Peter wants to kiss Jan.'
b. Peter heeft Jan gekust.
past participle
  Peter has  Jan kissed
  'Peter has kissed Jan.'
b'. Jan werd door Peter gekust.
passive participle
  Jan  was  by Peter  kissed
  'Jan was kissed by Peter.'
c. Peter en Jan liepen kussend over straat.
present participle
  Peter and Jan  walked  kissing  in the.streets
  'Peter and Jan walked in the streets kissing.'
[+]  A.  Infinitives

Table (127) show that infinitives are derived from the verbal stem by addition of the suffix -en (which is pronounced as schwa). The left-hand side of the table also shows that, as in the case of the plural marker -en, the spelling of obstruents in the coda of the stem is fully determined by the underlying form, and thus corresponds with the actual pronunciation of the infinitive.

Example 127
Infinitives
stem infinitive pronunciation stem infinitive pronunciation
schop- schoppen [sxɔpə] straf- straffen [strɑfə]
schrob- schrobben [sxrɔbə] kliev- klieven [klivə]
groet- groeten [ɣrutə] kus- kussen [kœsə]
baad- baden [badə] looz- lozen [lozə]
lok- lokken [lɔkə] juich- juichen [jœyxə]
no stem ending in /ɡ/ zaag- zagen [zaɣə]

Infinitives, which are also used as the citation form in linguistic texts and dictionaries, have various syntactic uses, which will be briefly discussed in the following subsections.

[+]  1.  Verbal Infinitives

Infinitives can be used as the complement of, e.g., modal and aspectual verbs. The examples in (128) show that infinitives can be either "bare" or preceded by the element te.

Example 128
a. Jan wil dat boek lezen.
  Jan wants  that book  read
  'Jan wants to read that book.'
c. Jan schijnt dat boek te lezen.
modal
  Jan seems  that book  to read
  'Jan seems to read that book.'
b. Jan gaat dat boek lezen.
  Jan goes  that book  read
  'Jan is going to read that book.'
d. Jan zit dat boek te lezen.
aspectual
  Jan sits  that book to read
  'Jan is reading that book.'

The element te is always adjacent to the infinitive. This may lead to the conclusion that, despite the fact that it is written as a separate word, it is actually a prefix attached to the verb; see IJbema (2002:ch.3) for a review of several approaches to te. arguments. Evidence given in favor of this claim bears on the position of verbal particles and past participles, which, as shown by the examples in (129), can normally be placed fairly freely in clause-final verb clusters.

Example 129
a. dat Jan Marie graag <af> wil <af> halen.
  that  Jan Marie  gladly   prt.  want  pick.up
  'that Jan would be happy to pick up Marie.'
b. dat iedereen dat boek <gelezen> moet <gelezen> hebben <gelezen>.
  that  everyone  that book    read  must  have
  'that everyone must have read that book.'

Since the element te is part of the verb cluster, we would expect it to exhibit behavior similar to that of the modal verbs in (129), and that it could therefore be separated from the infinitive it is construed with by verbal particles or past participles. However, the examples in (130) show that this expectation is not borne out.

Example 130
a. Jan schijnt Marie graag <af> te <*af> halen.
  Jan seems  Marie  gladly   prt.  to  pick.up
  'Jan seems to be happy to pick up Marie.'
b. Jan schijnt dat boek <gelezen> te <*gelezen> hebben <gelezen>.
  Jan seems  that book    read  to  have
  'Jan seems to have read that book.'

The element te behaves in this respect like the prefix ge- that we find in participles, albeit that we can illustrate this for verbal particles only: clauses with two past participles are rare in Dutch and pose additional problems that we do not want to discuss here. The correspondence between the examples in (130a) and (131) does, nevertheless, provide evidence in favor of the claim that te also functions as a prefix.

Example 131
Jan heeft Marie afgehaald/*geafhaald.
  Jan has  Marie prt.-picked.up
'Jan has picked up Marie.'

There are also problems for the claim that te is a prefix to the verb. First, it seems that some speakers allow one occurrence of te to be associated with more than one verb in coordinate structures like those in (132): cf. Zwart (1993:104-5). This requires, however, that the second infinitive is entirely bare, as in the primeless examples–as soon as the second conjunct contains additional material, te must be overtly realized on the second conjunct. The important observation is that leaving out the ge- prefix on part participles always leads to a severely degraded result: Jan heeft gezongen en *(ge-)danst'Jan has sung and danced'.

Example 132
a. Jan hoopt om in L.A. te leven en %(te) sterven.
  Jan hopes  comp  in L.A.  to live  and     to  die
  'Jan hopes to live and die in L.A.'
a'. Jan hoopt in L.A. te leven en in Amsterdam *(te) sterven.
  Jan hopes in L.A. to live and in Amsterdam to die
  'Jan hopes to live in L.A. and to die in Amsterdam.'
b. Els gaat naar Deventer om boeken te kopen en %(te) verkopen.
  Els goes  to Deventer  comp  books  to buy  and     to  sell
  'Els goes to Deventer to buy and sell books.'
b'. Els gaat naar D. om boeken te kopen en CDs *(te) verkopen.
  Els goes  to D. comp books  to buy  and  CDs     to  sell
  'Jan goes to Deventer to buy books and to sell CDs.'

Furthermore, it has been reported for a number of varieties of Dutch spoken in the Northern part of the Netherlands (especially Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe) that te can be separated from the verb by certain bare nominals; cf. Schuurman (1987) and Barbiers et al. (2008: Section 2.3.5). Example (133) gives the test sentences from the latter study, which are completely unacceptable in Standard Dutch.

Example 133
a. % Marie zit te stoofperen schillen.
  Marie sits  to cooking.pears  peel
  'Marie is peeling cooking pears.'
b. % Marie zit te piano spelen.
  Marie  sits  to piano  play
  'Marie is playing the piano.'

Since speakers of Standard Dutch reject examples such as (133) and also tend to object to the primeless examples in (132), as is clear from, e.g., Hoeksema (1995), we leave it to future research to determine the precise status of Standard Dutch te, that is, whether it is a bound morpheme or an independent functional element in the clause; see IJbema (2002:ch.3) for more discussion and an excellent starting point for such an investigation. We want to conclude by noting that assuming affixal status is clearly not a viable option for English to because this element can sometimes be separated from the verb, as is illustrated in (134a) taken from Huddleston & Pullum (2002:581-2), and can in fact occur without any verbal element at all in elliptical contexts, as in (134b) adapted from Quirk et al. (1985:908-9).

Example 134
a. I want to really humiliate him.
b. You can borrow my pen if you want to borrow my pen.

For reasons like these, English to is normally taken to function as an independent functional head, viz., the one that heads the tense projection TP; cf. Section 9.1.

[+]  2.  Imperatives

Although Dutch has a special imperative form, the infinitive can also be used with imperative force. The imperative and infinitival forms differ in their placement in the clause: the former is always sentence-initial, whereas the latter is normally clause-final. Some typical examples are given in (135). A more extensive discussion of the two imperative forms can be found in Section 1.4.2, sub II.

Example 135
a. Eetimp je bord leeg!
  eat  your plate  empty
  'Empty your plate!'
a'. Je bord leeg eteninfinitive!
  your plate  empty  eat
  'Empty your plate!'
b. Vertrekimp vroeg!
  leave  early
  'Leave early!'
b'. Vroeg vertrekkeninfinitive!
  early  leave
  'Leave early!'
[+]  3.  Progressive aan het + infinitive + zijn constructions

Infinitives of verbs are also used in the progressive aan het + infinitive + zijn constructions in (136). Since this construction refers to an ongoing event, stative verbs like weten'to know' cannot occur within it. The same thing holds for non-main verbs like modal willen'to want' and aspectual gaan'to go'.

Example 136
a. Jan is de polka aan het dansen.
  Jan is the polka  aan het  dance
  'Jan is dancing the polka.'
b. * Jan is het antwoord aan het weten.
  Jan is the answer  aan het  know
c. * Marie is het boek aan het willen/gaan lezen.
  Marie is the book  aan het  want/go  read
[+]  4.  Infinitival nominalizations

The infinitives discussed in Subsection 1 function as verbs, which is clear from the fact that they surface as finite verbs if the modal/aspectual verbs are dropped. We illustrate this here for (128a&b), repeated as (137a&b).

Example 137
a. Jan wil dat boek lezen.
  Jan wants  that book  read
  'Jan wants to read that book.'
a'. Jan leest dat boek.
  Jan reads that book
  'Jan is reading that book.'
b. Jan gaat dat boek lezen.
  Jan goes  that book  read
  'Jan is going to read that book.'
b'. Jan leest dat boek.
  Jan reads that book
  'Jan is reading that book.'

There are, however, cases in which the verbal status of infinitives is less obvious. Consider the examples in (138), in which the infinitive lezen heads a constituent that functions as the subject of the clause.

Example 138
a. [Boeken lezen] is leuk.
  books  read  is nice
  'Reading books is nice.'
b. [Het lezen van boeken] is leuk.
  the  read  of books  is nice
  'The reading of books is nice.'

Given that subjects are mostly noun phrases, it seems plausible that we are dealing with nominalizations. Nevertheless, the infinitive does seem to maintain a number of verbal properties. For example, the so-called bare-inf nominalization in (138a), in which the term "bare" refers to the absence of a determiner, involves a nominal complement to the left of the infinitive, which is a typical verbal property; nouns normally realize their arguments as PPs to their right, as is indeed the case in the det-inf nominalization in (138b). The examples in (138) therefore suggest that the notion of "verbalness" is not an absolute, but a gradual notion. Since we mainly want to point out here that infinitives can head phrases with the categorial status of a noun phrase, we refer the reader interested in inf nominalizations to the extensive discussions in Section N1.3.1.2 and N2.2.3.2.

[+]  5.  Modal infinitives

Example (139a) shows that t e-infinitives can be used as attributive modifiers of noun phrases, in which case they are normally referred to as modal infinitives since they inherently express some notion of "ability" or "obligation". Example (139b) shows that modal infinitives can also be used as the predicate in a copular construction. The examples in (139) suggest that modal infinitives are adjectival in nature: the prenominal attributive position is normally restricted to adjectives, and adjectives are also common as predicates in copular constructions. The modal infinitive constructions in (139) are therefore not discussed here but in Section A9.

Example 139
a. het te lezen boek
cf. het rode boek 'the red book'
  the  to read  book
  'the book that must/can be read'
b. Dit boek is gemakkelijk te lezen.
cf. het boek is rood 'the book is red'
  this book  is easily  to read
  'This book can be read with little effort.'
[+]  B.  Past/passive participles

Table (140) shows that past/passive participles are derived from the verbal stem by addition of the circumfixge-..-d/t. Note that the -d/t part of the circumfix is not realized in spelling if the stem ends in /t/ or /d/ due to the fact that Dutch orthography does not allow two identical letters adjacent at the end of a word.

Example 140
Past/passive participles
stem participle pronunciation stem participle pronunciation
schop- geschopt [ɣəsxɔpt] straf- gestraft [ɣəstrɑft]
schrob- geschrobd [ɣəsxrɔpt] kliev- gekliefd [ɣəklift]
groet- gegroet [ɣəɣrut] kus- gekust [ɣəkœst]
baad- gebaad [ɣəbat] looz- geloosd [ɣəlost]
lok- gelokt [ɣəlɔkt] juich- gejuicht [ɣəjœyxt]
no stem ending in /ɡ/ zaag- gezaagd [ɣəzaxt]

The choice in written language between ge-..-d and ge-..-t is fully determined by the underlying form of the obstruent, despite the fact that as a result of the Dutch rule of word-final devoicing, ge-..-d will be normally be pronounced as [ɣə-stem-t]. The devoicing does not occur, however, if the participle is used in prenominal position with the attributive -e ending; the "t" and "d" are then indeed pronounced as [t] and [d]. In (141) we give concrete examples for the plosives in table (140): the primeless and primed examples give, respectively, the voiceless and voiced cases. In (142), we find similar examples for the fricatives.

Example 141
a. de geschopte [ɣəsxɔptə] hond
  the  kicked  dog
a'. de geschrobde [ɣəsxrɔbdə] vloer
  the  scrubbed  floor
b. de gegroete [ɣəɣrutə] man
  the  greeted  man
b'. de gebade [ɣəbadə] baby
  the  bathed  baby
c. de gelokte [ɣəlɔktə] klant
  the  attracted  costumer
c'. no stem ending in /ɡ/
Example 142
a. de gestrafte [ɣəstrɑftə] jongen
  the  punished  boy
a'. de gekliefde [ɣəklivdə] schedel
  the  cleaved  scull
b. de gekuste [ɣəkœstə] hond
  the  kissed  dog
b'. de geloosde [ɣəlozdə] olie
  the  dumped  oil
c. de toegejuichte [ɣəjœyxtə] zanger
  the  applauded  singer
c'. de omgezaagde [ɣəzaɣdə] boom
  the  sawn.down  tree

      A systematic exception to the inflection pattern in Table (140) arises with complex verbs derived by means of prefixation: verbs prefixed by unstressed affixes like ont-, be-, ver-, and her-, for example, are never preceded the ge- part of the circumfix; this part is simply not realized. Some examples illustrating this are given in (143). Note that many of these complex verb forms are not the result of a currently productive morphological process: their specialized meanings suggest that verbs like verdienen'to deserve/earn' and herhalen'to repeat' must be listed as such in the lexicon.

Example 143
a. ontdek- 'discover/descry'
a'. (*ge-)ontdekt 'discovered'
b. bedek- 'cover'
b'. (*ge-)bedekt 'covered'
c. verdien- 'deserve/earn'
c'. (*ge-)verdiend 'deserved/earned'
d. herhaal- 'repeat'
d'. (*ge-)herhaald 'repeated'

The same thing holds for compound verbs in which word accent is not assigned to the first member, as would normally be the case. The examples in (144a&b) thus contrast with verbs like raadplegen'to consult' in (144c), in which the ge- part precedes the whole compound. Small caps are used to indicate the stressed syllable.

Example 144
a. weerleg- 'refute'
a'. (*ge-)weerlegd 'refuted'
b. misbruik- 'abuse'
b'. (*ge-)misbruikt 'abused'
c. raadpleeg- 'consult'
c'. *(ge-)raadpleegd 'consulted'

Given that the stress pattern in (144c) is the regular one, we find many cases of this type. A complication, however, is that besides unsuspected compounds like raadplegen there are also semantic N + V collocations that do not behave like compounds. In fact, the position of the ge- part of the participle is a reliable test for distinguishing the two cases. The (a)-examples in (145) show that with beeldhouwen'to sculpture' the ge- part precedes the nominal part, which suggests that we are dealing with a true compound. The (b)-examples show that with auto rijden'to drive a car' the ge- part follows the nominal part, which suggests that we are dealing with a more or lesss fixed collocation. The (c)-examples show that with stofzuigen'to vacuum' the ge- part may either precede or follow the nominal part, which suggests that we are dealing with an ambiguous structure. Note in passing that the N + V compound in (145c) differs from the N + V collocation in (145c') in that it has the regular participle form instead of a strong form; cf. De Haas & Trommelen (1993:442).

Example 145
a. gebeeldhouwd
a'. * beeld gehouwd
true N + V compound
b. * geautorijd
b'. auto gereden
N + V collocation
c. gestofzuigd
c'. stof gezogen
ambiguous

The claim that participles differ in the way indicated is confirmed by the behavior of verbs under verb-second. True N+V compounds cannot strand the nominal part, whereas fixed N + V collocations cannot pied-pipe the nominal part. Ambiguous cases like stofzuigen seem to allow both options.

Example 146
a. Jan <beeld>houwt de hele dag <*beeld>.
  Jan sculpts  the whole day
  'Jan is sculpting all day.'
b. Jan <*auto> rijdt de hele dag <auto>.
  Jan      car  drives  the whole day
  'Jan is driving a car all day.'
c. Jan <stof>zuigt de hele dag <?stof>.
  Jan vacuums  the whole day
  'Jan is vacuuming all day.'

The fact that verbal particles like over in overschilderen'to think' or opbellen'to ring up' precede the ge- part of the participle shows in a similar way that particles do not form a morphological unit with the verb, despite the fact that particle-verb combinations are normally written as a single word and can also be the input to word formation; cf. overschilderbaar'overpaintable'. That such combinations do not form a morphological unit is also clear from the fact that verbal particles are stranded in verb-second constructions such as (147).

Example 147
a. over + schilder -'repaint'
b. op + bel- 'to call up'
a'. overgeschilderd
b'. opgebeld
a''. Jan schilderde het hekje over.
  Jan painted  the gate  over
  'Jan repainted the gate.'
b''. Jan belde Marie gisteren op.
  Jan phoned  Marie  yesterday  prt.
  'Jan called Marie yesterday.'

      Past/passive participles can be used both verbally and adjectivally. The former is the case in perfect-tense and passive constructions, as is clear from the fact that these constructions stand in systematic opposition to, respectively, simple present/past tense and active constructions. It is important to note at this point that the past/passive participle can either precede or follow the perfect/passive auxiliary, since this will become important later in the discussion; cf. (150).

Example 148
a. dat Jan het boek verkocht.
active, simple tense
  that  Jan the book  sold
  'that Jan sold the book.'
b. dat Jan het boek <verkocht> heeft <verkocht>.
active, perfect tense
  that  Jan the book     sold  has
  'that Jan has sold the book.'
c. dat het boek <verkocht> werd <verkocht>.
passive
  that  the book   sold  was
  'that the book was sold.'

Past/passive participles of a more adjectival nature can be found in (149); example (149a) shows that past/passive participles can be used in prenominal attributive position, which is normally occupied by adjectives, and (149b) shows that they can also be used in the predicative position of a copular construction. That we are (or at least can be) dealing with adjectives is clear from the fact that the participle gekookt can be prefixed with the negative morpheme on- 'un-', which is a hallmark of adjectives; verbs are typically prefixed by the negative morpheme ont- (see Booij 2002, Section 3.3).

Example 149
a. het gekookte/ongekookte ei
  the  cooked/uncooked  egg
b. Het ei is gekookt/ongekookt.
  the egg  is cooked/uncooked

A typical semantic difference between verbal and adjectival participles is that the former refer to a dynamic state of affairs and the latter to a stative property. In some cases, constructions are ambiguous in this respect. An example such as Jan en Marie zijn getrouwd can express that Jan and Marie have been engaged in a marrying event ("Jan and Marie have married") or that Jan and Marie are a married couple ("Jan and Marie are married"). This difference is brought out in (150) by means of the adverbial phrases gisteren'yesterday', which refers to the moment that the event of marrying took place, and al jarenlang'for years', which refers to the time interval during which the property of being married applies to Jan. These examples also show that the placements of the verbal and adjectival participle differ: the former is able to precede or follow the auxiliary verb, whereas the latter must precede the copular (like other complementives).

Example 150
a. dat Jan gisteren <getrouwd> is <getrouwd>.
perfect tense
  that  Jan  yesterday    married  is
  'that Jan married someone yesterday.'
b. dat Jan al jaren <getrouwd> is <*getrouwd>.
copular construction
  that  Jan already  years    married  has.been
  'that Jan has been married for years.'

This brief discussion of verbal and adjectival past/passive participles suffices for our present purposes. A more detailed discussion of their adjectival use can be found in Section A9.

[+]  C.  Present participles

Present participles are derived from the stem by addition of the suffix -end. Given that the end consonant of the stem is now in intervocalic position, devoicing will not take place. This is illustrated in Table (151).

Example 151
Past/passive participles
stem participle pronunciation stem participle pronunciation
schop- schoppend [sxɔpənt] straf- straffend [strɑfənt]
schrob- schrobbend [sxrɔbənt] kliev- klievend [klivənt]
groet- groetend [ɣrutənt] kus- kussend [kœsənt]
baad- badend [badənt] looz- lozend [lozənt]
lok- lokkend [lɔkənt] juich- juichend [jœyxənt]
  zaag- zagend [zaɣənt]

Although present participles are traditionally treated as a case of verbal inflection, it is not evident that we are dealing with verbs. The present-day distribution of these participles is that of an adjective rather than that of a verb. First, in contrast to their English counterparts ending in -ing, they are never used as the semantic head of a clause. For example, Dutch has no verbal construction with a present participle that corresponds to the English progressive; the progressive aan het + infinitive construction is used instead.

Example 152
a. Jan is reading the book.
b. * Jan is het boek lezend.
  Jan is the book  reading
c. Jan is het boek aan het lezen.
  Jan is the book aan het  read

Second, present participles are found in functions that are normally performed by adjectives: example (153a) shows that a present participle may occur in prenominal attributive position and (153b) shows that it can be used as a secondary predicate, that is, as a supplementive. Nevertheless, the fact that it can be modified by means of an adverbial phrase in a function different from that of intensifier shows that the present participles has retained specific verbal features.

Example 153
a. de beleefd groetende man
  the  politely  greeting  man
  'the man who was greeting politely'
b. De man kwam beleefd groetend binnen.
  the man  came  politely  greeting  inside
  'The man entered, while greeting politely.'

Given their adjectival nature, present participles will not be discussed in the present study; the reader is referred to Section A9 for further discussion of this category.

[+]  IV.  Regular versus irregular verbs

In the previous subsections we have restricted our attention to the inflectional paradigms of so-called regular verbs. There are, however, verbs showing various types of irregularities. The person and number agreement that we find in the present and past tense is mostly regularly formed by means of the ending -t and -en; cf. Table 7. The only exceptional patterns are found with the main verb komen'to come', which will be discussed at the end of this subsection, the auxiliaries hebben and zijn, the copular verb zijn, and a number of modal verbs. We will not discuss this in depth here but simply give the present tense paradigms for the verbs hebben and zijn for illustration.

Example 154
Present tense inflection of the auxiliary hebben and zijn
  hebben zijn
  singular plural singular plural
1st
person
Ik heb
'I have'
Wij hebben
'We have'
Ik ben
'I am'
Wij zijn
'We are'
2nd
person
Jij hebt/heb jij
'You have'
Jullie hebben
'You have'
Jij bent/ben jij
'You are'
Jullie zijn
'You are'
3rd
person
Hij heeft
'He has'
Zij hebben
'They had'
Hij is
'He is'
Zij zijn
'They are'

      The most common irregularity involves stem alternation for the present and the past tense, e.g., loop - liep'walk - walked'. The past/passive participles of verbs exhibiting this type of alternation are normally not formed by means of the circumfix ge-...-d/t but by ge-...-en, e.g., gelopen'walked'. The example lopen'to walk' shows that the stem from which the participle is derived may be the stem that is used for the formation of the present tense. It may, however, also be the stem used for the formation of the past tense. In a smaller number of cases, it may even be of some entirely different form. We can therefore distinguish three vowel alternation patterns in the sequence present-past-participle: ABA, ABB and ABC. Two examples of each type are given in (155). Recall that long vowels are represented by a single letter if they are in an open and by two letters if they are in a closed syllable; cf. loop versus lo-pen.

Example 155
a. ABA: lopen'to walk': loop - liep - gelopen
          dragen'to carry': draag - droeg - gedragen
b. ABB: wegen'to weigh' : weeg - woog - gewogen
           buigen'to bend': buig - boog -gebogen
c. ABC: helpen'to help' : help - hielp - geholpen
           zweren'to vow': zweer - zwoer -gezworen

The examples in (156a) give cases of semi-regular verbs in which the simple past tense, but not the past participle, is formed in accordance with the regular pattern. The examples in (156b) show that there are also cases with the inverse pattern, that is, in which the past participle, but not the simple past tense, is formed in accordance with the regular pattern.

Example 156
a. Semi-regular verbs with irregularly formed past participles:
lachen'to laugh': lach - lachte -gelachen
wreken'to revenge': wreek - wreekte - gewroken
b. Semi-regular verbs with irregularly formed past-tense forms:
vragen'to ask': vraag - vroeg -gevraagd
zeggen'to say': zeg -zei -gezegd

In some cases, the stem alternation involves a change not only in the vowel but also in the consonants. The examples in (157) show such changes in, respectively, the coda and the onset of the stem.

Example 157
a. brengen'to bring' : breng - bracht - gebracht
b. komen'to come' : kom - kwam - gekomen

The verb komen'to come' is also special in that it has a stem with a short vowel in the singular but with a long vowel in all other cases. This is illustrated in (158) for the singular and plural simple tenses. The participle gekomen in (157b) is also pronounced with a long vowel.

Example 158
Present/past forms of the verb komen'to come'
  hebben zijn
  singular /kɔm/ plural /komə/ singular /kʋɑm/ plural /kʋamə/
1st
person
Ik kom
'I come
Wij komen
'We come'
Ik kwam
'I came'
Wij kwamen
'We came'
2nd
person
Jij komt
'You come'
Jullie komen
'You come'
Jij kwam
'You came'
Jullie kwamen
'You came'
3rd
person
Hij komt
'He comes
Zij komen
'They come'
Hij kwam
'He came'
Zij kwamen
'They came'

Lengthening of the vowel also occurs in cases in which the irregular past stem contains an /a/ followed by a single consonant: lag'lay' [lax] - lagen'lay' [laɣ↔]; zag'saw' [zax] - zagen'saw' [zaɣ↔]; etc.
      Since irregular verbs are less interesting from a syntactic point of view, we refer the reader to Booij (2002: Section 2.4), Haeseryn et al. (1997: Section 2.3.4-6) and Klooster (2001) for exhaustive lists of irregular and semi-regular verbs as well as more discussion.

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  • Quirk, Randolph, Greenbaum, Sidney, Leech, Geoffrey & Svartvik, Jan1985A comprehensive grammar of the English languageLondon/New YorkLongman
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