We have already talked about the present tense in Dutch, so let’s move on to the past tense. Today we will investigate weak verbs.
In the past tense, we deal with verbs differently based on if they are a weak verb or a strong verb.
- weak verbs have letters added to make the change
- strong verb have an internal vowel change to make the change
To make a weak verb indicate the past tense, you add a –t or –d to the stem of the infinitive and then –e for singular and –en for plural. How do you know when to add a –t versus a –d? That’s a good question and there are several ways to remember which words get which.
Basically, crude verb stems that end in -t, -k, -p, -f, -s or –ch add –t (and then either –e or –en). All the other weak verbs add –d (and then either –e or –en). There are several different “words” to help you remember those consonants, like ‘t kofschip (an old ship model), ‘t fokschaap (the breeding sheep), pocket fish or even sexy ketchup (not counting the x and the y).
It sounds much more complicated than it actually is, so let’s break it down with a few examples.
kauwen (to chew) –> the crude stem is kauw (final stem is kauw) –> w is not in ‘t kofschip so we add –d (kauwd) and then –e for singular (ik kauwde) or –en for plural (zij kauwden)
maken (to make) –> the crude stem is mak (final stem is maak) –> k is in ‘t kofschip so we add –t (maakt) and then –e for singular (ik maakte) or –en for plural (zij maakten)
reizen (to travel) –> the crude stem is reiz (final stem is reis) –> z is not in ‘t kofschip so we add –d (reisd) and then –e for singular (ik reisde) or –en for plural (zij reisden)
N.B. Even though we use the crude stem for knowing whether to add –t or –d, you add the –t or –d to the final stem version. Also, don’t forget the other spelling rules when making all your changes.
N.B. 2 If adding –t or –d results in a double –t or –d (e.g. bloedde) the double letter is kept but the pronunciation is unchanged.
Want to practise? How would you create the past tense with the following verbs:
- hopen (to hope)
- eisen (to demand)
- spelen (to play)
- horen (to hear)
- leven (to live)