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.
|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.
- Het koekje (the cookie)
- Het huisje (the little house)
- Het kindje (the little child)
Infinitives take the article het.
- Het lopen (to walk)
- Het lezen (to read)
- Het spelen (to play)
Nouns that refer to persons take the article de.
- De man (man)
- De vrouw (woman)
- De vriend (friend)
Exception: het kind (child)
Nouns that end with -ing, -er, -heid, -in, or -aar take the article de.
- De vergadering (meeting)
- De bakker (baker)
- De overheid (government)
- De vriendin (girlfriend)
- De ambtenaar (civil servant)
Exception: het water
Two syllable nouns that start with be-, ge-, ver-, or ont- take the article het.
- Het beheer (management)
- Het geluid (sound)
- Het verband (connection, context, relation)
- Het onthaal (reception)
Trees, plants, vegetables, and fruits take the article de.
- De eik (oak)
- De orchidee (orchid)
- De spinazie (spinach)
- De appel (apple)
Exception: (de/het) knoflook (garlic)
Nouns that end with -isme, -ment, -sel, or -um take the article het.
- Het activisme
- Het instrument
- Het voedsel (food)
- Het museum
Exception: de datum (date)
Sports take the article het.
- Het tennis
- Het voetbal (football)
- Het judo
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.
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.
Practice Makes Perfect!
The best way to learn the articles of the nouns is through regular practice. If you have difficulties in memorizing the articles, click the "Take a Quiz Now!" button below.
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Don't worry if you make mistakes, they are saved in your profile. You'll also receive those questions in the future sessions, so that you can repeat them.
Needless to say our quizzes are not limited to articles and address other vocabulary and grammar topics as well.
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Published on Sunday, August 18, 2013. Updated on Thursday, August 1, 2019.