Hun vs hen (Or: B2 Dutch course #20)

When I worked at my last position someone always remarked about the state of the Dutch language and how it is slowly degrading. Some people I talk with remark about the misuse of hun (their, them – when it’s a indirect object) vs. hen (them – when it’s an direct object).

And what are direct and indirect objects again?

Ik gaf het aan haar. I gave it to her.

het = direct object

haar = indirect object

Thus you can see a sentence like this:

Ik heb _____ gezien. (you are filling in the direct object)

hen = correct (for persons only)

hun = not correct, but often heard

ze = used for persons OR things

So what do we use hun for again? Possession of items.

Ik heb hun fiets gezien. I have seen their bike.

And what about prepositions? Because we all know those are just made to complicate things…

When preceded by a preposition, use hen (door hen, aan hen, voor hen).

And how did I get to the B2 level without realizing this?

As mentioned above, the unmarked/unstressed form for direct objects is ze. Thus: Ik heb ze gezien. is acceptable provided you are not emphasizing ‘them’.

If you can read Dutch, this is a very fun article to read. Kofschip op de klippen. It’s about a Dutch family which moved to the US, with the mother realizing that the children’s Dutch was being taken over by English phrases. Opening example: Ik heb de team gemaakt. (English – I made the team). Better Dutch: Ik wordt gekozen voor het team. I have been chosen for the team. (Note January 2016: it should be Ik word gekozen… the t was a typo.)

Categories: Courses | Tags: | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Hun vs hen (Or: B2 Dutch course #20)

  1. nonamepl0x

    Just a brief comment to the second last sentence:
    Even better Dutch: “Ik word gekozen”

    • Ooh, nice catch. Thanks!

      And wow, that was a year and a half ago. Time flies when you are learning Dutch!

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