Aan het continuous (Or: Expanding Dutch grammar knowledge)

Number of days (straight) I have studied Dutch: 1.

Ha! Back to “1” from 0. Technically I guess it could be a 2, because I did stare at some things yesterday, but I didn’t get anywhere fast and gave up pretty quickly (wasn’t feeling that well). I had planned to try to make some digital flashcards to review all of the verb tenses that I have learned (see below for the summary) but ended up nixing that idea for now.

Today I looked at two sections at dutchgrammar.com.

1.) Summary of the 8 ‘basic’ Dutch tenses: present tense, past tense, present perfect, pluperfect [past perfect!], future, conditional, future perfect, and conditional perfect.

NOTE: There’s also a lovely summary of how to get the proper stem from an infinitive. I always, always forget that stems which end in -v or -z turn into -f and -s respectively.

2.) I then moved into a new verb section, or ‘other conjugations‘. The first conjugation is the ‘aan het’ continuous. An example of this one is I am looking at the painting. Any action which is ongoing even as you speak. I was particularly excited to see this one, because as I was reviewing my notes yesterday I noticed that the simple present page mentioned this tense. I feel that this tense will be particularly helpful for reading Dutch. It also helps that the tense itself is easy to pick out, with the aan het staring right at you.

Ik ben aan het studeren nederlands* 


[Edit: Ik ben Nederlands aan het studeren]

I am studying Dutch.

Hij is aan het spreken niet nederlands* 


[Edit: Hij spreekt geen Nederlands]

He is not speaking Dutch

* = I made this up myself, so hopefully it’s correct! Though I suspect there’s easier ways to say it, and this might seem a bit stiff.

Of course, in the back of my mind I do realize (and am honest with myself) that my emphasis on Dutch seems to be towards reading, above and beyond writing and speaking it. For the moment, this seems okay. As a librarian, I love words, and I feel that reading the texts more easily will bring me the most happiness or “bang for my [studying] buck”.

The reason that I have to be careful is this is the same trap that I fell into when I was studying Spanish in high school and college. I was pretty good at reading Spanish – not the best of course, but I was pretty good. But my speaking skills were horrid and my writing skills were somewhere in the middle.

But for the moment, being a country away, I am mostly content with not doing as much with my speaking skills (at least of course until I am suddenly thrust into a conversation with some of Marco’s relatives who do not speak a lick of English!). But I do feel my writing skills will need some work before I move. And I hope to give some attention to speaking skills before I move, as well.

Categories: Learning Dutch | Tags: | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Aan het continuous (Or: Expanding Dutch grammar knowledge)

  1. hey niki… i download some Dutch Language Flash cards during those days I self-learn Dutch. Maybe you like to try that too… try this link : http://www.byki.com/fls/free-dutch-software-download.html

    They even have the iphone versions! hope this helps. Veel Plezier! 🙂

    • ooh iPhone versions. I was staring at them earlier today but I was a bit unsure about having to download them. But maybe I’ll download the mobile version to start with. 🙂 That’s definitely a thought…thank you!

  2. tristan

    Hey studying Dutch here as well, good to read you … If I may, I think your sentences are not quite correct:

    “Ik ben Nederlands aan het studeren”

    and for the other its tricky. I think “praten” would be a better “action” verb in this case. “Hij is niet Nederlands aan het praten” what do you think ?


    • Okay, I edited the post to write in what Marco said it should be. Silly native Dutch speakers showing off. ;P You’re correct, the word order was off.

  3. I totally understand on the reading-but-can’t-speak it thing!! I’ve been practicing Dutch, but mostly by reading blogs and studying grammar. Since I don’t have anyone here who will patiently listen to my bad Dutch, I haven’t been able to practice speaking as much.
    But, I’m ok with it. Since I’m not staying in Amsterdam long-term, it’s not a language that will be super helpful back in the US. But I’d still love to keep up my reading skills in it, at least!
    Once you start trying to speak you’ll get a lot better, I’m sure. Especially if you’re in situations where you have to!

    • Good for you to learn Dutch even though you will not be there long term. 🙂 And I definitely hope my speaking gets better… or I am in trouble!

  4. I’m kind of glad you posted this, because this is a topic I’ve returned to a couple of times, since it hadn’t stuck. I think it has now a bit more, not that I’m sure it’s something I would use that much in my normal conversations. Well, I suppose I could be talking about the dog: He is op het terras aan het slapen. I think, as with most Dutch compound verbs, the “aan het [verb]” almost always goes at the end of the sentence. So, “Ik ben nederlands aan het studeren.”

    I could be wrong. 🙂

    • tristan

      the other way to express a continuous action is: position verb + te + infinitief.
      –> Mijn hond ligt aan het terras te slapen

    • I never understood why word order is one of the last things mentioned. Both in my grammar book (I forget which – Routledge maybe) and at dutchgrammar.com itself. It seems like an important thing to know! But I guess they want to explain all of the little components first.

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