You might be able to guess what voorzetsels are if I use the other common Dutch word for them: preposities.
That’s right. It’s time to talk about the evil prepositions that lurk within any language. Obviously they are not that evil in English, because it’s my moedertaal (literally: mother language). But in Dutch… oh no. Run!
It’s also made more fun by the fact that you have vaste or fixed prepositions. That means that some verbs/expressions always take the same preposition. My first memorable experience with prepositions after moving here was which one to use after wachten, or ‘to wait’. In English the expression is ‘to wait for’. So naturally one would assume you can say Ik wacht voor de bus.
But that means that you will see this coming at you:
That’s right… it means you’re waiting (literally) before the bus, in the street. Hmph. Whereas English has two words – ‘before’ and ‘for’ – there is only voor in Dutch.
(While I was looking for a good image, I can across this article about a woman who missed a bus and decided to catch up with it at the next red traffic light. She lay down in front of it until the driver let her on…)
If you want a rather exhaustive list of fixed prepositions, you can look at Dutch Grammar (it also includes English translations).
Some important ones include:
kijken naar (to look at)
luister naar (to listen to)
bang zijn voor (to be afraid of – zijn is ‘to be’)
denken aan (to think about)
houden van (to love – ik hou van jou – I love you!)
praten over (to talk about)
praten tegen (to talk to [someone])
praten met (to talk with [someone])
wachten op (to wait for *wink*)