Site Map
Learning Dutch? 
Now is The Time
Program 3
Hear Names
Words   Phrases Grammar Facebook 
my site

Dutch and English - Similarities and Differences

Common Roots
Dutch and English developed from the language of the Germanic tribes that lived long ago in present-day Denmark and Southern Sweden. About 2300 years ago some of those tribes moved South, further into North-Western Europe and with the separation and coming into new circumstances the languages started to differ. German, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic are also part of the Germanic language family, and there are about a quarter of a million people in the Netherlands speaking Frisian, which is in some ways closer to English than to Dutch. It's said that Old English is easier for speakers of Frisian than for native speakers of modern English.

Cognates and Change
On my old Cognates page you can see and hear how English, Dutch and German words from the same root developed. Do note the comments to the right of the words.

'Recognizable' Words and Pronunciation
My 'Easy Dutch' pages have Dutch words that are 'recognizable' from English. The first page is organized around pronunciation, how the words changed in Dutch and in English, and the second page is organized by subject (numbers, colors, body parts, animals etc.)
These 'Easy Dutch' words also show differences between Dutch and English pronunciation. As a native speaker of English or if you know English well, you will tend to pronounce words that look familiar in the English way, but that is often not the right way for Dutch. Listen closely to how I say the words and compare with the English pronunciation - it will quickly show the differences and can help you quickly understand the pronunciation of Dutch.
Dutch spelling is fairly phonetic and has clear rules: learn the rules or find out the rules by yourself
Someday you might want to look at Exceptions to Phonetic Spelling - 2

Dutch Sounds not Found in English
The one-page Dutch summary has a chapter Dutch Sounds not Found in English

Sounds Represented by Different Letters
and next a chapter Dutch Sounds Represented by Different Letters in English

B and D at the End of Words
B at the end of words is pronounced as P
(de) krab click to hear 2 3 ('crab') / krabben click to hear ('crabs' // 'to scratch')
and D at the end of word is pronounced as T
(het) bed click to hear 2 ('bed') / bedden click to hear ('beds')

The F/V and S/Z shift
English has 'wife/wives' and 'loaf/loaves,' Dutch has raaf / raven click to hear 'raven' (a bird) / 'ravens' and golf / golven click to hear 'wave' / 'waves' - but Dutch also has huis / huizen click to hear 'house' / 'houses' and vaas / vazen click to
hear 'vase' / 'vases.' Most Dutch 'root' words ending in a long vowel and F or S shift to V or Z in the plural or conjugated and declined forms - more

False Friends
Sometimes not only the pronunciation but also the meaning of words changed. For instance, Dutch smal click to hear 2 means 'narrow' and does not have te wider meaning of English small and there are many other words from different sources that look similar or identical but have a different meaning: False Friends
There is a short version of 'False Friends' without extras, and there is an even shorter version of identical or similar words with about the same meaning and the False Friends.

The Article: 'The,' De  and Het
Dutch has two definite articles 'the:' de click to hear 2 and het click to hear 2 3 - often abbreviated to 't click to hear (note the vowel change.) Plurals always take de and diminutives (words ending in -JE) are het-words, but there are few useful rules - more
The indefinite article 'a' is een click to hear - phonetically more correctly written as " 'n "  - and 'one' is één click to hear 2 3 more numbers

Most Adjectives in Most Positions Get an -E Ending
Only adjectives for singular het-words after een, geen  or no article don't get an -E ending.
Adjectives already ending in single E or -EN don't get -E endings - more
Numbers don't get -E endings (maybe numbers are not adjectives)

No Special Ending for Adverbs
Adverbs use the root form of the word, in Dutch there is not something like the English -LY ending for adverbs

Comparative and Superlative degree
Dutch and English both have -ER and -ST endings for the comparative and superlative degrees, and next to that the in Dutch less common meer click to hear ('more') and meest click to hear ('most') ‑>> - more

Plurals are Different
Many Dutch nouns have a plural in -S, but there are also many Dutch nouns with a plural in -EN. I can only think of two English words with a plural in -EN, though one of those, 'children' - Dutch kinderen click to hear 2 3 shows the common roots of the languages and there are a few more similarities - plurals

Placeholders 'it,' 'that' and 'what' ‑>>
'It,' 'that' and 'what' as placeholders are usually translated as 'het,' click to hear 2 3 (or 't click to hear) - 'dat' click to hear and 'wat' click to hear - but when there's a preposition in play, Dutch says 'er,' click to hear 'it,' - 'daar' click to hear 'that' and 'waar' click to hear 'what'
Ik zie het click to hear I see it ('it' - the thing mentioned before) Ik denk er vaak aan click to hear 2 3 I often think of it

to search, seek  
- zocht
- gezocht 
click to hear 2
Easy Dutch page 3 shows how Dutch verbs are a little more complicated than English verbs, but there are still many similarities, like for instance the forms of strong verbs.

The Perfect Tenses and the Passive Voice
For the perfect tenses, a small number of Dutch verbs use zijn click to hear (otherwise translated as 'to be') as the auxiliary verb instead of hebben click to hear ('to have') ...
... while for the passive voice Dutch uses the auxiliary verb worden click to hear 2 - where English uses 'to be' - this can be complicated and confusing, especially for native speakers of English

Word Order
Differences in Word Order
In general, the word order in Dutch and English is similar, but there are some differences, like: Secondary Verbs at the End of the Sentence, many Complications in the 'Subordinate Clause' and Splitting Verbs
Writing for Dutch Characters - Dutch people speaking English

Pragmatic Markers, Modal Particles - seemingly unnecessary, superfluous words
Modal Verbs - short version
Prepositions - words often have more than one meaning, which may not be shared by its translations

Frederick Roberts of Lincoln, England suggested the page

email - Copyright © Marco Schuffelen 2023. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed, or hotlinked to.
Gij zult niet stelen click to hear 'Thou shalt not steal'