Lesson 2 Beginner

Lesson 2 – Wie ben jij?


This lesson teaches you how to introduce yourself. You’ll learn how to tell what your name is, what country your coming from and where you are living. Of course, you’ll also learn how to ask questions on this, so after this lesson you should be able to have a real brief conversation in Dutch. You’ll also learn a bit on being formal and informal(u and jij), on verb infinitives and on the Dutch version of ‘to be’.


The title of this lesson Wie ben jij? (means ‘who are you?’) shows you a question word (wie), a form of the verb zijn (‘to be’) and a personal pronoun (jij). We’ll be dealing with all three of these items, but let’s first deal with the function of the phrase: asking someone’s name.

Here’s a little conversation in which it is used:

Text 2.1 – Ik ben Heidi
  • Wie ben jij?
  • Ik ben Heidi.
  • Waar kom je vandaan?
  • Ik kom uit Nederland.
  • Waar woon je?
  • Ik woon in Leiden.

Question words can be confusing: the Dutch word hoe, sounds like the English ‘who’, but means ‘how, while the Dutch word wie, meaning ‘who’, sounds like the English ‘we’, which is wij in Dutch and that sounds more or less like ‘why’, but that’s waarom in Dutch. That’s why the next text is a simple listing of question words:

Text 2.2 – Question words


There are more ways to ask or tell a name. The next text does not only give alternative phrases, it also introduces u for second person singular instead of jij. This is a matter of being formal instead of informal. In contemporary Dutch, you would be formal to adult strangers and business contacts and informal to colleagues, friends and children. To relatives, most Dutch people are informal, but quite some people are still using u to address their parents and (even more) grandparents.

Text 2.3 – Hoe heet u?
Hoe heet u?
Mijn naam is Conti
Mijn voornaam is Gianni
Mijn achternaam is Conti
Uit welk land komt u?
Ik kom uit Italië



A conversation like this could be continued with questions and answers in the next text. A few remarks to go with it:

  • Always use the article when mentioning the street: ..ik woon in deDapperstraat …
  • Telling where you live, for …straat you use in, for …plein (square) you use op or aan (ik woon op/aan het Leidseplein), for …gracht, you use aan(… aan de Herengracht), for the number you use op (op nummer 38).
  • Just saying the word Aangenaam is the most common way of saying ‘pleased to meet you’ (literally: aangenaam met u kennis te maken).
  • The phrase Wat doet u? is commonly used to inquire about someone’s occupation.

Text 2.4 – Aangenaam
Ik woon in Amsterdam
In de Dapperstraat
Op nummer 15
Mijn meisjesnaam is Agneta Magnusson
Ik ben getrouwd met een Nederlandse man.
Wat doet u?



We’ve been using a few verbs now, though not always infinitives (you need those to look them up in the dictionary). Note that the infinitive almost always ends on -en:ik kom – infinitive: komen (exceptional, nevertheless: knowing the Dutch spelling you would perhaps expect ‘kommen’…)ik heet – infinitive: heten ik doe – infinitive: doen. Exceptions are: gaan (to go), staan (to stand) and zijn (to be). Since zijn is not only very irregular (like ‘to be’ is in most languages), but also the most used verb, it would be a good idea to learn al the forms for present and past right now:

x present past
ik (‘I’) ben was
jij/je (‘you’) bent was
u (‘you’) bent was
hij (‘he’) is was
zij/ze (‘she’) is was
wij/we (‘we’) zijn waren
jullie (‘you’) zijn waren
zij/ze (‘they’) zijn waren


This brings us to the personal pronouns. Above here, you see all the forms for the subject. You’ll notice that most forms with -ij in them also have a form with -e (like jij could also be je). The general rule is that you can always use the ‘proper’ form with -ij, but most Dutch people would use the -e form unless there’s a special emphasis.

Another thing that might puzzle you is the form jullie for ‘you’. This is the form for informal and plural (something like ‘you guys’) – for formal plural you should still use u.In short:

x formal informal
singular u jij/je
plural u jullie



aan at, to
aangenaam pleased (to meet you)
de achternaam the surname
doen to do
getrouwd married
de gracht the canal, the moat
heten to be named
hoe how
ik I
in in
jij/je you
komen to come
leven to live, to be alive
met with
het meisje the girl
de meisjesnaam the maiden name
de naam the name
het nummer the number
het plein the square
de straat the street
u you
uit out (of), from
vandaan from
de voornaam the first name
waar where
waarom why
wie who
wonen to live, to be living
zijn to be


More …

  • Before you move on to the next chapter you should study:
  • Repeat this pronunciation exercise a few times (every first word is English, every second word is Dutch):
    ‘How’ is hoe,
    ‘who’ is wie,
    ‘we’ is wij,
    ‘why’ is waarom.

Try to complete the test about this lesson!
Try to complete the test about question words!

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