Dutch Spelling Basics

In Dutch grammar, some basic spelling rules are applied to the plurals of nouns and to the conjugations of verbs and adjectives. By learning and applying these simple rules, you can avoid beginner's mistakes. Let's start with some definitions.

Definitions

Short vowels: the vowels of man, nek, lip, bom, rug.

Long vowels: the vowels of naam, keel, dier, boom, duur, voet, deur.

Open syllable: a syllable that ends in a vowel. For example: de, ei, moe, mooi.

Closed syllable: a syllable that ends in a consonant. For example: bal, kop, baan, boek.

Single and Double Letter Long Vowels

The long vowels /aa/, /ee/, /oo/, and /uu/ are written with two letters in a closed syllable and with a single letter in an open syllable.

Application to the plurals of nouns

Singular Plural
naam namen
keel kelen
oor oren
uur uren

Application to the conjugation of adjectives

Adjective Conjugation
laag lage bloeddruk
geel de gele mantel
groot de grote prijs
duur dure wijn

Application to the conjugation of verbs

First Person Singular First Person Plural
ik haal we halen
ik heet we heten
ik woon we wonen
ik huur we huren

Exception: u before w

The long vowel /uu/ is written with a single letter before the consonant w, even in a closed syllable.

Example: plurals of nouns

Singular Plural
schaduw schaduwen

Example: conjugation of verbs

First Person Singular First Person Plural
ik huw we huwen
ik duw we duwen

Doubling the Consonant at the End of a Closed Syllable

A consonant is doubled after a short vowel, if the consonant is followed by an unstressed syllable.

This rule applies to the consonants b, d, f, g, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, z, and c (pronounced as /k/) and to the short vowels /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/.

Application to the plurals of nouns

Singular Plural
nek nekken
lip lippen
adres adressen

Application to the conjugation of adjectives

Adjective Conjugation
stil stille motoren
fris frisse salade

Application to the conjugation of verbs

First Person Singular First Person Plural
ik stap we stappen
ik gok we gokken
ik vat we vatten
ik gom we gommen

Exceptions

Some consonants in conjugated words that end in an unstressed -el, -es, -et, -ig, -ik, -il, -it, -em.

Example: the plural of a noun

Singular Plural
appel appelen

Example: conjugation of adjectives

Adjective Conjugation
edel edele metalen

Example: conjugation of verbs

First Person Singular First Person Plural
ik wandel we wandelen
ik wijzig we wijzigen
ik adem we ademen

Double consonants are not written at the end of a word.

This rule is applied to the third singular form of some verbs in simple present.

Infinitive First Person Singular Third Person Singular
vatten ik vat hij vat (not vatt)
heten ik heet hij heet (not heett)

V or z is not written at the end of a syllable.

V is replaced with f. Z is replaced with s.

Application to the plurals of nouns

Singular Plural
neus neuzen
initiatief initiatieven

Application to the conjugation of adjectives

Adjective Conjugation
grijs een grijze auto
positief positieve eigenschappen

Application to the conjugation of verbs

First Person Singular First Person Plural
ik leef we leven
ik verlies we verliezen

Conclusion

These are the most basic, must-know spelling rules of the Dutch grammar. Neither these rules, nor the exceptions mentioned in the article are exhaustive. Nevertheless, they are a good starting point for the serious Dutch language learner.

You can practice the applications of these rules with 800+ free exercises in LearnPractice.com.

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Published on Friday, October 18, 2013

Resource: http://woordenlijst.org/leidraad/

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