Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Do you speak some Dutch already? Gefeliciteerd, congratulations! You are on the right track! There is just one thing…. How do you know that what you say in Dutch is actually correct? Chances are high that you say certain things that you do not want to say.

There are at least seven popular mistakes in Dutch, and chances are high that you make at least one of them. So, just for fun, would you like to know what these seven typical mistakes are? You might be smarter than you think, and… it is always good to learn something new, right?

a hand holding a sign that says Common Mistakes

1. Why would you already leave right now?

How does this sentence look to you? Ik woon voor twee jaar in Nederland. There is nothing wrong with it, right?

Well… it depends on how you look at it. This mistake is very tricky, and almost everyone walks into this trap. Yes… in English, you say voor 2 years, but…. If you say voor 2 jaar in Dutch, it has a different meaning. It means that now, the maximum amount of time you’ll stay in Holland is 2 years and that after 2 years you will go somewhere else.

If, for any reason, you would like to stay longer than 2 years, then simply do not add voor. Say: ik woon 2 jaar in Nederland. Also, if you like, you can add the word al… Ik woon al 2 jaar in Nederland. Al means that you started something in the past that you are still doing today…. In English, you might say: I have been living in the Netherlands for 2 years…

Al means already in Dutch… You can say, for example, ik heb al koffie (I already have coffee). If you listen to Dutch people who speak English, they may often say things like I have already done this work for 2 years. Now you know why What they really mean is: I have been doing this work for 2 years. What they often say is a literal translation of ik doe dit werk al 2 jaar….

a close up of a return key on the computer

2. Why do you return so soon?

Have you already learned the word straks? It means later. Tot straks & tot later can mean the same thing, but… there is a catch…

Straks means shortly or in a short while, and although the meaning may depend on context, it often means really soon. For example, if you leave your office at 16:55 and you say tot straks, then Dutch people could understand that you’ll come back the same day….

If you have no plans to return to your work, it is also better to say: tot later, or even better: tot morgen, tot maandag!

Here is another important thing… you can never use straks in the past. In English, you could say: first I had a coffee and later a beer…. In Dutch you would never say: ik had eerst koffie en straks een biertje… you can only use later then… ik had eerst koffie en later een biertje….

Dutch Christmas hamper

3. Are you food?

Of all the mistakes in Dutch you can make, this is the worst one, and the sooner you can eradicate it, the better for your Dutch. If you say Ik ben eten, it does not mean I am eating. Ik ben eten means I am food. Period.

The same thing would be true if you say: ik ben drinken. Are you a drink now? It definitively does not mean I am drinking…

If you are quite smart you may have seen sentences like: ik ben aan het eten & ik ben aan het drinken. This is indeed the correct translation of I am eating & I am drinking. The only thing is that this -ing form in English is much more frequent than aan het bla bla bla

If you say all the time, aan het etenaan het drinken, etc., then you’ll overuse this construction, and your Dutch will not sound natural anymore. Dutch people may use it now and then, but much less than in English.

Here is something that can help you improve your Dutch quickly. If you want to say: I am eating, just think instead I eat and then say in Dutch ik eet. If you like to say: I am drinking, then turn it into I drink, and then you can say ik drink.

So here are some great sentences… ik eet een stroopwafel en ik drink koffie. Please, do not say Ik ben eten eenstroopwafel & ik ben drinken koffie. Once again, this is the worst of all the Dutch mistakes, so the sooner you eradicate it from your system, the better it is.

Wood cube with male equals female symbol against blue background

4. Thou shalt not misgender people

Knowing which pronoun to use certain pronouns can be a social minefield, certainly in the USA sometimes. But… surprise, surprise, there is something in Dutch that makes life a lot easier….

Yes, we do have the words meneer (Mr) en mevrouw (Madame), but… you do not have to use these words at all. You can simply say: wat wil u drinken? and then you do not have to add meneer or mevrouw.

Yes, a waiter might assume your gender now and then, but once again, you do not have to use the words meneer en mevrouw all the time. You can simply say welkom! If you say welkom meneer or welkom mevrouw, then somehow, it could sound strange to Dutch ears. Yes, you may say, Welcome Sir, welcome Madame, or Welcome Lady in English, but sentences like welkom, wat kan ik voor u doen (what can I do for you) are already polite enough…

The only tricky thing is when you want to say words like her and his. Her is haar – quite easy – and zijn is his. Certainly, if you speak a language like French, Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese, chances are high that you will make this mistake now and then. You might say: mijn man eet met haar vork (my husband eats with her spoon, but then chances are high that your husband will not like it

Here is another tricky thing… Zij means she, but… zijn is his! Haar is her in Dutch; once again, it is very close to English!

The good thing about this mistake is that it mainly happens when you do not speak to people directly. It is always about people in the 3 person, hij (he) or zij (she), but… it can create a lot of confusion if you first share that you have a husband and then continue with her (haar in Dutch). Chances are high that Dutch people start to laugh – I would – and if this happens, then now you know why

A woman wanting donuts

5. Yes, you may want many things, but it does not mean you can have it!

How would you interpret this sentence? Ik wil de 1miljoen prijs in de loterij winnen. Would you think it means: I will win € 1000.000 in the lottery? Then, unfortunately, there is bad news for you… you are too optimistic! Wil in Dutch means that you want something. It does not guarantee a certain future….

Wil in Dutch means that you want something, so here are some other examples: ik wil mooi weer (I want beautiful weather), ik wil een ideale partner & ik wil liefde (I want love). You want something, and probably it is missing right now….

You can also say: ik wil relaxen (I want to relax), ik wil slapen (I want to sleep).

So, what do you need to do if you want to talk in the future? In English, you can say: I will take a beer… The easiest thing that you can do is that you just keep it in the present tense. Ik neem een biertje! When you use this form of the present tense, you are absolutely sure it will happen. It is as if, in your mind, it has already been done….

a mother and daughter sitting in the living room and are very warm

6. Do you really think that you are that irresistible?

What would you say if your body temperature is high? In English, you can say: I am hot, but be careful in Dutch. If you translate this to literally in Dutch, it means something else, although it is a message you might still want to spread now and then…

Ik ben heet means I am very good-looking, I look very attractive, and I am very sensual and erotic. And.. it could also mean: I want to reproduce right now, and nothing can stop me!

If you like to talk about your temperature, then the construction is different. Literally, you need to say: I have it hot, ik heb het heet. When you say: Ik heb het heet, everyone in the room knows you are only talking about one specific thing…

With the word warm, there is nothing to fear. You can say: ik ben warm, but then it simply means you have a warm personality. But… always be careful with heet!

a blindfolded woman walking on a broken log

7. The biggest and most fatal mistake of all

Here is the biggest and most fatal mistake of all the mistakes that you could ever commit. Let’s start with a simple question: how many mistakes did you already make? Did you learn something new while reading this article?

You might proudly say that you did not make any of these mistakes at all, but… this is not necessarily good news. It is not always a good moment to congratulate you…. There is one important thing to consider… Why did you not make any of these mistakes? If your answer is: I did not make any mistake because I have not spoken any Dutch at all, then you do not deserve a compliment, only a serious warning….

Yes…. This may sound like a rant from Dr Phil now, but… it is the truth…. Learning and speaking Dutch is all about making mistakes and having outrageous fun with it. The more mistakes you make, the more you can laugh about them, and the sooner you’ll master Dutch for real.

Which mistakes have you already made? Is there a certain popular mistake in Dutch we should include on the list? Please share your thoughts here!

When you are ready to go one step further, check out the Dutch Brainwash. This masterclass is a tried-and-true program that has the power to revolutionize your Dutch. Aside from tripling your vocabulary in minutes, the Dutch Brainwash has some unique claims to fame. This course is designed to be tailored to the individual desires of its students. Meaning, you won’t be learning tired phrases from your textbook written in 2003 about where to buy a CD-ROM. The seven-day intensive course allows you to create your own sentences about anything you please.


By Lala