Author Archives: Niki

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Building on the passive tense (Or: B2 Dutch course #25)

This post is a continuation of the post last week, Actively Passive, which covered the basics of the passive form. There is only one other thing to cover – using the modal verbs with the passive form.

What are the modal verbs again?

1. willen – to want. He wants…

2. kunnen - can (to be able to) He can…

3. mogen - may (to be allowed to) He may…

4. moeten - must. He must…

5. zullen – will. He will go to… / He will do this…

How are they used with the passive form?

Method #1: modal verb + worden (in the infinitive form) + participle

Method #2: modal verb + participle + worden (in the infinitive form)

Thus the two methods only differ in the word order of ‘worden’ and the participle (examples of participles include gewerkt, gehaald, gedanst).

Can you give some examples?

Sure – these are from the textbook, De Finale. The examples use method #1, but of course the order of ‘worden’ and the participum can also be switched, i.e. geopereerd worden.

zullen - Hij zal volgende week vrijdag worden geopereerd. He is going to be operated on next week.

kunnen - Het voorstel kan nog worden verworpen. The proposal can still be rejected.

mogen  – Deze opdracht mag ook morgen worden ingeleverd. This assignment can also be turned in tomorrow.


And here’s a random photo from Lebkov’s serving area, a café near Central Station:

Lebkov - coffee in The Hague

You can also see the various types of sugar they had available – including chocolate flavored sugar, vanilla flavored sugar and cinnamon flavored sugar.

It’s still our favorite place to go and scheme, as they don’t mind if you sit there for 2-3 hours and do your work.

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De Haagsche Bluf (Or: Coffee and music)

Marco and I went shopping this afternoon — I needed a new pair of sneakers as mine had seen better days. We knew we wanted to go somewhere for coffee afterwards but we weren’t sure where. We were going to try Hometown Coffee (the last time we tried there were no free tables and it was a bit too cold to sit outside) but we ended up elsewhere.

More specifically, in De Haagsche Bluf (English), a luxury shopping area in the middle of centrumWe decided to have coffee at Kaldi (English). I had my usual coffee and Marco his cappuccino, and we split an American cookie with white chocolate chips (American = large, soft cookie). Yum.

But unexpectedly we also had some musical entertainment:

band by the Haagsche Bluf 2

It was pretty cool, as the “stage” was actually the front part of the building, simply pulled down like a drawbridge. Here is a close-up.

band by the Haagsche Bluf

Great music! Sort of jazzy, with the drums and clarinet alongside.

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Easter and… furniture (Or: Dutch B2 course #24)

Here is a random thing that I learned yesterday during Dutch class: on Easter Monday, some Dutch go to a meubelboulevard, or a furniture store shopping mall. At least for the last few decades. Part of this is because furniture stores are open on Mondays although these days more stores are open on Mondays than just furniture stores. They also lure you in with irresistible discounts.

A local mall in The Hague (with mostly furniture stores) by the name of Mega Stores also has a chocoladefestival (chocolate festival) on Monday to celebrate the holiday. They have two chocolate fountains and children can also make bunny ears crafts.

I also found an old article (unfortunately in Dutch) from 2008 about the traffic around Ikea in Delft. The traffic was so bad that by the afternoon Ikea was asking visitors to stay away from the area and not come on that day in an attempt to lessen the traffic headaches people were experiencing on highway A13. Of  course, Ikea seemed to be a hot place to be back then – they also closed a few exit ramps (afritten) leading to Ikea due to the traffic nightmares it was causing.

Of course this just reminds me of when Sonic restaurants opened in northern New Jersey, causing such bad traffic jams on the highway exit ramp that the police were called in for the first few weeks.

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Missing punctuation (Or: B2 Dutch course #23)

We had an interesting assignment today. It definitely makes you think a bit – and doubly so about how language works in general and how your brain perceives things. We received a text about the Nuclear Summit which occurred in The Hague last month, except that all of the punctuation and capital letters had been stripped away. It as our job to find them all.

It doesn’t sound that hard if it’s your native language, but you would encounter some difficulty when it is not. Especially with knowing where one sentence ends and the next one begins.

Dutch homework find missing punctuation

One thing to keep in mind: adding commas to signal when ‘extra’ information was given, i.e. information which is not strictly required. In English these are called non-restrictive clauses. (On the other side of the coin you have restrictive clauses, which signal important information and thus do not get commas).

Sindsdien geldt de top, die reeds twee keer is gehouden, als een van de meest prestigieuze topconferenties ter wereld.

Since then the top, which has already been held twice, has obtained the distinction of one of the most prestigious conferences of the world.

Note: instead of using commas to signify extra information you can also use two dashes.


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Videochats (Or: Electronic birthday cake)

Yesterday I had a videochat with my parents to celebrate my birthday. Imagine my surprise when the videochat connected and I saw this cake:

German chocolate birthday cake

German chocolate birthday cake!

That’s right. They bought a cake for me, even though I was in a different country! I then got treated to “Happy Birthday” from my parents, all the way across the ocean. :)

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Awwww (Or: birthdays and romance)

From Marco. :)


Categories: Marco&Niki | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Snippets or phrases (Or: B2 Dutch course #22)

During this class we mostly did exercises out of the textbook (listening, speaing, and some writing). But there were a few things that stood out in my notes, namely random little phrases or expressions you can say in Dutch.

1. wat mij betreft: personally, for me, as far as I’m concerned. Wat mij betreft, kun jij een iPad kopen. As far as I’m concerned you can buy an iPad. Thanks for the example sentence, Marco!

2. Nee heb je, ja kun je krijgen: Literally – you have no, but you can get yes. Actually: if you don’t do anything (or do the work) you have nothing. If you do something, you might be successful.

3. Het zal mij benieuwen . . . I wonder if . . . Het zal mij benieuwen of hij komt. I wonder if he will come.

4. met je neus op de feiten gedrukt = to get someone’s attention so he can no longer ignore the situation (literally: with your nose pressed up against the facts … !)

I will also give a recommendation for this app if your Dutch is pretty good. I tried to download it last year but my Dutch wasn’t that great then, so I got bored quickly and deleted it. It’s an app that lets you guess what the meaning of various expressions (uitdrukkingen) are. It’s called Spreekwoorden and available for the iPhone/iPad/iTouch. Read more | Download/iTunes link.

It’s not the best app in the world but it’s free. The main “issue” with the app is that you are given an expression and have four choices to choose from. But each of the four choices is a legitimate answer for a saying, even if it is not the right choice for this saying. I assume the other three wrong answers are pulled randomly from the database. Thus sometimes you can easily tell which one is the right answer because the other three don’t make sense. (Of course, you can also be fooled!) And I will admit I found level 1 too easy so I went to level 2 and got a lot of wrong answers. Opps!

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The little things (Or: B2 Dutch course #21)

Last week Monday we had a short test (one page, front and back) covering chapter 3, or landscape. Sometimes it’s the little things that help – even if you feel like a nerd for studying.

Dutch test perfect grade

And what can I say – I accidentally managed to frame the image pretty well, with the book above and the pencil to the left.

The main thing that we learned last night was the the various functions of zullen (to “will”) and zouden (the past tense of the same verb). Zullen is a auxiliary/helper verb used for the future tense. However, it is not as simple as translating it as “going to”, because the Dutch tend to either use gaan (to go) or the simple present tense when talking about the future. Ik ga morgen naar het strand. I go to the beach tomorrow. Morgen kom ik thuis. Tomorrow I come home.

Four functions of zullen: 

1. to make a proposal. Zullen we naar het strand gaan? Should we go to the beach?

2. to promise to do something (sometimes with the word wel). Ik zal morgen koken. I will cook tomorrow.

3. Conveying a strong expectation, though it is not 100% certain. Jullie zullen wel goed Nederlands leren. You (all) shall learn Dutch well.

4. a very strong resolution to do something, with accent on zal and zullen. Ik zál volgend jaar mijn diploma halen. 

Five functions of zou/zouden (past tense of zullen):

1. A polite question or request. Form:

zou(den) + kunnen/willen/mogen + infinitive

Zou je dit werk willen afmaken? Do you want to finish/complete this work?  Zou ik misschien morgen jouw auto kunnen lenen? Can I maybe borrow your car tomorrow (implied ‘please’)?

2. Uncertainty. Form:

zou(den) + infinitive

Zou hij ziek zijn? Could he be sick?

3A. Something unrealistic. Form:

Zou(den) + infinitive, often combined with als and the verb in the past tense.

Als iedereen aardig zou zijn, zou de wereld beter zijn. If everyone would be nice, the world would be better.

3B. A wish. Forms 1 and 2:

zou(den) + graag (+ willen) + infinitive

zou(den) + wel + willen + infinitive

Ik zou wel eens miljoen euro willen winnen. I would like to win a million euros.

Ik zou graag miljoen euro winnen. I would like to win a million euros.

4. Giving adviceForm generally starts with Als.

Als ik jou was, zou ik een Ferrari kopen. If I were you, I would buy a Ferrari.

5. A reminder of an appointment or promise. Form:

zou(den) + toch + infinitive

Jij zou toch met de fiets naar school komen? You are definitely coming to school with the bike?

 * * * * * * 

If you are interested you can take a test about zullen / zouden at this link.

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Getting there (Or: Construction in The Hague centrum)

The construction smack in the middle of The Hague’s centrum area is progressing nicely – except that it’s annoying as heck when you have to get from point A to point B. But its perhaps a bit better now.

Den Haag centrum construction

Marks & Spencer is the white building in the background, for random reference.

They have finished one half of the road (Bijenkorf,  Albert Heijn and Hema are on the left). As you can see the right side of the road is now blocked off.

Progress is not without causalities, of course. They are almost ready to start work on the next part of this street, Grote Markt, so the flower kiosk had to be permanently removed. As the story goes, it doesn’t fit with the “image” that the city wants to give after the construction is done. If you read Dutch you can check out this article (though there’s a few images to give you the general idea even if you do not speak Dutch). Bijenkorf is in the back of the first linked picture, to give you an idea of where the construction is heading.

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Hun vs hen (Or: B2 Dutch course #20)

When I worked at my last position someone always remarked about the state of the Dutch language and how it is slowly degrading. Some people I talk with remark about the misuse of hun (their, them – when it’s a indirect object) vs. hen (them – when it’s an direct object).

And what are direct and indirect objects again?

Ik gaf het aan haar. I gave it to her.

het = direct object

haar = indirect object

Thus you can see a sentence like this:

Ik heb _____ gezien. (you are filling in the direct object)

hen = correct (for persons only)

hun = not correct, but often heard

ze = used for persons OR things

So what do we use hun for again? Possession of items.

Ik heb hun fiets gezien. I have seen their bike.

And what about prepositions? Because we all know those are just made to complicate things…

When preceded by a preposition, use hen (door hen, aan hen, voor hen).

And how did I get to the B2 level without realizing this?

As mentioned above, the unmarked/unstressed form for direct objects is ze. Thus: Ik heb ze gezien. is acceptable provided you are not emphasizing ‘them’.

If you can read Dutch, this is a very fun article to read. Kofschip op de klippen. It’s about a Dutch family which moved to the US, with the mother realizing that the children’s Dutch was being taken over by English phrases. Opening example: Ik heb de team gemaakt. (English – I made the team). Better Dutch: Ik wordt gekozen voor het team. I have been chosen for the team.

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Expatriating Julia

Engels expat, spreekt een beetje Nederlands and loving most of the Dutch way of life!


A blog by an expat-since-birth multilingual mum living in the Netherlands with her Swissgerman husband, son and twin-daughters, about expat life, multilingualism, Third Culture Kids (and Adults), Culture and Parenting.


stumblings and mumblings of a university student.

A Flamingo in Utrecht

My new life in the Netherlands

Book Clubs ABC

your life... your way

Girl with Trowel

musings on life on the edge (of archaeology)

the adventures of an American living with a Dutchie

An Egyptian In Holland

Just Enjoying Life!


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