Ignoring illegality – gedogen (Or: B2-C1 course #5)

This week, one thing that we covered in my Dutch class was the concept of ignoring what is officially illegal. The term for this (a verb) is gedogen. The Dutch do this with soft drug use (cannabis) – allowing “coffee shops” to exist. The rules call for no advertising to take place, no hard drug sales on the premises, no sales to those under the age of 18, no quanities greater than 5 grams, and no public disturbances. Ironically the coffee shop is allowed to buy and sell cannabis within the rules above, but the supplies of the cannabis are not allowed to grow, import, or sell it to a coffee shop. Thus the expression “the front door is open, but the backdoor is illegal”.

During the class we also discussed the various forms of certain words. For example, nu (now) is both an adverb and a conjunction.

Ik ga nu naar de bibliotheek. I am now going to the library.
Nu het te laat is, komt hij. Now that it is too late, he comes.

In the second example, nu translates to “now that”; you wouldn’t say nu dat het te laat is, but you still invert the order of the sentence as if you had done so. I’ll be honest – I had no idea about this one and could only stare at the teacher blankly as she asked if we had heard of this piece of grammar.

Something similar can be done with toen (then), which I knew. It is also a adverb and a conjunction, depending on the sentence.

Kids or new speakers to the language 😉 tend to say En toen… en toen… en toen… as they tell a story. “And then I did this. And then we went there. And then we ate this.” In that sense it is an adverb. But toen is also a conjunction – Toen ik naar huis ging, heb ik de hond gevonden. “When I went home, I found the dog.”

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