Verb tenses (Or: The pluperfect and future in Dutch)

I’ve decided that pluperfect is a very interesting English word. English might have been my major in college, but even I admit it’s hard to remember what the pluperfect tense does exactly. I don’t recommend going to Wikipedia, since the language pages tend to be a bit too much.

So I looked up some other random websites and determined that it is an action which occurred before a point in the past. I had already gone outside when he came home. I think this tense would be a lot easier to remember if it was always called ‘past perfect’ rather than ‘pluperfect’ – you see it mentioned both ways.

For the Dutch version I looked at Dutchgrammar. It didn’t seem that different after all – you also use the pluperfect in Dutch when you want to refer to an event that occurred before another past event. Most verbs use the past tense of hebben (to have) with the verb’s past participle. – ik had gewerkt. I had worked. Occasionally you use zijn (to be) instead – ik was gevallen – I had fallen.

Final verdict: Think of it as ‘past perfect’ rather than ‘pluperfect’.

The pluperfect was last night. Tonight was the (simple) future. As this tense doesn’t need participles, it already seemed easier! There are generally two verbs which are used – zullen (i.e. ik zal or I shall) and gaan (to go). Generally if you are promising something, or you give the probability something will happen, or you use it within an if-then conditional…

If you give a mouse a cookie, then he will want a glass of milk. If you give a mouse a glass of milk… Als je een muis een koekje geeft, wil hij ook een glas melk. (Google says this might be a Dutch proverb?) Regardless, one of my favorite if-then books.

…then you use zullen. Otherwise, if you’re not promising anything, or giving a specific frame of reference when it will happen (today, tomorrow, next month), or you aren’t using an if/then startement, you can use gaan (to go – so ‘I am going to go to the club’).

Verdict: Makes sense to me. Now let’s see if it sticks . . .

There’s more mentioned at the Dutchgrammar pages, but I’ll leave that for you to find!

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