The Dutch past tense is mainly used to describe something that took place in the past. The table below shows you the situations in which the past simple is used.
|You want to describe an event or action that took place in the past.||
|You want to describe a past event / action that has nothing to do with the present time.||
|Using the word 'toen' (when) to announce a past event/action.||
Remember: you can recognize the use of the past simple when the sentence contains words as:
or other words that indicate a time in the past.
To form a past sentence, the stem of the verb has to be found to be able to conjugate it. Dutch verbs always end in '-en'. The stem is found when you leave out the '-en' part.
In the table below, you can find an example of the conjugation with the verb 'werken' (to work).
|Ik (I)||stem + te / de||werkte|
|Jij, u (you)||stem + te / de||werkte|
|Hij, zij, het (he, she, it)||stem + te / de||werkte|
|Wij (we)||stem + ten / den||werkten|
|Jullie (you)||stem + ten / den||werkten|
|Zij (they)||stem + ten / den||werkten|
When is the ending '-te' or '-ten' and when '-de' or '-den'?
If the stem of a verb ends in a '-t', the ending '-te' or '-ten' still has to be added. The table shows you the conjugation of the verb 'haten' (to hate).
|Hij, zij, het||haatte|
If the stem of a verb ends in a '-d', the ending '-de' or '-den' still has to be added. The table shows you the construction with the verb 'raden' (to guess).
|Hij, zij, het||raadde|
When the '-en' of the verb is removed and '-v' or '-z' is the ending of the stem, the letters change in '-f' and '-s'. The conjugation of the verb is different from other verbs ending in '-f' or '-s', because you have to look at the consonant of the stem before the change. Therefore, the ending is always '-de(n)'.
The table below shows an example of a verb ending in -z: 'lozen' (to dump).
|Hij, zij, het||loosde|
Note the double 'o' in 'loosde' and 'loosden. Long vowel verbs have long vowel stems. Therefore the extra 'o' appears.
Dutch has many different strong verbs, but there are ways the verbs can be put together in groups to make it easier to remember how to conjugate them. Take a look at the table below.
|1.||Strong verbs that have an 'e' in the infinitive, get 'ie' in the past form.||'helpen'
(to help), .
|2.||Strong verbs that have an 'ij' in the infinitive, get 'ee' in the past form.||'krijgen'
|3.||Strong verbs that have an 'e' in the infinitive, get 'o' in the past form.||'zwemmen' (to swim)||ik zwom (I swam)|
|4.||Strong verbs that have an 'e' in the infinitive, get 'a' in the past form.||'nemen' (to take)||ik nam (I took)|
|5.||Strong verbs that have an 'i' in the infinitive, get 'a' in the past form.||'zitten' (to sit)||ik zat (I sit)|
|6.||Strong verbs that have an 'a' in the infinitive, get 'ie' in the past form.||'slapen' (to sleep)||ik sliep (I slept)|
|7.||Strong verbs that end in '-cht' in the past form.||'denken' (to think)||ik dacht (I thought)|
|8.||Strong verbs that have an 'ui' in the infinitive, get 'oo' in the past form.||'fluiten' (to whistle)||ik floot (I whistled)|
|9.||Strong verbs that have an 'a' in the infinitive, get 'oe' in the past form.||'graven' (to dig)||ik groef (I digged)|
|10.||Strong verbs that have an 'e' in the infinitive, get an 'a' in the past form.||'vergeten' (to forget)||ik vergat (I forgot)|
|11.||Strong verbs that have an 'a' in the infinitive, get an 'i' in the past form.||'vangen' (to catch)||ik ving (I catched)|
|12.||Strong verbs that have an 'o' in the infinitive, get 'ie' in the past form.||'lopen' (to walk)||ik liep (I walked)|
|13.||Strong verbs that have 'iez' in the infinitive, get 'oor' in the past form.||'verliezen' (to lose)||ik verloor (I lost)|
|14.||Strong verbs that have an 'i' in the infinitive, get an 'o' in the past form.||'stinken' (to stink)||ik stonk (I stank)|
The table shows you the conjugation of the 6 Dutch irregular verbs in the past tense.
|Subject||hebben (to have)||kunnen (to be able to)||mogen (to be allowed to)||willen (to want)||zijn (to be)||zullen (to will)|
|Hij, zij, het||had||kon||mocht||wilde||was||zou|
Train your skills by doing the exercises below!
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