It’s all relative (Or: B2 Dutch course #6)

Last night’s lesson covered relative pronouns. Some of which is easy (if you’re a native English speaker) and some of which is not nearly as easy unless you’re a native speaker of Dutch. Or German maybe. Quick and dirty summary: relative pronouns give extra information about a noun (person, place or thing).

Easy (just requires knowing whether the noun is de or het):

De man die daar loopt is mijn broer. The man that walks there is my brother. 1) man is ‘de’ 2) thus you use ‘die’. 3) extra information: that walks there. Technically it might be better to say ‘who walks there’, but that’s another topic.

Het huis dat daar staat is van mij. The house that stands there is mine. 1) huis is ‘het’ 2) thus you use ‘dat’ 3) extra information: that stands there.

Less than easy? When prepositions decide to get involved. Evil things. When that happens you have two different possible constructions — at least for now — waar + prepositie and prepositie + wie -> where + preposition (objects) and preposition + who (people).

Example with zien (to see) and kijken naar (to look at).

De televisie die ik zie is al 10 jaar oud. The television that I see is already 10 years old. There’s no preposition there, so you can use die.

But: De televisie waarnaar ik kijk is al 10 jaar oud. The television that I look at is already 10 years old. The preposition forces the use of waar rather than die. You can also split up waarnaar – it’s actually a bit more common to do so. De televisie waar ik naar kijk is al 10 jaar oud.

And finally: preposition + wie.

Hij is getrouwd met de vrouw van wie hij al tien jaar houdt. He is married to the woman that he (already) loved for 10 years. Dutch is a bit tricky here since the phrase for expressing love is “houden van”. See also: ik hou van jou, or I love you. So there is a preposition there that you would not have expected if you spoke English.

Of course, this little grammar exercise ignores one glaring problem: it’s fine to realize why something is the way it is but until you learn the rules for fixed prepositions or separable verbs (prepositions with verbs like opstaan — or ‘stand up’ — that can separate) you will not be able to do it naturally. So it really is a matter of practice, practice, practice…

I promise to write a non-grammar filled post next time. Hopefully!

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Categories: Courses | Tags: | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “It’s all relative (Or: B2 Dutch course #6)

  1. I need to study so much more!!! :/

  2. Scary… I have all this to come! I’m moving to The Netherlands in the next month or two, so will be reading all of your Learning Dutch posts! Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Well don’t worry too much! I’m already at level B2 (university level). There’s also A1, A2, and B1. What city are you moving to (or general area)? Some tips:

      1. Watch a kid’s channel for a few months to get the hang of the easiest language. I liked Nick Jr.
      2. Get a library card as soon as possible (need a passport and proof of address, not sure if anything else) and raid the children’s section. If you’re lucky, there will also be a section specifically for adults learning Dutch, but it depends on the size of the library.
      3. They weren’t joking: learn whether or not a noun is ‘de’ or ‘het’ at the same time you learn the word. A lot hinges on it in the advanced levels of Dutch, unfortunately.
      4. Word order is very, very important. There’s a lot of cases where the conjugated verb moves to the end of the phrase. Once you get word order down, you’ll get the respect of native Dutchies much more easily.
      5. Depending on where you live you might be able to find cheaper Dutch lessons. For example, residents of The Hague can get a full course (20 weeks, 6hr/week) for only 30 euros from Mondriaan. The rest is subsidized by the city government. It’s crazy, but very helpful.

      And about 2 million other tips, but I think that’s enough for now. 😉

      • Hi Niki,
        Many thanks for the tips! I think we’ll be moving to the outskirts of Amsterdam. Initially, I’ll be working 3 days from home to give me time to do Dutch lessons and settle in etc. Good idea to watch kids TV, I already have some kids books but I’ll definitely get some more once I arrive 🙂 I’m pretty basic level at the moment – I can talk to kids 😉 and I can order in restaurants and deal with supermarket-speak etc… but that’s about as far as it goes at the moment. I understand a lot so hopefully once I’m living there the speaking part will catch up! I think it’s confidence mainly!!

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