• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
Inflection and derivation

In this section, with its focus on a formal description of the morphology of the verbal system, the inflectional and derivational verbal types to be distinguished will serve as the basis of a description of their syntactic and other functions, and usage. As the borderline between inflection and derivation is far from clear (cf. Van Huyssteen 2014:184), no theoretical distinction will be made here.

The development of Afrikaans from 17th century Dutch in the context of intense language contact, gave rise to a number of far-reaching changes in the verbal system, more so than in any other area of grammar. This includes the loss of inflection for person and number, the loss of the distinction between “strong” and “weak” verbs, the loss of the distinction between finite and non-finite form (infinitive) form, the loss of the verbal preterite (imperfect or past tense form), and the regularisation of the past participle. However, important traces of almost all of these remain, some of which still play an important part in the verbal system.

It is important to realise that while the remnants of infinitive inflection in Afrikaans still correlate with syntactic functions of the infinitive, such as the copula and auxiliary weesbe in om te weesto be, the syntactic infinitive is generally expressed by the uninflected base form of the verb, as in 1a and 1b

Example 1

a. Hulle probeersing
[(SBJ) hulle] [(VP) [(Vlex) probeer] [(Vinf) sing]]
they try sing
They are trying to sing.
b. Hulle probeer om tesing.
[(SBJ) hulle] [(VP) [(Vlex) probeer] [(Vinf) om te sing]]
they try COMP to sing
They are trying to sing

As a transitive lexical verb, hethas/have has as inflected infinitive as in 2a , but as an auxiliary only the form het in all finite and infinitive functions, cf. 2b .

Example 2

a. Om iets te , moet jy werk.
[(InfCl) [(COMP) om] iets [(Vinf) te hê]] [(MC) [(Vaux-mod) moet] [(SBJ) jy] [(Vinf) werk]]
COMP something to have.INF must you work
To have something, you must work.
b. Dit is belangrik om iets aan die saak te gedoen het.
[(EXPL) dit] [(V) is] [(PRED) belangrik] [(InfCl) [(COMP) om] iets aan die saak [(Vinf) te [(Vpst-ptcp) gedoen] [(Vaux) het]]
it be.PRS important COMP something on the case to PST.PTCP-done have
It is important to have done something about the case.

The following is a brief characterisation of the morphology of the Afrikaans verbal system in particular, followed by a more general inventory of the verbal morphology of Afrikaans. In other sections, phonological alternation in verbs (cf. Phonological stem alternation ) as it relates to morphological alternation is briefly discussed, and the functions and usage of verbal types described in more detail, viz. the verbal base form, the preterite ,inflected infinitives , past participles , derivations from past participles (cf. departicipial derivations ) andpresent participles

In general, the morphology of the Afrikaans verbal system is characterised by the following:

  • The Afrikaans finite verb does not inflect for number or person and functions morphologically as an independent verbal base. This is also the form of the verb used as an imperative. A verb stem may be assumed to exist in a number of instances of allomorphy (e.g. skryw- for skryf/skrywewriteand in the formation of participles (e.g. geskryf written, skrywendewriting) and their further adjectival, nominal and other derivations (cf. phonological stem alternation ).
  • The preterite, also known as the imperfect or past tense is no longer a verbal category in which all verbs of the language are represented, though a small set of highly frequent modal verbs and waswas/werefor the verb weesbestill have preterite forms.
  • The terms infinitive (cf. Inflected infinitives (INFL-INF) ) or non-finite form as such are inappropriate for Afrikaans as there are few marked or inflected forms that correspond to the syntactic functions of the infinitive in languages such as Dutch and German, while deflected verbal base forms may occur in traditionally infinitive contexts in Afrikaans. A distinction is called for between (i) a syntactic or phrasal infinitive, viz. the full infinitive , as in Om briewe te skryf, is maklik To write letters is easy, and the bare infinitive, as in Briewe skryf, is maklikWriting letters is easy(cf. Ponelis 1979:430-431) who refers to these as “long” and “short” infinitives, respectively), and (ii) formal or inflected infinitives, such as the suppletive form weesbe, have, and a restricted set of expressions where the verb has -e inflection, as in te weteto wit, te doene kryto have to deal withand aan 't werke weesto be workingfor the verbs weet, doen and werk, respectively.
  • The past participle is formed by prefixing ge- to the verbal base under certain conditions, e.g. breekbreak > gebreek
  • In adjectival (cf. Departicipial derivations ) and certain other functions the past participle of a number of verbs may assume an irregular form, e.g. breekbreak > gebroke or take an -s suffix, e.g. waagdare > gewaagd.
  • A present participle is derived from the verbal base by suffixing -end(e), e.g. breekbreak > brekend(e). It is used as an adjective or adverb rather than being part of the verbal system proper.

As the following morphological processes relating to Afrikaans verbs are on the fuzzy borderline between inflection and derivation, no distinction will be made. The syntactic context or usage of these forms are discussed in the Readmore section.

  • Suffixation of -e in lexical pairs (restricted set) of verbal bases, e.g. berg: bêre, laaf: lawe, leef: lewe, skryf: skrywe, sorg: sôre, terg: têre;
  • suffixation of -e  to form inflected infinitives after the particle te (restricted set) as in Dit is te begrype This is understandable, (lit.) to understand, e.g. doen: doene, hoop: hope, maak: make, sien: siene, verstaan: verstane, vertel: vertelle, vind: vinde, weet: wete, wens: wense.Note that the –e suffix in Afrikaans is analagous to the –en  suffix in Dutch, and that –e is affixed in addition to –n in the small set of so-called Dutch monosyllabic verbs such as doen, staan and n reflecting non-standard historical and dialectal developments in Dutch.
  • suppletive stem replacement employed as expressive variant in the standard variety and as preferred base form in other varieties as in Daar gaat hy!There he goes! e.g. gaan: gaat, staan: staat, slaan: slaat;
  • suffixation of –end(e) to form present participles (cf. Section Present participle (1) )  as in skreeuende menigtesshouting masses, e.g. baklei: bakleiende, draai: draaiende; gaan: gaande, leef: lewende, loop: lopende, skryf: skrywende, staan: staande, vertrou: vertrouende, lê: lêende/liggende (irregular);
  • prefixation of ge- to form past participles, e.g. werk: gewerk, breek: gebreek, bring: gebring (cf. Section Past participle);
  • suffixation of -d  to past participles to form predicative adjectives (restricted set) as in Daardie toertjie is baie gewaagdThat trick is very risky, e.g. beroer: beroerd, seën: geseënd, ontstel: ontsteld, plus suffixation of –e to form attributive adjectives, e.g. gewaagde, beroerde, etc. (cf. Section Departicipial derivations );
  • suffixation of –te/-de to regular past participles to form attributive adjectives, as in gelapte klerepatched clothese.g. (with -te): gelas: gelaste, gestop: gestopte, gelok:  gelokte, gewreek: gewreekte, gestraf: gestrafte, geëet: geëte, gegroet: gegroete; (with –de):  gelaaf: gelaafde, verloof: verloofde; opgelig: opgeligde; gemaal: gemaalde, gestem: gestemde; gesing: gesingde, vermaan: vermaande, gelaai: gelaaide, geplooi: geplooide, beweer: beweerde, verloor: verloorde, voortgestu: voortgestude; geabba: geabbade (cf. Section Departicipial derivations );
  • suppletivestem replacement in past participles to form attributive and/or predicative adjectives (restricted set derived from Dutch strong or irregular past participles) as in gebonde boekebound books(from bindbind)’, e.g. agtergebly: agtergeblewe, bedink: bedagte, bedrieg: bedroë, gedoen: gedane, gelees: gelese, verkry: verkreë (cf. Section Departicipial derivations );
  • suffixation of –e to past participles to form attributive adjectives (restricted set derived from Dutch past participles), as in hersiene uitgawerevised edition, e.g. gesien: gesiene, verstaan: verstane (cf. Section Departicipial derivations ).
[+] Phonological stem alternation

As a rule, the verb stem is identical with the verbal base. However, a number of verbs do have non-functional stem alternations, e.g.

Example 3

Hy skryf vir haar en sy skrywe terug.
[[(SBJ) hy] [(Vfin) skryf ] vir haar]] en [[(SBJ) sy] [(Vfin) skrywe] terug]]
he write for her and she write back
He writes to her and she writes back.

Phonological alternations implying underlying verb stems are found between

  • verbal bases, e.g. leew-[le:v] for leef/lewe, laaw-[la:v] for laaf/lawe, sorg-[sɔrg] for sorg[sɔrx] /sôre[sɔ:rǝ], terg-[tɛrg] for terg[tɛrx] / têre[tɛ:rǝ] (and cf. berg/bêre);
  • verbal base and inflected infinitive, e.g. vind-[fǝnd] for vind[f ǝ nt] / [fǝndǝ] ;
  • verbal base and derived present participle, e.g. leew-[le:v] for leef/lewend(e), blyw-[blǝiv] for bly/blywend(e), leid-[lǝid] for lei/leidend(e), stryd- [strǝid] for stry/strydend(e), liefheb-(?) for liefhê [lifhɛ:]/ liefhebbende[lifhɛbǝndǝ] and cf. sê/ (veel)seggende, lê/liggende. Note that no underlying stem need usually be assumed for verbal bases ending in a vowel/diphthong, e.g. baklei/bakleiende, vertrou/vertrouende, draai/draaiende.
  • verbal base and departicipial adjective, e.g. geew-(?) for gee[xe:] / gegewe[xǝxe:vǝ].
[+] Verbal base

The verbal base – or a concatenation of base forms – is an unmarked verb form occurring in various contexts or associated with various functions (cf. Ponelis 1979:261), e.g. Sy sing/ kan sing/ bly probeer singShe sings/ can sing/ keeps trying to sing.

The verbal base or string of base forms expresses the present tense, as in (4a), but may in certain contexts also convey a future tense meaning, as in (4b), or a past tense meaning, particularly as a so-called historical present in narrative context, as in (4c).

  1. As a tense form, the verbal base may express present tense(4a), future tense(4b),  and - as historical presentpast tense (4c).

    Example 4

    a. Dit reën hard - kyk net daar!
    it   rain.PRS   heavily    look.IMP just there
    It is raining heavily - just have a look there!
    b. Volgens die weervoorspelling reën dit môre hard.
    according.to the weather.forecast rain.PRS it tomorrow heavily
    According to the weather forecast it will be raining heavily tomorrow.
    c. Dit reën hard, maar inspekteur Griesel het 'n plan.
    it rain.PRS hard but inspector Griesel have.PRS a plan
    It was raining heavily, but Inspector Griesel had a plan.
  2. Timeless or habitual action: Verbal base forms are also employed in referring to recurring actions or processes, either stemming from human habit or the laws of nature (cf.De Villiers 1971:20-22).

    Example 5

    Dit reën elke somer hier.
    it rain.PRS every summer here
    It rains here every summer.
  3. Progressive aspect: As the Afrikaans verb is not inflected or otherwise marked for expressing a continued action in the present (cf. English She is working vs She works from home) this may be made explicit by means of a construction such as be.PRS + aan die V-INF (cf. Breed and Van Huyssteen 2014)

    Example 6

    Hulle is hard aan die werk.
    they be.PRS hard on the work.INF.NMLZ
    They are working hard.
  4. Nominalisation: Verb phrases may be used as sentential subjects or objects or prepositional objects, i.e. with a nominal function (cf. Syntax ). In Dutch this is expressed by the bare infinitive with or without the neuter definite article het, as in zingensingingor het zingenthe singing. In Afrikaans the base form of the verb is used, without the definite article die, as in (7a), or with die, as in (7b); in the case of the transitive verb have and copula weesbe, the inflected infinitive is used, as in (7c).

    Example 7

    a. Sy hou van ballades sing.
    she love of ballads sing.INF.NMLZ
    She loves singing ballads.
    b. By die sing van daardie lied het sy uitgeloop.
    at the sing.INF.NMLZ of that song have she out-PST.PTCP-walk
    When that song was being sung, she left.
    c. Aan sy siek wees en probleme kom daar nie 'n einde nie.
    on his ill  be-INFL.INF.NMLZ and problems have-INFL.INF.NMLZ come there no end not 
    There is no end to his illnesses and problems.
  5. The imperative is generally expressed by the verbal base in sentence initial position, followed optionally by the sentential subject. This may be a 2nd person personal pronoun or a title used as indirect form of address:

    Example 8

    Bring (jy, julle, u, Tannie) asseblief nou die borde!
    bring  you-SG you-PL you-FORMAL Aunt please now the plates
    Please bring the plates now.’ or ‘Will you/Aunt please bring the plates now?

    In the negative, i.e. as prohibition, etc., the verbal base is not employed as imperative, but is extended by the modal verb moetmust, which is syntactically adapted to the imperative function. If moet is juxtaposed to nienot as first negative, moet and nie are typically contracted to moenie

    Example 9

    En moenie jy dit drink nie, sê hy.
    C. Marnewick
    and must=not you it drink not say he
    And you mustn’t drink it, he says.

    An alternative imperative construction, with sentence-final verbal base,  is also used, though perhaps more frequently in Dutch than in Afrikaans. For ‘be’ and ‘have’ the inflected forms are used (wees and , respectively), as in (10f) and (10g); depending on the context (initial or final), these forms may be looked upon as imperatives and infinitives, respectively. The sentence-final type is in essence an elliptical construction with mitigating illocutional force, in contrast to the standard verb first imperative which may introduce a proposition of any length. In each example verb-initial and verb-final directives are compared.

    Example 10

    a. Ruim alles op! – Alles opruim, hoor!
    clear.IMP everything up  everything up-clear.INF PART
    Clear away everything (hey)!
    b. Staan vroeg op! – Vroeg opstaan, nè!
    stand.IMP early up     early  up-stand.INF PART
    Rise early (hey)!’    ‘Rise early, OK?!
    c. Kom môre weer! - ? Môre weer kom, hoor!
    come.IMP tomorrow again   tomorrow again come.INF
    Come again tomorrow (hey)!
    d. Bring jou rekenaar saam! - ? Jou rekenaar saambring, nè!
    bring.IMP your computer with   your computer with-bring.INF
    Bring along your computer!’ ‘Bring along your computer, OK?
    e. Wys die mense die huis! – *Die mense die huis wys!
    show.IMP the people the house the people the house show.INF
    Show the people the house!
    f. Wees versigtig! – Versigtig wees, hoor!
    be.IMP careful     careful   be.INF hear
    Be careful!’  ‘Be careful, hey!
    g. ? pret!  -   Pret , nè!
    have-IMP fun    fun have.INF PART
    Have fun!’     ‘Have fun, hey!

    Exclamations may be verb-initial or verb-final, e.g.

    Example 11

    a. Slaap/ werk/ sing, etc. lekker!
    sleep.IMP work.IMP sing.IMP nicely
    Sleep/ work/ sing well!’
    b. Lekker slaap/ sing /werk
    well  sleep.INF   sing.INF  work.INF
    Sleep/ work/ sing well!

    The set phrases Mooi loop!Go well! and Mooi bly!Keep well! are usually verb-final:

    Example 12

    Mooi loop! Mooi bly!
    well   go.INF     well  stay.INF
    Go well!’           ‘Keep well!
[+] The preterite

For a small group of verbs – mainly modal verbs – preterite variants are used. Thus waswas/wereis frequently employed for the verb ‘be’, as is sou  for salshall,will, wou for wilwant to, moes for moetmust, have toand kon for kancan, be able to’. Less frequent is dog/dag for dink‘think’ (often in the meaning ‘think mistakenly’), while wis for weet knowand mog for magmay are becoming obsolete, and had for (hethave, has) as transitive verb is restricted to literary usage (and not used as auxiliary) (cf. Ponelis 1979:191;Kirsten), e.g.

Example 13

Maar niemand had die verbondenheid aan dié stukkie Oos-Kaapse  kuswêreld wat ons twee had nie.
M. Bakkes
but no-one have.PRET the bond to this little-piece-of Eastern Cape coast.world that we two have.PRET not
But no one had the connection with this little piece of the Eastern Cape coastal area the two of us had.

Modal preterites may express past tense or have modal functions, and are employed in finite as well as in non-finite syntactic contexts. The preterite form of modals may alternate with periphrastic constructions (cf. (14a) and (14b)), particularly is certain varieties of the language. (Cf. section on subjunctive .)

Example 14

a. Sy kon vroeër sing. - Sy kan vroeër gesing het.
she can.PRET earlier sing  she can.PRS earlier PST.PTCP-sing have.AUX
She was able to sing before.
b. Hy moes die skottelgoed was. – Hy moet die skottelgoed gewas het.
he  must.PRET the dishes wash   he must.PRES the dishes PST.PTCP-wash    have.AUX
‘He had to wash the dishes.’- ‘He had to/must have wash(ed) the dishes.’

Modal preterites are also employed in functions reserved for infinitives in equivalent Dutch constructions,  e.g. (i) as  preterite infinitives, (ii) in preterite agreement (creating cohesion between verbs), and (iii) in realis constructions.The use of modal preterites in a variety of constructions is subsumed by Ponelis (1979:250, 270-272) under the term preteritale assimilasie (‘preterital assimilation’)

  1. Preterite infinitives are constructions such as to have sung (vs to sing) in English,  te hebben gezongen (vs te zingen) in Dutch and om te gesing het (vs om te sing) in Afrikaans. While these are periphrastic constructions, the past reference may also be achieved by means of inflection. Thus in Old Norse skyldu is the preterite infinitive corresponding to the infinitive skulushall(cf.Faarlund 2004:51). In Afrikaans, modal preterites may form part of preterite infinitives, as in om te kon singto have been able to singas against om te kan singto be able to singfor the full infinitive.  Cf. examples (15a) and (15b).
  2. When a modal preterite is followed by another modal preterite instead of the verbal base, the preterite that follows may be considered to have undergone preterite agreement, cf. examples (15a), (15c), (15d) and (15e). This process may involve more than one modal verb (cf. example (15c)) and is particularly frequent when the modals are followed by a perfect, as in (15d). Preterite agreement may serve to create functional cohesion in verbal strings expressing past tense or an irrealis.
  3. In marked realis constructions consisting of ‘have’ + modal verb + lexical verb (cf. section on Subjunctive ), the modal verb is preferably but not exclusively a preterite (cf. examples (15b), (15f) and (15g)).  
    Example 13

    a. Om dit te (i) kon doen, sou ek my werk (ii) moes bedank en vryskut    gaan.
    D. van Zyl
    COMP this to can.PRET do  will.PRET I my work must.PRET resign and free-lance go
    To be able to do that, I would have had to resign from my work and start      freelanceing.
    b. Ons het 'n bietjie van jou hare moes wegskeer (iii) om die snye op jou kop te kon dokter (i)
    J. Botha
    we have a little of your hair must.PRET away.shave COMP the cuts on your head to can.PRET treat
    We had to shave away some of your hair to be able to treat the cuts on your head.
    c. Hy is my pa, hy sou iets moes kon (ii) doen. Ek sou by hom kon (ii) gaan bly.
    E. Lötter
    he be.COP.PRS my dad he will.PRET something must.PRET can.PRET do I will.PRET     by him can.PRET go stay
    He is my dad, he would have had to do something. I might go and stay with him.
    d. Hy sou meer aan die saak moes kon (ii) gedoen het.
    he will.PRET more on the case must.PRET can.PRET PST.PTCP-do have
    He should have been able to do more about the matter.
    e. Jy sou wou (ii) matroos gewees het as jy kon, dink ek.
    D. Sleigh
    you will.PRET want-to.PRET sailor PST.PTCP-be have if you can.PRET   think I
    You would have wanted to be a sailor if you could, I think.
    f. Hier het hy van voor af moes (iii) begin.
    J. Miles
    here have he from front PREP must.PRET begin
    Here he has had to start from the beginning.
    g. Ek het min boeke by hom kon (iii) bekostig.
    H. Aucamp
    I  have few books by him can.PRET afford
    I could afford few of his books.

[+] Inflected infinitives

In this section weesbe and havewill be regarded as infinitives, even though they also function as imperatives (cf. examples (21), (23) and (24) below) and exhortatives (cf. example (25)), and  possibly as underlying verbal stem (cf. examples (28) and (29)). They will be glossed as inflected infinitives (INFL.INF) to distinguish them from syntactic infinitives.

In certain varieties of Afrikaans ‘have’ is generally rendered as het, and ‘be’ is often rendered as is, to the exclusion of the forms and wees. Stell (2010:427) mentions a tendency amongst “Southwestern coloureds” to use het in all infinitive contexts. The prevalence of het instead of as infinitive amongst the Griqua was already noted by Rademeyer (1938:64). In what follows, the usage of the forms haveand weesbe will be described as they occur in the standard or written variety of Afrikaans.

  • Infinitive function: The only formally marked infinitive used in contexts in which an infinitive would be used in Dutch (cf.), is weesbe(Dutch zijn/wezen) - wees being the infinitive of the copula as well as the auxiliary. In contrast, have(Dutch hebben) is only the infinitive of the transitive verb hethave, possess, in Afrikaans, not of the auxiliary – which is also het. As infinitives, the transitive verb and the auxiliary het are differentiated as follows:

    Example 16

    Om die werk te gedoen het, is nie dieselfde as om dit gedoen te hê nie.
    COMP the work to PST.PTCP-do have.FIN is NEG the-same as COMP it        do.DEADJECTIVAL.ADJ to have.INFL.INF NEG
    To have done the work is not the same as having the work done.

    In the following, functions as transitive verb and wees as copula:

    Example 17

    a. Hy wil die werk môre klaar ; dit moet môre klaar wees.
    he want the work tomorrow finished.ADJ have.INFL.INF it must      tomorrow finished.ADJ be.INFL.INF
    He wants to have the job finished by tomorrow; it must be finished by tomorrow.
    b. Kind wees en kind hê is twee verskillende dinge.
    child be.INF and child have.INF are two different things
    Being a child and having a child are two different matters.
    c. Beeldlesers wil rassisme strafbaar hê.
    Caption in Beeld
    Beeld.readers want racism punishable have.INF
    Readers of Beeld want racism to be punishable.

    In the context of the modal verb wil, wees alternates with word‘become’ as a less dynamic passive auxiliary:

    Example 18

    a. Ek glo nie hulle wil nou gewaarsku wees nie.
    P.J. Haasbroek
    I believe not they want-to now PST.PTCP-warn be.INF not
    I don’t think they want to be warned now.
    b. ... dat hier ook mense woon wat van geweet wil wees
    P. Pieterse
      that here also people live who from PST.PTCP-know want-to be.INF
    ... that there are also people here who want to be known

    Wees and are used in the context of the full infinitiveom ... tefor todeur ... teby to, as in

    Example 19

    a. Deur fluks te wees, het hy daarin geslaag om suksesvol te wees.
    by   hard-working to be.INF have he it.in succeeded COMP        successful to be.INF
    By being hard-working he succeeded in being successful.
    b. Hulle gaan kunstefeeste toe om pret te hê.
    they  go  art-festivals to COMP fun  to have.INF
    They attend art festivals to have fun.

    Wees and are employed in bare infinitives serving as nominalisations:

    Example 20

    a. Vlieënier wees is sy passie.
    pilot be.INF.NMLZ is his passion
    Being a pilot is his passion.
    b. Vriende hê maak hom gelukkig.
    friends have.INF.NMLZ make him happy
    Having friends makes him happy.

    and the imperative, with wees – though seldom – predominantly in initial position, and the final position preferred for exclamations.

  • Imperative function: The inflected infinitive wees is used as imperative of the verb ‘be’, both in sentence-initial and sentence-final position. (never het) is used as the imperative of 'have' in combination with the modal verb moet  ‘must’ and sentence-finally (often to express wishes), but rarely sentence-initially, as in

    Example 21

    Maak vrede daarmee. jouself lief.
    R. Nagtegaal
    make.IMP peace it.with   have.IMP yourself dearly
    Make peace with it. Love yourself.

    The customary rendering, as a command and wish, respectively, would be:

    Example 22

    a. Jy moet jouself liefhê.
    you must yourself dearly-have.INF
    You must love yourself.
    b. Julle moet baie pret môre!
    you must much fun have.INF tomorrow         
    Have lots of fun tomorrow!

    Wees is used as sentence-initial directive:

    Example 23

    Wees tevrede met jou lot.
    be.IMP satisfied with your fate
    Be satisfied with your fate.

    Both wees and are used sentence-finally:

    Example 24

    Pret , maar soet wees!  
    fun have.INF but  good be.INF
    Have fun, but be good!
  • Exhortative function: Both wees and are employed in first person exhortatives, i.e. commands or suggestions also directed at the speaker him-/herself.

    Example 25

    a. Kom ons leef, kom ons lief.
    Speaker on TV
    come.IMP we live  come.IMP we have.INF dear
    Let us live, let us love.
    b. Swaer, kom ons wees nou redelik.
    D. Meyer
    brother-in-law come.IMP we be.INF now reasonable
    Brother-in-law, let us be reasonable now.
    c. Maar kom ons wees nou nie morbied nie
    R. Greeff
    but come.IMP we be.INF now not morbid not
    But let’s not be morbid now.
    d. Lara, kom ek wees reguit.
    J. Kirsten
    Lara come.IMP I  be.INF straight
    Lara, let me come to the point.
  • In the following examples, the function of wees resembles that of a subjunctive( see Subjunctive ) in other languages:

    Example 26

    a. ... asseblief, moenie dat ek later spyt wees nie
    H. Kalmer
    please  must=not that I later-on sorry be.INF not
    Please, don’t let me regret it later on.
    b. “Annelize, dis tog duidelik jou pa sal nie toelaat dat ons vriende wees nie. ...”
    J. Vermeulen
    Annelize it.is quite clear your father will not allow that we friends be.INF not
    Annelize, it is quite clear that your father will not allow us to be friends.
  • as underlying stem form: Finally, there are indications that is the underlying stem of the transitive verb ‘have’. The transitive verb liefhet/ liefhêlove, (lit.) dear have, is unique in being a “separable” compound with ‘have’ as final stem, and is also often used in the passive voice.  The functional distribution of the ‘have’ stem in this verb could be expected to resemble that of the transitive  verb hê/ het, e.g. het in finite contexts, in infinitive contexts (cf. om te , moet )  and that it would share the irregular past participle gehad with hê/ het, viz. liefgehad. This is indeed the case with het as auxiliary, as in

    Example 27

    Hulle het mekaar liefgehad.
    they have.FIN each-other dear-PST.PTCP-have
    They loved each other.

    However, with word or wees as passive auxiliary, the past participle is consistently found to be liefgehê  rather than liefgehad, e.g.

    Example 28

    a. Sy was 'n vrou wat sou kon liefhê en liefgehê word.
    P.G. du Plessis
    she was a woman who would could love.INF and love-PST.PTCP-have     become
    She was a woman who would be able to love and be loved.
    b. ...Waar twee kinders versorg en liefgehê moet word.
    H. Gunter
     where  two children  care-for.PST.PTCP and love-PST.PTCP-have must become
    Where two children need to be cared for and loved.
    c. Wat hy soek, is om liefgehê te word.
    E. Venter
    what he look.for is COMP love-PST.PTCP-have to become
    What he is looking for, is to be loved.
    d. Jy wou liefgehê wees op jou voorwaardes
    L. van Nierop
    you want-to.PRET love-PST.PTCP-have be on your terms
    You wanted to be loved on your terms.

    As liefgehê – but not liefgehad - is moreover able to scramble or move leftwards like other past participles, viz.

    Example 29

    a. Dat sy <liefgehê> sou <liefgehê> kon <liefgehê> word, is waar
    COMP she loved  would loved    could   loved   become  is true
    That it was possible for her to be loved is true.
    b. Dat hy haar *<liefgehad> sou *<liefgehad> kon <liefgehad het, is waar.
    that he her   loved    would    loved   could      loved    have   is true
    That he would have been able to love her, is true.

    it seems likely that liefhê is the underlying form of this verb, and may indeed be the underlying stem form of the transitive verb hethave in Afrikaans.

As an alternative to the more usual expression of progressive aspect (cf. Breed and Van Huyssteen 2014), 2015) with non-stative verbs, as in

Example 30

Hulle is hard aan die werk.
they be.PRS hard on the work.INF.NMLZ
They are working hard.

a construction with the Dutch definite article (neutral) and inflected infinitive (aan 't + VB) is sometimes used. Breed and Van Huyssteen (2015:258-259) indicate that the construction in this form is used mainly for stylistic reasons and becoming antiquated.  An -e is affixed to the Afrikaans verbal base to resemble the Dutch infinitive ending in -en.

Example 31

a. ... terwyl hy vrolik aan’t drinke was
C. Karsten
while  he  merrily  on=the drink-INF.NMLZ was
while he was drinking merrily
b. Sy pa se liggaam is leeg en vinnig kouer aan’t worde
C. Karsten
his father GEN body is empty and fast colder on=the become-INF.NMLZ
His father’s body is empty and getting colder quickly
c. Aan 't tjanke oor die ballon ...
A.H. de Vries
on=the squeal-INF.NMLZ over the balloon
Squealing about the balloon ....

A small set of inflected infinitives (cf. Ponelis 1979:247, 432) occur mainly (though with low productivity) in a number of fixed expressions with the verbal particle teto (rather than om ... te),  e.g. te wet-e kom (weetknow), te kenn-e gee (kenknow ), te begryp-e (begrypunderstand), te verstan-e (verstaanunderstand), te dank-e aan (dankthank), te wyt-e aan (wytblame), te hor-e kry (hoor hear). Once again, an -e is affixed to the Afrikaans verbal base to resemble the Dutch infinitive in -en. In

Example 32

a. Dit is heeltemal te begrype.
it  is quite to understand-INF
It is quite understandable.
b. red wat daar te redde is
P.G. du Plessis
save what there to save-INF is
save what there is to save
c. Sal hy te vertroue wees?
C. Coetzee
will he to trust-INF be
Will he be trustworthy?
d. ... geniet wat daar te geniete is.
J. le Roux
enjoy what there to enjoy-INF is
Enjoy what there is to enjoy.

In some cases the inflectional affix even extends the Dutch infinitive by adding an extra -e, as in te siene kryget to see and te doene kry have to deal with, where the Dutch infinitive would be ziensee and doendo, respectively.

[+] Past participle

The past participle is inflected by adding the prefix ge- to a verb (verbal base) governed by an auxiliary. If the verb has alternating forms, as in leefliveand lewe, the past participle could be geleef or gelewe. Apart for gewilwilled, as in

Example 33

Die toeval het dit so gewil.
(Odendal and Gouws 2005)
the chance have it so PST.PTCP-will
Chance willed it that way.

Afrikaans modal verbs do not form past participles.

A lexical distinction is made between “separable” and “inseparable” past participles. An inseparable compound such as hardlooprun, from hard fast and looprun, remains a compound in all contexts and affixes ge-, if required, to the beginning of the word, as in gehardloop. On the other hand, the constituting morphemes of a separable verb, such as uitlooprun out, may be separated by independent words, as in uit moes loophad to run out(lit.) out must.PRET run, and also occur in inverse order, e.g. Die water loop vinnig uitThe water is running out quickly. If ge- is required, it is affixed before the verbal stem, as in uitgeloop; only the verbal stem serves as the phonological context determining ge- insertion.

A verbal string may contain more than one past participle, as in

Example 34

a. Die opknapping moes gedoen gewees/geword het.
the renovation must.PRET PST.PTCP-do PST.PTCP-be/ PST.PTCP-become  have
The renovation should have been done.
b. Sy moes die tafel al geverf gehad het.
she mus.PRETt the table already PST.PTCP-paint PST.PTCP-have have
She should have had the table painted already.

Though the prefixing of ge- to the verbal base is the typical way of marking a verb as a past participle, this is in fact optional in many cases. The optionality of ge- is due, to a large extent, to the stress pattern of the verb or verb group in question (cf. Combrink 1990:223-225). The presence or absence of ge- is determined by a phonological matrix to which all past participles must adhere (cf. Conradie 2012:141-142). The main requirement for past participle formation is an inter-syllabic contrast of rising stress, such that  a syllable with main stress is preceded by a syllable of lower stress, as in [ ... _ ....(#(#))..... — ....] (cf. ), where # represents a  morpheme boundary and ## a word boundary. Thus ge- is obligatory when the verbal stem is mono-syllabic (vangcatch : gevang) or, if multisyllabic, has main stress is on the first syllable (ántwòòrd answer: het geantwoord; hárdlòòprun : gehardloop; ráádplèègconsult: het geraadpleeg; stófsùigvacume clean: het gestofsuig).

ge- is, however, optional when rising stress is already present in the stress pattern of the verb (pròbéértry : (ge)probeer), often because of the presence of other prefixes of Germanic origin (behandel treat, gebeurhappen, herstelrepair, ontsienrespect, vertaaltranslate), in which case further affixation of ge (as in gebetaalpaid) is not considered standard. In the standard variety the general preference is for optional ge- not to be realised, whereas in certain other varieties ge- is realised wherever possible (cf. Rademeyer 1938:72-73;Van Rensburg 1991:453;Conradie 2012:145;Stell 2012:240).

In the case of verb doubling, i.e. when two lexical verbs form a syntactic unit functioning together as past participle – a process referred to by Ponelis (1979:244) as samesmelting (‘fusion’) - e.g. bly staanremain standing, laat singlet sing, help opruimhelp clear away, sien loopsee walking, hoor bromhear complaining, main stress is considered to be on the second verb as main verb, while the first usually has an aspectual, causative or other function, so that prefixing ge- is optional, as in het (ge-)blỳ stáán, (ge-)lààt síng, (ge-)hèlp ópruim, etc.  (Note that in the standard language, ge- is only prefixed to the first of the lexical verbs.) ge- affixation remains optional even with contrastive stress on the first syllable, as in

Example 35

Ons het dit nie self gemaak nie, maar (ge-)láát mààk.
we have it not ourselves PST.PTCP-make not but let make
We didn’t make it ourselves but had it made.

When verb doubling involves the hendiadysenand construction, as in staan en praatstand talking, lê en laglie laughing, sit en droomsit dreaming, loop en dinkthink while walking, ge- insertion remains optional, even in spite of greater freedom in interrupting the construction, e.g.

Example 36

a. Hy het baie daaroor (ge-) loop en dink
he have much it-about  PST.PTCP-walk and think.INF
He thought a lot about it while walking.
b. Hulle het (ge-)staan en die grootste onsin kwytraak
they have  PST.PTCP-stand and the biggset nonsense utter.INF
They stood uttering the biggest nonsense.

What is referred to here as “verb doubling” may in fact apply to even larger strings:

Example 37

Nadat sy Hanna ’n ruk woordeloos bly sit en dophou het ...
A.P. Brink
after  she Hannah a time wordless remain.PST.PTCP sit.INF and watch.INF have
After she had been sitting watching Hannah for a time without uttering a    word.

In view of the fact that Afrikaans has in general no marked infinitives, the infinitivus pro participio principle (cf. Dutch syntax ), i.e. the Dutch contrast between auxiliary + past participle, as in heeft gezongenhave sung, and auxiliary + infinitive + infinitive, as in heeft laten zingen(lit.) have let sing, does not hold for Afrikaans. The contrast would be between het gesing and het (ge-)laat sing, where (i) the first verbal base (laat  ‘let’) is optionally marked as past participle rather than infinitive, and (ii) the juxtaposed verbal bases laat sing ‘let sing’ together have the syntactic characteristics of a single past participle. No insertion between laat and sing is possible. Scrambling (cf. see Dutch syntax ) to the left – usually only possible for past participles - is only permitted if the verbs remain juxtaposed:

Example 38

a. Ek weet dat die lied gister <(ge-)laat sing> moes  <(ge-)laat sing>  word.
I know that the song yesterday PST.PTCP-let sing.INF must.PRET PST.PTCP-let sing.INF become
I know that (they) had to let the song be sung yesterday.
b. *Ek weet dat die lied gister (ge-)laat  moes (ge-)sing word.
I know that the song yesterday PST.PTCP-let must sing become
Intended meaning: ‘I know that (they) had to let the song be sung       yesterday.’
[+] Departicipial derivation

In attributive function, regular or regularised departicipial adjectives take a -te/-de suffix, as in:

Example 39

Met sy gekamde hare lyk hy baie netjies.
with his come.DEPART.ADJ seem he very tidy
With his combed hair he looks very tidy.

e.g. (regular:) gewaarmerkte afskriftecertified copies, afgebrande opstalburnt farmstead; (regularised): ontginde goudmined gold, uitgedinkte antwoordedevised answers-de or -te is selected after a voiced or voiceless stem-final segment, respectively, though with considerable variability when stems end in voiceless fricatives (cf. Combrink 1969), e.g.

  • with -te: gelas: gelaste, gelap: gelapte, gestop: gestopte, gelok:  gelokte, gewreek: gewreekte, gestraf: gestrafte, geëet: geëte, gegroet: gegroete;
  • with -de:  gelaaf: gelaafde, verloof: verloofde; opgelig: opgeligde; gemaal: gemaalde, gestem: gestemde; gesing: gesingde, vermaan: vermaande, gelaai: gelaaide, geplooi: geplooide, beweer: beweerde, verloor: verloorde, voortgestu: voortgestude; geabba: geabbade.

In adjectival function, some regular past participles add final -d, as in

Example 40

André Brink was beroemd in sy tyd.
André Brink  be.PRET beroem.DEPART.ADJ in his time
André Brink was famous in his time.

e.g. afgesaagd hackneyed, geseëndblessed, gewildpopular, bedonderdmoody, verwonderdsurprised, or as preposition: uitgesonderdexcepting.

Irregular past participles in purely verbal function are extremely rare. The highly frequent past participle of have is gehad  (commonly pronounced as [xǝha:t]) in the standard language (regularised as gehet in other varieties). In addition to  its regularised past participle, gedink, the verb dinkthink also has gedog/gedagthought correctly/ mistakenly as past participle. Beside regular geskep, skepcreatehas geskape in biblical style. The past participle gewees  would be regular if weesberather than isisis considered its underlying form. Historically irregular omgedolf/ omgedolwetrenchedand verloorlostare regular in view of the restructured base forms omdolf/ omdolwe (Dutch delventrench)and verloor (Dutch verliezenlose.

Several past participles have irregular variants deriving from Dutch strong and irregular past particples and adapted to Afrikaans sound changes, e.g. geboëbent[xǝbu:hǝ], from Dutch gebogen[xǝbo:xǝ], as in (41).

Example 41

Haar geboë houding verraai haar ouderdom.
her  bend.DEPART.ADJ posture betray her age
Her bent posture betrays her age.

These are used adjectivally in figurative or specialised senses, e.g. for breekbreak: gebroke hartbroken heartvs gebreekte potbroken pot; for buigbend: geboë houdingbent posture vs gebuigde ysterbent (piece of) iron; for gietpour: gegote ystercast iron vs for uitgietpour out: uitgegiete waterpoured out water, or used in attributive (as against predicative) function, e.g. for bindbind: gebonde bladsyebound pages vs die bladsye is gebindthe pages are bound; verkose leierelected leader vs die leier is verkiesthe leader is elected.

The irregular past participles are on a cline from a close relationship with their regular counterparts, such as that between attributive and predicative usage, to instances of relexification, e.g. opgewen from opwenstressed, (lit.) wound up, as against opgewondeexcited, expressing a rather more pleasant emotional condition.  The deadjectival adjective in ('n) onbegonne (taak)an impossible task, (lit.) an unbegun taskis no longer semantically related to Afr. beginbegin, and a *begonne taak  is non-existent. The meaning of the legal term bestorwe boedeldeceased estatecan be guessed from the meaning of the verb sterfdieand an obsolete past participle gestorwe; a verb such as *besterf  is unknown. A number of irregular past participles are mainly understood in the context of fixed expressions and idioms, e.g. 'n bedorwe brokkiespoilt brat, (lit.) spoilt morsel (bederfspoil)’; gedane sake het geen keer niethings done cannot be undone (doendo, PST.PTCP gedoen); 'n gegewe perd in die bek kyklook a gift horse in the mouth(geegive, PST.PTCP gegee); die stryd gewonne geegive up the struggle, (lit.) give the battle won (wenwin, PST.PTCP gewen).

[+] Present participle

Present particles are derived from the verbal base by the addition of the suffix -end or -ende. They do not form part of the verbal string as they do in English, but are used (i) as attributive adjectives: singende kinderssinging children and (ii) as adverbs of manner:

Example 42

Hulle loop singend/  al singend(e) in die straat af
they walk sing-PRS.PTCP /   continuously  sing-PRS.PTCP in the street down
They walk down the street singing.

Present participles may also be (iii) lexicalised or used in fixed expressions with various functions: sodoendeby so doing, siende datseeing that, gaande oor iets weesbe on (lit. going) about something; ons vriende, synde Jan en Pietour friends, being John and Peter. Finally, present participles may occur (iv) in modified form in small clauses in formal or archaic registers, e.g. die voortdurend etende gaste(lit.) the continuously eating guests, die hard fluitende bomme(lit.) the loudly whistling bombs, die treurig tjankende honde(lit.) the sadly whining dogs, ’.

Affixation generally leaves the verb stem unchanged, for instance in verb stems ending in vowels and diphthongs (pla: plaend, lê: lêend, skrei: skreiend, skreeu: skreeuend, etc.), or in various consonants or consonant clusters (uitdroog: uitdrogend, huil: huilend, vermaan: vermanend, tjank: tjankend, etc.).

The following are exceptions to the rule of mere affixation of -end(e).  The exceptions involve (i) the stem-final consonant becoming voiced (skryf: skrywend, bederf: bederwend, ster: sterwend, verslaaf: verslawend, vermoed[fǝrmut]: (niks-) vermoedend[fǝrmudǝnt]); (ii) the addition of an historical root (bly: blywend, voortstu: voortstuwend, verkry: verkrygend, ry: rydend, liefhê: liefhebbend), (iii) the loss of an historical root (suig: suiend) or replacement of stem-vowel by historical vowel (dink: denkend), or (iv) a suppletive participle (wees: synde).

Because of stem variation, it may seem as though more than one stem share one participle, e.g. sterf x sterwe: sterwende, beef x bewe: bewende. Occasionally participles may display stem allomorphy, as in bloedsuiend x bloedsuigendparasiticfrom bloed suigto suck blood, while semantic differentiation seems likely in dink: dinkende (robot)thinking – i.e. cognitive - robot vs denkende (mense)thinking – i.e. rational - people.

  • Larkey, L. S1982Reiterant speech: An acoustic and perceptual validationJournal of the Acoustical Society of America731337--1345
  • Leyden, Klaske van & Heuven, Vincent J. van2006On the prosody of Orkney and Shetland dialectsPhonetica63149-174
  • Leyden, Klaske van & Heuven, Vincent J. van2006On the prosody of Orkney and Shetland dialectsPhonetica63149-174
  • Lindblom, B. E. F1963Spectrographic study of vowel reductionJournal of the Acoustical Society of America351773-1781
  • Mol, H. & Uhlenbeck, E. M1956The linguistic relevance of intensity in stressLingua5205-213
  • Mol, H. & Uhlenbeck, E. M1956The linguistic relevance of intensity in stressLingua5205-213
  • Nakatani, L. H. & Shaffer, J. A1978Hearing `words' without words: prosodic cues for word perceptionJournal of the Acoustical Society of America63234-245
  • Nooteboom, Sibout G1972Production and perception of vowel duration, a study of durational properties of vowels in DutchUtrecht UniversityThesis
  • Pakerys, A1982Lietuviu Bendrines kalbos prozodija [The prosody of Standard Lithuanian] VilniusMokslas
  • Schuurman, Ineke1987Incorporation in the Groningen dialectBeukema, Frits & Coopmans, Peter (eds.)Linguistics in the Netherlands 1987DordrechtForis Publications185-194
Suggestions for further reading ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
This is a beta version.