Constructing sentences

Constructing sentences


1 – Basic sequence

Like in most languages, the basic sentence starts with the subject, followed by the (first) verb. Something typical for Dutch though, is that all other verbs are basically placed at the end of the sentence.

Most basic:

subject – 1st verb – (when/where/how/object) -(other verbs)

Hij – heeft – gisteren – thuis – snel – de was -gedaan.

  • the when/where/how sequence is often just optional and the object can often also be the first of these four,
  • if there is a preposition added to the when,where,how or object, it can also be placed after theother verbs.

2 – Inversion

Often the subject and 1st verb are switched, so that the subject follows the verb. This occurs when:

  • The sentence is a question.
    Not something strange to English speakers, though in Englishit only sounds right with some specific verbs. A sentence like Weet jij dat? could hardly be translated as Know you that?
  • The sentence is a command or instruction.
    Also not strange to English speakers (come here, be there,don’t you do that).
  • A non-subject part of the sentence comes first.
    Usually this would be when, where or howand incidentally the object. Watch out, though: each of thosepositions could not only be filled by asingle word, but also by a long phrase.

3 – Extraposition

The most weird constructions to English speakers might be those with all the verbs (including the first) at the end.This occurs when there is a conjunctive word connecting two phrases.

Example (with dat as a conjunctive word):

Ik denk dat hij gisteren thuis snel de was gedaan heeft.

  • the sequence of the verbs at the end doesn’t really matter here, so it could as well be heeft gedaan,
  • this extraposition does not apply when the conjunctive word is en, maar or want,
  • when the conjunctive word is dus you can choose between a basic sequence and inversion,
  • when of is the conjunctive word and it means or, this extraposition does not apply, but it does apply when of means if.

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