Dutch conditionals (if clauses)

Exercises

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In this chapter you will learn about the Dutch conditionals, also known as 'if clauses'. Conditionals describe a certain proviso. 

Definition and usage of the Dutch conditional 

A conditional is used to describe a certain proviso. The conditional always consists of two elements:

  1. the condition
  2. and the result if the condition is fulfilled.

The if clauses in Dutch are formed with the word 'als'. The conjugate, or finite verb has to be placed at the end of the conditional sentence.

The following table shows you the situations in which the conditional is used and examples. 

SituationExampleTranslation

1. The condition is a possibility and the result is probably going to happen. 

  • Als ik deze opdracht af heb, kan ik eerder naar huis. 
  • Als zij komt, zal ik blij zijn. 
  • If I finish this task, I can go home earlier. 
  • If she comes, I will be happy. 

2. The condition is an event that probably will not happen and the result describes what will happen if the unlikely condition will be fulfilled. 

  • Als ik zakte voor de test, zou ik verdrietig zijn.
  • Als ik de race gewonnen had, zou ik heel blij zijn. 
  • If I failed the test, I would be sad. 
  • If I won the race, I would be really happy. 
3. The condition is about an event in the past that did not happened. The result tells you what would have happened if the event took place. 
  • Als ik gestudeerd had, zou ik zijn geslaagd. 
  • Jij zou geslaagd zijn, als je gestudeerd had. 
  • If I had studied, I would have passed. 
  • You would have passed, if you had studied. 

enlightenedYou can put the word 'dan' directly after the comma, but it is not mandatory. For example:

  • Als ik gestudeerd had, zou ik zijn geslaagd. (If I had studied I would have passed. 
  • Als ik gestudeerd had, dan zou ik zijn geslaagd. 

2) Concordance of tenses with the Dutch conditional

The conjugation of verbs in the conditional in the present and in the past tenses is quite easy to master, but it is necessary to respect the tense concordance.

Main clauseSubordinate clauseExampleTranslation
present simplepresent simpleAls je al je groenten eet, krijg je dessert.If you eat all your vegetables, you get dessert.
present simplefuture simpleAls u dokter wordt, zult u in een ziekenhuis werken.If you become a doctor, you will be working in a hospital.
past simpleconditional presentAls hij wat langer kon slapen, zou hij meer uitgerust zijn.If he could sleep a bit longer, he would be more rested.
past perfectconditional perfectAls we hen hadden gewaarschuwd, zouden ze het besmette water niet hebben gedronken.If we had warned them, they would not have drunk the contaminated water.

enlightenedIn the spoken langage, the conditional perfect is often replaced by the past perfect. This avoids long verbal groups when a modal verb (moeten, kunnen, mogen, willen) is used for example.

Examples

  • Als hij het hout had gekapt, hadden we een vuur kunnen maken. = If he had cut the wood, we could have made a fire.
  • Hij had de commode moeten vervangen. = He should have replaced the dresser.

And now, practice using the exercises below!