“To have” (“hebben”) and “to be” (“zijn”) – (Dutch-NL)

“To have” and “to be” are the bread and butter of a new language, and so it’s a good place to start when you’re looking at learning your first verbs. You’ll also learn the personal pronouns here, and get accustomed to the idea of writing out verbs in their conjugations, i.e. the different forms the verb takes depending on the subject of the sentence.

The infinitive of a verb is its “to” form, such as “to have”, “to play”, and is usually the form you use when talking about the verb as a concept. There are three grammatical “persons”: first, second, and third. Each of these persons has a singular form and a plural form, giving a total of six combinations. The first person contains the speaker, i.e. “I” in the singular, or “we” in the plural. The second person is the person you are addressing, i.e. “you” in the singular to one person, or to a group of people, that doesn’t include the speaker. The third person is neither the speaker nor the addressee; in the singular, it can be “he”, “she”, or “it”, and in the plural “they”. It’s a good idea to get used to the terminology, if you’re not already familiar, for personal pronouns, so when you hear “second person plural” you know exactly what it refers to – plural “you”, in this case.

Dutch has two sets of personal pronouns, called stressed and unstressed. This can be confusing to grasp, but in general the rule is where you would stress the pronoun in English, you use the stressed version in Dutch. An example might be “She has to go home” with the implied addendum of “but he doesn’t” or similar, so you would use stressed “zij” rather than the unstressed “ze”. However, you would use “ze” in such a sentence where you are stressing another part of the sentence, such as “She has to go home” (as opposed to any other place). This begins to make more sense with experience. Bear in mind that unstressed pronouns are used more frequently, and these will be the ones used in verb conjugations here. (NOTE: Stressed and unstressed pronouns are sometimes called marked and unmarked respectively.)

Pronouns Unstressed Stressed
First person singular ik ik I
Second person singular je
u (formal)
u (formal)
Third person singular hij
het (“het” nouns)*
hij (“de” nouns”)*
First person plural we wij we
Second person plural jullie jullie you
Third person plural ze zij they

(*Look out for the lesson on articles to know more about “het” and “de” nouns.)
(**Look out for the lesson on demonstrative pronouns for more about these.)


ik heb I have
je/u hebt you have
hij/ze/het heeft he/she/it has
we hebben we have
jullie hebben you have
ze hebben they have


ik ben I am
je/u bent you are
hij/ze/het is he/she/it is
we zijn we are
jullie zijn you are
ze zijn they are

One thought on ““To have” (“hebben”) and “to be” (“zijn”) – (Dutch-NL)

  1. Pingback: Lesson 1 – Introductory Phrases (Dutch-NL) | Polyglot Scot

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