Lesson 8 Beginner

Lesson 8 – Momentje…


This lesson teaches you how to place and accept phone calls. There’s also some information on postal services in the Netherlands. Furthermore, you’ll learn how to make plurals and you’ll get some theory on passive sentences.


The first thing you should know about phoning in the Netherlands is that a lot of Dutch people find it quite rude that some people answer the phone without saying their names. So don’t answer with Hallo, Ja? or with your phone number, but with Met xxx, U spreekt met xxx or xxx, goedemorgen (or -middag or -avond).

Text 8.1 – Met Kees Vermeulen…
  • Met Kees Vermeulen, goedenavond.
  • Goedenavond, met Katja.
  • Ha, dag Katja. Alles goed?
  • Ja hoor, prima. En met jou?
  • Uitstekend.
  • Zeg, is Ineke er ook?
  • Ik zal even kijken. Momentje …
  • … nee, het spijt me, Ineke is net weg.
  • Weet je ook hoe laat ze thuis is?
  • Ik heb geen idee.
  • Kun je vragen of ze me terugbelt?
  • Ja, dat is goed.
  • Ik ben tot twaalf uur wakker.
  • Ik zal het doorgeven
  • Goed, bedankt.
  • Graag gedaan hoor. Dag Katja.
  • Tot ziens.

It’s quite common to ask Is … er ook, while ook just means ‘too, also’ and does not really make any more sense then saying Tot ziens at the end of a telephone conversation with someone you’ll probably hear before you see him or her. In the case of ook: just don’t translate it if it doesn’t make any sense – it means something like ‘by the way…’. In case of tot ziens: to most Dutch people, it seems less silly to use this common way of saying goodbye, than to use something like ‘tot horens’ – though some Dutch people do use this.

Just to check if you got it right, here’s the translation:

  • (you’re speaking) with Kees Vermeulen, good evening.
  • Good evening, (you’re speaking) with Katja.
  • Hey, hi Katja. Everything o.k.?
  • Yes, fine. And you?
  • Excellent.
  • Is Ineke there?
  • I’ll take a look. One moment …
  • … no, I’m sorry. Ineke has just gone out.
  • Do you know what time she’s (going to be) home?
  • I’ve no idea.
  • Can you ask if she (could) return my call (‘calls me back’)
  • Yes, that’s o.k.
  • I’ll be awake untill twelve.
  • I’ll pass it (the message) on.
  • O.k., thanks.
  • My pleasure. Bye Katja.
  • Bye.


If you call a company, of course the phone is picked up with the company name, often followed by the name of the department (afdeling) and person. If you want to know what phrases to use to get to someone in a company, go to ‘Extra’ and click on ‘Phoning’.


Up untill the 1980’s telephone and mail services were exclusively delivered by the Dutch PTT. At the end of the 80’s, this company was completely privatized (so it’s no longer related to the gouvernment) and the telephone and postal services where seperated: the phone company is now called PTT Telecom and the postal services are into KPN(Koninklijke PTT Nederland).

As far as phoning is concerned, there is quite some competition now. But for regular postal services there hardly is, except for express mail. The regular mail boxes are emptied by KPN and the stamps on the letters are sold by the same company.

Some mail related words and phrases you might need:

Text 8.2 – Mail
  • het postkantoor
the post office
  • Mag ik tien postzegels van 80 cent?
Can I have ten 80 cent stamps?
  • Deze brieven moeten naar het buitenland.
These letters are to be going abroad
  • Wat voor postzegel moet er op deze brief?
What stamp should be on this letter?
  • Ik wil dit pakje aangetekend versturen.
I want to send this package by registered mail
  • per luchtpost
by air mail
  • per expresse
by express mail
  • drukwerk
printed paper
  • port betaald
postage paid
  • de postbus
P.O. Box
  • Op brievenbussen:
On postboxes:
  • streekpost
local mail
  • overige bestemmingen
other destinations
  • Hoe laat wordt de brievenbus geleegd?
At what time the postbox is being emptied?


In the phrases above, you can see the major two different kinds of plurals: on -s and on -en in postzegels and bestemmingen. Here’s the main rule for plurals – for more details, please study the pages on plural in the grammar section:

  • Words that end on a syllable that includes a ‘toneless -e’ (like in de), usually get an -s:
  • de tafel – de tafels
  • de vader – de vaders
    • de haven – de havens
  • Words that end on a vocal usually get an -s with an apostrophe () to keep the sound ‘long’:
  • de taxi – de taxi’s
  • de agenda – de agenda’s
    • de radio – de radio’s
  • Other words usually get -en:
  • het boek – de boeken
  • de krant – de kranten
    • de vrouw – de vrouwen


In text 2, this sentence may have drawn your attention:Hoe laat wordt de brievenbus geleegd?
This is called a ‘passive construction’. In English you use forms like ‘… is being…’, ‘…has been …’, when in Dutch you use the verb worden(more or less ‘to become’) or the verb zijn (for the perfect tense).Here’s an overview, comparing active phrases to passive equivalents. What happens in the first three sets is, that a dog is biting a man – in the last three, the man beats the dog:

Text 8.3 – Active & passive
  • Active
  • De hond bijt de man
De man wordt gebeten
  • De hond beet de man
De man werd gebeten
  • De hond heeft de man gebeten
De man is gebeten
  • De man slaat de hond
De hond wordt geslagen
  • De man sloeg de hond
De hond werd geslagen
  • De man heeft de hond geslagen
De hond is geslagen

The passive sentences would be tranlated in English as follows:

  • De man wordt gebeten – The man is being bitten.
  • De man werd gebeten – The man was being bitten.
  • De man is gebeten – The man has been bitten.
  • De hond wordt geslagen – The dog is being beaten.
  • De hond werd geslagen – The dog was being beaten.
  • De hond is geslagen – The dog has been beaten.


aantekenen to register (mail)
de agenda the agenda, planner
de bestemming the destination
betalen to pay
bijten to bite
de brievenbus the postbox
het buitenland foreign countries
het drukwerk printed paper
de expresse express mail
de haven the harbour
de hond the dog
het idee the idea
legen to empty
de luchtpost air mail
het moment the moment
net just
ook also
overig other
het pakje the packet
per per, by
de port the postage
de postbus the P.O. box
het postkantoor the post office
de postzegel the stamp
de radio the radio
slaan to beat
de streekpost local mail
de tafel the table
de taxi the taxi
terug back, returned
thuis home, at home
uitstekend excellent
de vader the father
versturen to send away
wakker awake
weg away


More …

  • Before you move on to the next chapter you should study
  • You could exercise phoning by finding another student and practice simple phone calls in Dutch.
  • Try to exercise passive sentence constructions buy changing as many active phrases to passive ones for a while.

Try to complete the test about this lesson!


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