Rules for Articles in Dutch

When it comes to definite articles, Dutch has an extra layer of complexity compared to English. In English, there is only one definite article: the. In Dutch, there are two definite articles: de and het. Whether you use de or het depends on the gender of the noun.

There are three genders in Dutch: masculine, feminine, and neuter. De is used with masculine and feminine nouns. Het is used with neuter nouns. Each noun has a gender and some nouns have two genders. Both, de and het, can be used with the nouns that are masculine and neuter.

There are a few rules that govern the articles of some of the nouns. You have to memorize the articles of the rest. First, let's go over the rules and then discuss how to memorize the articles of the nouns.

Plural nouns always take the article de, regardless of their gender.

Singular Plural
De man De mannen (the men)
Het kind De kinderen (the children)
Het boek De boeken (the books)
Het koekje De koekjes (the cookies)

Singular diminutive nouns (verkleinwoorden) take the article het.

Infinitives take the article het.

Nouns that refer to persons take the article de.

Nouns that end with -ing, -er, -heid, -in, or -aar take the article de.

Two syllable nouns that start with be-, ge-, ver-, or ont- take the article het.

Trees, plants, vegetables, and fruits take the article de.

Exception: (de/het) knoflook (garlic)

Nouns that end with -isme, -ment, -sel, or -um take the article het.

Exception: de datum (date)

Sports take the article het.

Exceptions: de marathon, de triathlon

Learning these rules makes it easier to find the right article. However, memorizing the rules is not enough. You should be able to recognize quickly whether a word satisfies a rule or not. Moreover, you also need to memorize the exceptions to these rules. The exceptions in this article are not exhaustive, but provided as examples only. Furthermore, there are a lot of nouns that do not satisfy any of these rules. You have to learn the articles of them by heart.

The best way to learn the articles of the nouns is through regular practice. If you have difficulties in memorizing the articles, sign up now for free and take a quiz to practice them. challenges you with short quizzes and corrects you whenever you make a mistake. Over time, it recognizes your weaknesses and focuses the practice sessions on your weaknesses. That way, you make the most of your practice time and improve as fast as possible.

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Published on Sunday, August 18, 2013

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