But where does the verb go? (Or: Dutch class 20 by ROC Mondriaan)

Last night I had another class by ROC Mondriaan. As I was on vacation for the last two classes I did not know exactly what the homework was. We were almost done with chapter 5 when I left, so I did all of chapter 6. Unfortunately the class did not get that far so I was a bit bored during the class! But it happens. I did make one mistaken with the dictee, which is a spelling exercise. The teacher tells you a sentence and you need to write it down perfectly. I misspelled concurrentie, or competition. I spelled it as ‘concurrencie’, which makes sense since -tie in Dutch sounds more like a soft -cie (or ‘see’). Another example is politie (police) which is pronunced like po-leet-see.

The main substance of the class was additional time/conditional words which influence the placement of the verb.

als = if (though it can be interchanged with wanneer sometimes)

wanneer = when (present tense)

toen = when (past tense). It also translates to ‘then’ in the past tense.

sinds = (ever) since

The hardest thing to remember is what tense you are in. If you are talking about things happening at this moment, you cannot use toen, only als or wanneer. If you are talking about things that have already happened, you can only use toen. 

The other main thing to remember is that when you use one of these words within a sub clause (or bijzin in Dutch), you need to put the verb at the end of the clause. One good way to figure out if it is a sub clause or not is to check and see if the sentence can stand on its own. If it cannot, it is a sub clause. Als ik naar de dokter ga… (if I go to the doctor…) is not a complete sentence. You have not said what would happen. Thus the verb will be placed at the end of the clause.

Toen hij zijn familie zag, was hij blij. When he saw his family, he was happy. The sentence is past tense, so you use ‘toen’ not ‘als’ or ‘wanneer’. Notice how the verb ‘zag’ goes to the end of the clause.

Als hij zijn familie ziet, is hij blij.

Wanneer hij zijn familie ziet, is hij blij.

If/when he sees his family, he is happy.

Sinds ik nieuwe buren heb, heb ik hoofdpijn. Ever since I have new neighbors, I have a headache. (Though the tense choice in English is probably not the best.)

And then finally, the other use of toen is ‘then’ in the past tense. The verb doesn’t go at the end of the clause/sentence for this – it merely comes before the subject. Simple inversion.

Eerst ging ik naar het strand. Toen ging ik naar mijn huis. First I went to the beach. Then I went to my house.

I am not quite sure why they needed the split in word choices based on the tense… but you do eventually get used to it. Maybe…

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