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Wil or wilt? Posted by on Dec 17, 2018 in Culture, Dutch Grammar, Dutch Language

A rather small conundrum, but an important one if you want to understand Dutch properly: is it jij wil or jij wilt? Small difference, but is it significant? Let’s find out.

The difference of one letter

Jij wil or wilt? (Image by author)

Willen (to want) is an important verb, often a hulpwerkwoord (auxiliary verb). The official conjugation is as follows:

ik wil (I want)

jij/u wilt (you (informal)/you (formal) want)

hij/zij/het wil (he/she/it wants)

wij willen (we want)

jullie willen (you (plural) want)

ze willen (they want)

And today, we are discussing the conjugation for jij/u (you (singular)). There is something curious going on, because some will say, but also write jij wil instead of jij wilt.

But what is the difference, if any?

First of all, there is the rule in Dutch where any verb in the conjugation of jij/u gets a at the end if jij/u comes after the persoonsvorm (verb of the subject), as is the case in a question, for example:

Loop je op het strand? (Do you walk on the beach?)

Je loopt op het strand. (You walk on the beach.)

Or in a bijzin (subordinate clause):

Als je op een strand loopt, loop je de kans nat te worden. (If you are walking on the beach, you are likely to get wet.)

Unless the verb already ends with a already:

Je zit op de stoel (you are sitting on the chair.)

Zit je op de stoel? (Are you sitting on the chair?)

BUT this rule does not apply to u:

Loopt u op het strand? (Do you (formal) walk on the beach?)

U loopt op het strand. (You (formal) walk on the beach.)

 

But what about willen?

You will see things like:

Je wilt op het strand lopen. (you want to walk on the beach.)

Je wil op het strand lopen. (you want to walk on the beach).

 

They mean the same!

So what is correct?

Well… Both are.

Je wilt or u wilt is a more formal form, je wil is a rather informal form.

So you would really not want to see u wil, as this is not formal, even though you would only address somebody withif you would like to be formal. With je, both je wil and je wilt are fine. Even though je wilt is technically more correct. And less confusing. So I recommend you use je wilt!

In Belgium, both wil and wilt are considered formal and informal. So that distinction does not count for our Flemish neighbors.

Kunnen & zullen

For the verbs kunnen (can) and zullen (will), these issues exist as well:

Je kan op het strand lopen. (You can walk on the beach.)

Je kunt op het strand lopen. (You can walk on the beach.)

Je zal op het strand lopen! (You will walk on the beach!)

je zult op het strand lopen! (You will walk on the beach.)

Zal and kan are more informal, zult and kunt are more formal. In Belgium, again, both are possible in formal situations.

What do you think? What form do you prefer, what form do you mostly use? I usually just stick with wilt, but that is just me! Let me know in the comments below.

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, and I am half Dutch and half German. I was on exchange in the United States, and I really enjoyed that year! So in that sense, I kind of have three nationalities... I love all of them!


Comments:

  1. Ann McCloskey:

    I prefer wilt, probably because I learned it that way when on student exchange in NL in 1972. I don’t think wil after je was an option back then. Lots of things (including language) were more formal in Europe at that time.

  2. Tainá:

    Eu prefiro continuar de maneira formal haha, é mais fácil aprender o errado e continuar no erro, então que eu aprenda a forma gramaticalmente correta “wilt”