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5W Questions Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Dutch Grammar

Asking a question is an important part of communicating. Questions are the means to how we get more information and help us understand our surroundings. This is why learning how to phrase questions in our target language is very important. We can ask for directions, for clarification, for explanation and for reasons.

In the U.S., students learn about the 5W and 1H questions, particularly in English class. These questions are especially useful to assess reading comprehension, and transcend to our daily lives. It is fair to consider these questions an assessment of life comprehension.

The 5W and 1H questions in English are Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I am unfamiliar if in the Netherlands students are taught these questions in a similar manner; they certainly could be called the same way.

Wie                   Who

Wat                  What

Wanneer          When

Waar                Where

Waarom          Why

Hoe                   How

In Dutch, just like in English, these question words go at the beginning of the sentence and allow the reader/listener to understand that you will be asking a question. After the vraagwoord, you add the conjugated verb or persoonvorm, then the subject, and, if needed, the rest of the question.

Vraagwoord    +      persoonvorm    +    subject    +    rest

Wie                                    heeft                              mijn jas?

Wat                                   is                                    jou telefonnummer?

Wanneer                         is                                    het muziekfestival?

Waar                                ga                                   je                    voor vakanzie?

Waarom                          ben                                 je                     boos?

Hoe                                   gaat                               het                  met jou?

Other vraagwoorden are hoeveel which is the equivalent of “how many” and welk (for het words) or welke (for de words) which means “which” or “which one.”

For practice, read the following text about Rembrandt and think back on your primary school days. Ask yourself the 5W and 1H questions. You will not only put into practice your question structure, but you will also check if you truly comprehended the text or if you need to read it once more.


Rembrandt van Rijn werd in 1606 of 1607 in Leiden geboren als zoon van een Molenaar. Hij stierf in 1669 in Amsterdam. Hij wordt algemeen gezien als een van de belangrijkste schilders van de Gouden Eeuw, een zeer belangrijke periode in de Nederlandse geschiedenis waarin het land een ongekende economische en culturele groei doormaakte. Er is maar weinig over zijn leven bekend, maar we weten dat hij door zijn ouders op 14-jarige leeftijd in de leer is gedaan bij de Leidse schilder Jacob van Swanenburgh en later nog een korte tijd bij de Amsterdamse schilder Pieter Lastman.

(Text taken from the Dutch Proficiency Test by Transparent Language)

Sample questions:

Wie is Rembrandt?

Wat is de Gouden Eeuw?

Wanneer stierf Rembrandt?

Waar is Rembrandt geboren?

Waarom was de Gouden Eeuw een belangrijke periode?

Hoe leerde Rembrandt schilderen?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!