Dutch Language Blog

Battle of Genders Posted by on Dec 8, 2008 in Dutch Language

Today I would like to tell you something about the Dutch genders.

Unlike what you may have read somewhere else, there are still feminine and masculine genders in the Dutch language. Even though the use of genders is fading and has been fading for several ages, there are still words that are only masculine or feminine and not common gender like most of the Dutch words have become (they can both be masculine and feminine).

The problem with the genders is, that today no one really has a clue about what gender a word is, plus the use of genders can differ per region. In the south the Flemish for example still have a lot of feminine words which have become masculine or common in the north.

To be honest, there is no easy way out. The best thing to do is what we had to do as well as a kid; learn the nouns with the appropriate articles (lidwoorden) at the same time.

De muis – the mouse

Het huis – the house

As you can see, muis and huis get different articles, though you might expect them to have the same article based on the similar sound of the words.

Rule of thumb: both masculine and feminine words get the article ‘de‘, neuter gender words get the article ‘het‘.

Compare: de koffie (m) die pas is gezet –> The koffie that was freshly made

de liefde (v) die altijd overwint –> The love that always conquers

Het schip (n) dat verging –> The ship that sank

In the most regions of the Netherlands, most nouns are either common or masculine, so it doesn’t really matter what pronouns you use.

But, there are still words that are only feminine. Here are the rules how to ‘easily’ recognize feminine words. Of course there are still a few exceptions, but where would the Dutch language be without those? 🙂

Words that end in the following suffixes, are almost always feminine:

*heid, -nis, -schap –> waarheid (truth), kennis (knowledge), boodschap (message, errand)

BUT:   het dichterschap (the poetry), het gezelschap (the companions), het kampioenschap (the championship),

* -de, -te: –> liefde (love), diepte (depth);

BUT: words to describe a group that begin with ‘ge-‘ are neuter gender –> het gebergte (the highlands), het geboefte (the rabble, riff-raff), het gedierte (the fauna).

* -ij, -erij, -arij, -enij, -ernij –> voogdij (custody), bakkerij (bakery), woestenij (wasteland),             razernij (rage);     

BUT: het schilderij (the painting)

* -ing, -st (after a verb stem ) –> wandeling (walk, stroll), winst (winnings)

BUT: dienst is masculine

* -ie, -tie, -sie, -logie, -sofie, -agogie –> familie (family), politie (police), visie (vision), biologie (biology), filosofie (philosophy), demagogie (demagogy)

* -theek, -teit, -iteit –> bibliotheek (library), puberteit (puberty), stabiliteit (stability);

* -tuur, -suur –> natuur, censuur

BUT: het avontuur, het barbituur, het fournituur, garnituur, montuur, het postuur, creatuur

* -ade, -ide, -ode, -ude –> tirade, planetoïde, periode, attitude;

BUT: non-countable names in chemics with -ide are neuter gendered –> chloride en bromide

* -ine, -se, -age –> discipline, analyse, bagage;

BUT: het percentage, promillage en voltage

* -sis, -tis, -xis –> crisis, bronchitis, syntaxis.

Yeah, this probably isn’t making things any easier and I’m sorry I didn’t translate the last few words.  This is not exactly level 1 stuff either and at the moment you can probably forget most of this. But, I felt I did have to explain that, although the difference between masculine and feminine is disappearing, some words are still either feminine or masculine.

Let’s do something a little more cultural next time.

Keep learning Dutch with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Transparent Language

Transparent Language is a leading provider of best-practice language learning software for consumers, government agencies, educational institutions, and businesses. We want everyone to love learning language as much as we do, so we provide a large offering of free resources and social media communities to help you do just that!