Dutch Language Blog

Word Order in Main Clauses Continued Posted by on Feb 8, 2011 in Dutch Grammar, Dutch Language, Dutch Vocabulary

Last week I wrote about word order in main clauses. As a quick review, the key points I mentioned were:

  • that the main verb goes in the second position
  • except when the subject is not the first part of the sentence, when making a yes/no question or when the sentence is in the command form
  • the other sentence parts follow the “time, manner, place” order
  • when there is more than one verb, you should use the tongs construction

Sticking with main clauses, there are two further points we need to cover.


Conjunctions link clauses together. Four conjunctions that link a main clause with another main clause are:

  • en = and
  • maar = but
  • want = because
  • of = or

These conjunctions are important to remember because the main clauses that they link should follow the word order rules for main clauses that we have already covered.  An example:

Jan werkt vandaag in de tuin en hij gaat morgen naar de markt. (Jan is working in the garden today, and he is going to the market tomorrow.)

Placement of Direct and Indirect Objects

In sentences with transitive verbs (verbs that can have a direct object), the indirect object (the one to whom something happens) is placed before the direct object (a noun or pronoun that receives the action of a verb or shows the result of the action).

Erik geeft Sanne een bos bloemen. (Erik gives Sanne a bunch of flowers.)

Sanne = indirect object
een bos bloemen = direct object

If a pronoun was exchanged for Sanne, the word order would remain the same.

Erik geeft haar een bos bloemen.

However, if the direct object is reduced to het, the direct object proceeds the indirect object.

Erik geeft haar de bos bloemen. would become Erik geeft het haar.

When the indirect object is preceded by a preposition, it can follow the direct object. This is preferred in speech.

Erik geeft een bos bloemen aan Sanne.


  • Go on a search for sentences that contain the conjunctions en, maar, want or of and review the word order of each of the main clauses that the conjunction links together.
  • Using what you have learned about word order in main clauses, try and make some Dutch sentences yourself that follow the rules.
  • Put the words in the correct order. Start each sentence with the subject:
  1. met Jan/Johan/naar de bioscoop/vandaag/gaat
  2. zin/een kop tee/heeft/om/Sanne/te drinken
  3. om twaalf uur/zijn/bij de kapper/Jaap/moet
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