This chapter will explain the Dutch conjunctions. You will learn what 'voegwoorden' (conjunctions) are and when to use them.

What is a conjunction?

A conjunction usually connects sentences (or sentence parts). Behind the conjunction there is often a comma, but this is not always the case. The Dutch language knows two kinds of conjunctions:

  • Nevenschikkende voegwoorden (coordinating conjunctions)
  • Onderschikkende voegwoorden (subordinating conjunctions)

Dutch coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions connect two equivalent sentences. A coordinating conjunction can also connect two separate words. The Dutch coordinating conjunctions are:

  • en (and)
  • maar (but)
  • of (or)
  • dus (so)
  • want (because)

Each coordinating conjunction has its own function: 

Conjunction

Function

Example

Translation
EnIndicates that something is happening at the same time.Ik luister naar de radio en ik lees een boek.I listen to the radio and I read a book. 
MaarForms a contradiction.Zij gaat graag op reis maar thuiskomen vindt ze ook fijn.She likes to travel but she also enjoys coming home. 
OfIndicates that there is a choice.Wil je pasta of wil je rijst?Do you want pasta or do you want rice?
DusUsed to give a conclusion.Het regent dus we gaan naar het binnenzwembad.It is raining so we go to the indoor pool.
WantUsed to give a reason.Ik eet geen noten want ik heb een allergie.I do not eat nuts because I am allergic. 

enlightenedIf you leave out the coordinating conjunction you would still have two correct sentences: 

Ik luister naar de radio en ik lees een boek. (I listen to the radio and I read a book.)

  1. 1Ik luister naar de radio. (I listen to the radio.)
  2. Ik lees een boek. (I read a book.)

Dutch subordinating conjunctions

A subordinating conjunction connects a main clause with a subclause. It would not be possible to make two good sentences without the conjunction.

enlightenedThe conjunction 'of'  (or) can be coordinating as well as subordinating.

There are many subordinating conjunctions that have there own function. 

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1) Subordinating conjunctions of time

Conjunction

Function

Example

Translation
WanneerIndicates when something happens.Hij mag zelf weten wanneer hij zijn huiswerk maakt.He can decide himself when he makes his homework.
AlsIndicates a condition.Je mag naar de bioscoop als je huiswerk af is.You can go to the cinema if you finished your homework. 
TerwijlShows that something is happening at the same time.Ik maak een tekening terwijl jij een film kijkt.I make a drawing while you watch a movie.
ZodraIndicates that something will take place as soon as possible.Zij komt naar de stad zodra ze klaar is met werken.She comes to the city as soon as she has finished working.
VoordatIndicates that something is happening before another event.Voordat ik naar school ga, eet ik een boterham.Before I go to school, I eat a sandwich.
Voor

Indicates that something is happening before another event.

Voor ik naar school ga, poets ik mijn tanden.Before I go to school, I brush my teeth. 
NuIndicates that something is happening now. Het begint echt mooi te worden, nu de nieuwe meubels er zijn.It really starts to get nice, now that the new furniture is there.
ToenIndicates that something happened in the past. Hij wilde net vertrekken toen de buurvrouw tegen hem begon te praten.He was about to leave when the neighbor started talking to him.
NadatIndicates that something happened after another event.  Ik ga naar de bakker nadat ik bij de slager ben geweest.I go to the bakery after I have been to the butcher.

2) Subordinating conjunctions of a length of time

Conjunction

Function

Example

Translation
Zolang alsIndicates how long a particular event will last.Het is druk op de weg zolang als de Duitsers naar hun vakantiebestemming rijden.It is busy on the road as long as the Germans drive to their holiday destination.
TotdatIndicates that something happened until another event occurred.Het was rustig op de wegen in Frankrijk totdat de zomervakantie begon.It was not busy on the roads in France until the summer break began.
SindsIndicates from when a particular action or event occurs.Zij gaat elke week tennissen sinds ze lid is geworden van de club.She plays tennis every week since she joined the club.

3) Subordinating conjunctions of cause and effect

Conjunction

Function

Example

Translation
DoordatIndicates the cause of a particular event or action.Ik kwam te laat, doordat de trein vertraging had.I arrived late because the train was delayed.
ZodatIndicates the effects of a particular event or action.Hij heeft veel gesport zodat hij beter in zijn vel ging zitten.He has done a lot of sports so he feels good in his own skin.
Zo ... dat

Indicates the effects of a particular event or action.

Hij heeft zo veel gesport, dat hij beter in zijn vel ging zitten.He has done so much sporting that he feels good in his own skin.
Waardoor

Indicates the effects of a particular event or action.

Hij heeft veel gesport, waardoor hij beter in zijn vel ging zitten.He has done a lot of sports, which made him feel good in his own skin.

4) Subordinating conjunction of reason or purpose

Conjunction

Function

Example

Translation
OmdatSpecifies the reason for a particular event or action.Ik ga naar Den Haag verhuizen omdat ik daar ga werken.I'm going to move to The Hague because I'm going to work there.
ZodatIndicates the purpose of a particular event or action.Vertrek op tijd naar Schiphol zodat we het vliegtuig niet missen.Departure to Schiphol in time so that we do not miss the plane.

5) Subordinating conjunctions of condition

Conjunction

Function

Example

Translation
AlsIndicates the condition for a particular action or event.Je mag naar het feest als je huiswerk af is.You can go to the party if you finished your homework. 
Indien

Indicates the condition for a particular action or event. 

(formal)

Je mag naar het feest indien je huiswerk af is.You can go to the party if you finished your homework. 
MitsSpecifies the condition for a particular action or event with emphasis.Je mag naar het feest mits je huiswerk af is.

You can go to the party provided that you finished your homework. 

TenzijIndicates that a particular action or event will continue except when the condition is not met.Je mag naar het feest tenzij je huiswerk niet af is.You can go to the party unless your homework is not finished.

6) Subordinating conjunctions of opposition

Conjunction

Function

Example

Translation
HoewelOppositionZe drink melk hoewel ze een allergie heeft.She drinks milk even though she has an allergy.
OfschoonOppositionHij wil graag naar het feest ofschoon hij ziek is of niet.He would like to go to the party, even if he is ill or not.
Ondanks datOppositionHij wil graag naar het feest ondanks dat hij zich niet lekker voelt.He would like to go to the party even though he does not feel well.

7) Subordinating conjunction of comparison

Conjunction

Function

Example

Translation
ZoalsIndicates that two things are the same.Ik draag een T-shirt zoals dat van Emma.I wear a T-shirt like Emma's.
AlsofIndicates that something was not real, but that it was done as if it were.Ze deden alsof ze geen Nederlands spraken.They pretended as if they did not speak Dutch.

8) Subordinating conjunction of indirect reason

Conjunction

Function

Example

Translation
DatIndicates the certainty of a particular statement, action or event.Zij zegt dat ze naar Parijs gaat.She says she is going to Paris.
OfIndicates the uncertainty of a particular statement, action or event.Zij weet niet of ze naar Parijs gaat.She does not know if she is going to Paris.

Train your skills by doing the exercises below.