Dutch Language Blog

Spelling in Dutch – Part Two Posted by on Mar 15, 2011 in Dutch Grammar, Dutch Language

Last week I wrote about spelling in Dutch with short vowels. We also looked at the difference between open and closed syllables and how to divide syllables in Dutch. Today we will look at spelling with long vowels and the relationship between f and v, and s and z.

Spelling with Long Vowels

1. Long vowel sounds can be spelt either with two letters (maan, boot) or one letter (manen, boten), depending on if they appear in a closed syllable or an open syllable.

2. In closed syllables the long vowel sound is spelt with two letters (maan).

3. In an open syllable, long vowel sounds are spelt with a single letter. This happens, for example when –en is added to make a word plural.

Let’s look at an example using the Dutch word boot, which means boat in English:

Boot = a closed syllable because it ends in a consonant, so the vowel sound is spelt with a double o. If we add –en to make the word plural, we have to make some changes (words in red are not correct but are written to show you why the change occurs).

Boot = closed syllable –> add –en to make it plural Booten –> When we go to divide the syllables in booten, the division would be after the second o (rule: when one consonant stands between vowels, the syllable division comes before the consonant) making boo-ten –> The double vowel in the first consonant is considered unnecessary, so is removed making boten.

The Story of F and V, and S and Z

In Dutch, there are many words that end in –f or –s. If you add an ending to one of these words and through the syllable division the –f or –s becomes the first consonant of the following syllable, then you need to change the -f to a –v and the –s to a –z. This is quite similar to English, such as when we change wolf to wolves. It is important to remember that in addition to changing f’s and s’s you still need to adjust the spelling as per the long and short vowel rules we have already looked at. Let’s take a look:

Brief (letter) –> add –en –> briefen –> must change the f to a v –> brieven

Roos (rose) –> add –en –> roosen –> must change the s to a z –> roozen –> must get rid of the extra o –> rozen

Three other tips to remember:

1. When you double an f or s because another syllable has been added, you do not change to a v or z (stof –> stoffen).

2. When the s is preceded by p, t, or k you do not change to a z (fiets –> fietsen).

3. There are always exceptions (dans –> dansen).

Answers from Tuesday’s Post (March 8th – Spelling in Dutch: Part One):

1. bed –> bedden

2. vul –> vullen

3. zit –> zitten

4. land –> landen

5. ding –> dingen


Add the ending –en to the following words, adjusting the spelling where needed.

1. zoon

2. pit

3. bloem

4. huis

5. raaf

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  1. aoc:

    Thanks for the extra date tags for the exercises, Heather; it’s much appreciated!

    • heather:

      @aoc No problem! Glad it helps.

  2. just me:

    thank you.. Ik been een beginner. Leukom om te lern.

    • heather:

      @just me Geen dank en succes met jouw studie. Een ding:

      Ik ben een beginner. Leuk om te leren. 🙂

  3. shane:

    bedankt voor de moeite.ik ben een,beginner. ik vind het leuk but zwaar.

    • heather:

      @shane Dank u Shane. Heel veel succes met jouw studie.