Breaking apart verbs (Or: B2 Dutch course #12)

Note: no school related posts next week, as we are on vacation.

Well, not breaking them. Just pulling them apart. Last night we learned about separable and not-separable verbs, although this post will only cover the first kind. Somewhat similar to English I suppose, except that our prepositions tend to come after the verb (to bring with) and are not attached to the verb. In Dutch, the prepositions are actually prefixes attached to the verb.

Verbs classified as separable always have the accent on the first syllable! WEG-gaan (to go away). AF-was-sen (to wash dishes). UIT-leg-gen (to explain).

Here are some rules in the various tenses:

Present tense, main clause/hoofdzin: Ik was vanavond af. (I wash the dishes tonight – afwassen). Here the prefix separates and moves to the end of the clause.

Present tense, relative clause/bijzin: Ik beloof je dat ik vanavond afwas. (I promise you I will wash the dishes tonight). Since it’s a relative clause (introduced by dat) the verb must move to the end of the relative clause and conjugate itself based on the subject (ik/I). If it does, the prefix remains attached to the verb and comes before.

Past tense, main clause/hoofdzin: Mijn moeder stapte een halte te vroeg uit. (My mother got out a stop too early – uitstappen.) As present tense/main clause, you conjugate the verb and move the prefix to the end of the clause.

Past tense, relative clause/bijzin:  Toen mijn moeder uitstapte, regende het hard. (When my mother got out, it rained hard.) As the verb is already at the end of the clause (required for relative clauses), the prefix stays with it.

Modal auxiliary verbs (can, should, shall, may, must, etc), present or imperfect, with verb as infinitive: Ik wil jullie voor mijn verjaardag uitnodigen. (I want to invite you [all] for my birthday – uitnodigen.) As it is not the main verb, but just an infinitive, it goes to the end of the sentence and thus the prefix remains attached.

Present perfect (perfectum), main clause/hoofdzin: Hij heeft ons voor zijn verjardag uitgenodigd. (He has invited us for his party.) Again, the present perfect tense demands that the participum (genodigd) goes to the end of the clause, thus the prefix is allowed to attach itself to it. NOTE: ‘ge’ goes between the prefix and the verb. uitgenodigd.

Present perfect (perfectum), relative clause/bijzin: Weet je dat ik de grammatica al drie keer heb uitgelegd? (Did you know that I have already explained the grammar three times?) In this case since it is a relative clause the helper element (heb from ‘hebben’) also moves to the end of the clause, but otherwise it is the same as above. NOTE: the order of the helper element (hebben or zijn) and the participum (in this case uitleggen) does not matter. It’s a style choice.

Past perfect (plusquamperfectum), main clauses and relative clauses: The same rules as above for present perfect apply, including the order of the helper element and the participum. The only difference is that the helper element can only be had/hadden (from hebben) or was/waren (from zijn).

te + infinitief: Je hoeft me niet meer op te bellen. (You do not have to call me anymore – opbellen). Some verbs require the om … te construction (or in this case the te construction). If te is present it will go between the prefix and the rest of the verb, with spaces on either side. One of the semi rare times a prefix can still come before the verb but not be attached to it.

Imperatives (giving commands): Pas op! (Watch out – oppassen). Ga weg! (Go away – weggaan). Trek een jas aan! (Put a jacket on – aantrekken). It might not be obvious but this is of course another example of separable verbs, where the verb is conjugated and the prefix comes at the end of the clause (Note: Trek aan een jas is wrong – you must put the prefix all the way at the end of the clause).

I hope you found this informative. If you didn’t, sorry to be such a grammar geek!

Categories: Courses | Tags: | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Breaking apart verbs (Or: B2 Dutch course #12)

  1. Teresa Matheson

    i’m lost with opstappen. ik stap op mijn fiets en rij naar school. not ik stap mijn fiets naar school op?

    • The first is correct, yeah (well, maybe instead “en ik fiets naar school” or “ik ga naar school”). Rijden is normally with a car – it means drive, not ride.

      That sentence is two actions: I get on my bike, I bike to school. Because of the “en” you know for sure the “op” needs to be in the first part. It’s part of the prepositional phrase “op mijn fiets”.

      Also, the second is definitely not the right answer because “op” is after “naar school” – when in doubt it will need to be closer to ‘stappen’.

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