• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
Verb agreement paradigm and homophony

Traditionally, there are three values for the feature <person>: {1, 2, 3}, and two values for the feature <number>: {singular, plural}. This yields six logically possible combinations: {1SG, 2SG, 3SG, 1PL, 2PL, 3PL}. Depending on tense and declension, there are minimally 2 and maximally 4 verb forms available to express this. As a result, certain verb forms are associated with more than one person-number feature combination. See the sections on morphology for the morphological realisation of the specific verb forms, which are only dealt with in brief here.


All verbs, regular or irregular, conflate the morphological realisations of the feature person in the plural. This holds true of both tenses, present and past.

All verb conflate the morphological realisations of the past tense 1SG en 3SG.

For all verbs, the 2SG ending is the only ending that appears both in the present tense and in the past tense. So, 2SG is the only ending that shows pure agreement and that, as a result, does not contain tense information as well.

All verbs conflate the morphological realisations of the present tense 1SG and the imperative, except wêze be.

Almost all verbs fail to distinguish the present tense plural from the ordinary infinitive morphologically. However, a number of irregular verbs does distinguish the present tense plural from the ordinary infinitive.

There are two declensions of regular verbs: the ordinary declension and the JE-declension. Verbs of the JE-declension have an infinitive ending in -je. Verbs of the JE-declension fail to distinguish the ordinary infinitive from the present tense 1SG, whereas ordinary verbs use the schwa to keep the morphological realisations of infinitive and present tense singular distinct.

Verbs of the JE-conjugation conflate the present tense 2SG with the past tense 2SG, with the result that this agreement ending is tense-neutral. The other agreement forms are tense-specific, that is, they contain tense information.

The past tense of the JE-declension is formed with the schwa, whereas the past tense of the ordinary declension is formed with a dental suffix, not specified for voice, followed by a schwa. The JE-declension forms the past participle likewise with the schwa, causing conflation of the 1SG/3SG past and the past participle. The ordinary declension forms the past participle with the dental suffix, which is not specified for voice.

The following matrix represents the conjugation of regular JE verbs and ordinary verbs in the abstract, where the dental suffix underspecified for <voice> is realised as a D with the weak verb meane mow:

Table 1: JE-declension
INF STEM + JE wurkje work
PRES PL STEM + JE wurkje
IMP STEM + JE wurkje
PRES 1SG STEM + JE wurkje
PRES 3SG STEM + ET wurket
PRES 2SG STEM + EST wurkest
PAST 2SG STEM + EST wurkest
PAST 1SG 3SG STEM + E wurke
PAST PL STEM + EN wurken
Table 2: Ordinary declension
INF STEM + E meane mow
PRES PL STEM + E meane
PRES 3SG STEM + T meant
PRES 2SG STEM + ST meanst
PAST 2SG STEM + DEST meandest
PAST 1SG 3SG STEM + DE meande
PAST PL STEM + D + EN meanden

It should be noted that all past tense forms of the JE-declension are marked with a schwa, just as all past tense forms of the ordinary declension are marked with the dental suffix. The past participle of the JE-declension does not easily allow the addition of material when used in prenominal position.

There are 7 irregular verbs of which the ordinary infinitive exceptionally ends in an n. These verbs conflate the ordinary infinitive with the gerundial infinitive.

The JE-declension is not present in Dutch, nor in other West-Germanic languages, whereas it is found in all members of the Frisian language family, notably in East Frisian and North Frisian varieties.