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Dutch Word Order Guide: Master the Dutch Sentence Structure

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Do you ever struggle with the formulation of Dutch sentences? You have all the tools you need to form a sentence: You know what you want to say, and you know the words to use. However, at the moment of truth, you just can’t find a way to fit them all together.

This can be very frustrating. You’ve made some great progress learning Dutch vocabulary. You’re also starting to understand Dutch verbs and tenses more and more. But in Dutch grammar, word order is essential in putting this knowledge into practice. So, how do you form a Dutch sentence?

Help is near. Master this skill with this Dutch word order guide from DutchPod101.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Dutch Table of Contents
  1. Subject + Verb
  2. Adding an Object
  3. Adding a Complement
  4. Adding a Verb at the End of a Sentence
  5. Another Conjugation: The Imperative
  6. Making Questions
  7. How DutchPod101 Can Help You Learn More Dutch

1. Subject + Verb

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In this guide, we’ll mostly talk about the most common type of sentence: declaratives. You make a declarative sentence when you make a statement. It’s not used to give orders or to ask questions (however, we will discuss interrogative sentences later on in this guide). 

Let’s start with the most basic sentence in Dutch, consisting of only a subject and a verb:

Subject + Verb

  • Ik praat. (“I talk.”)
  • De jongen verft. (“The boy paints.”)

Contrary to languages like Spanish or Italian, the subject is almost never dropped in Dutch. A Dutch sentence structure is not complete without the subject.

2. Adding an Object

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The (direct) object in Dutch is called lijdend voorwerp, which translates to “leading entity/object.” In Dutch language word order, it normally comes right after the verb.

Subject + Verb + (Direct) Object

  • Ik praat met mijn vader. (“I talk to my father.”)
  • De jongen verft de deur. (“The boy paints the door.”)

The object can be direct or indirect. In the above examples, the object is direct. However, you can also add an indirect object after the direct object.

Subject + Verb + Direct object + Indirect object 

  • Ik praat met mijn vader over ons huis. (“I talk to my father about our home.”)
  • De jongen verft de deur met verf. (“The boy paints the door with paint.”)

A direct object is a noun or pronoun that’s directly affected by the actions of the subject. An indirect object is a person or thing that’s involved in the actions in some way.

3. Adding a Complement

Okay, let’s make it a bit more complicated. Let’s advance and add a complement to the sentence. A complement can be, for example, an adjective or an adverb.

Your Brain Notices That It’s Getting More Difficult

1- Adding Adjectives

Adjectives describe nouns, giving extra information about them. They provide details and make the noun more interesting. So where should you place them in a sentence?

Most Dutch adjectives go BEFORE the noun they describe.

  • Mijn lieve vader (“My sweet father”)
  • De gele deur (“The yellow door”)

So when we add the adjective to the sentence, it looks like this:

Subject + Verb + Adjective + Direct object + Adjective + Indirect object 

  • Ik praat met mijn lieve vader over ons mooie huis. (“I talk to my sweet father about our beautiful home.”)
  • De jongen verft de gele deur met zwarte verf. (“The boy paints the yellow door with black paint.”)

As you can see, the adjectives are placed right before the nouns they describe. 

2- Adding Adverbs

Adverbs modify the meaning of verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, or make their meaning more precise. Thus, they describe verbs, adjectives, or adverbs.

In Dutch word order, adverbs that modify a verb usually come AFTER that verb:

Subject + Verb + Adverb

  • Ik praat veel. (“I talk a lot.”)

If the adverb influences another adverb, the sentence would be: 

Subject + Verb + Adverb + Adverb

  • Ik praat altijd veel. (“I always talk a lot.”)

And if the adverb modifies an adjective, the Dutch sentence structure would be:

Subject + Verb + Adverb + Adjective + Direct object

  • Ik praat met mijn zeer lieve vader. (“I talk to my very sweet father.”)

So, as you can see, if the adverb modifies an adverb or adjective, it usually comes AFTER the verb and BEFORE the adverb or adjective.


There are different kinds of adverbs, from adverbs describing time, frequency, place, manner, or degree, to those that help you connect your thoughts

Do you want to use more than one adverb in a sentence? Then the following Dutch adverb placement is common:

Time-Manner-Place

Let’s have a look at these three specific types of adverbs, and place them in the sentences we’ve been using:

  • Ik praat vandaag rustig in de tuin. (“I talk today quietly in the garden.”)
  • De jongen verft al uren aandachtig thuis. (“The boy has been painting at home carefully for hours.”)

Let’s make it even more complicated:

Subject + Verb + Adverb of time + Adverb of manner + Adverb of place + Adjective + Direct object + Adjective + Indirect object 

  • Ik praat vandaag rustig in de tuin met mijn lieve vader over ons mooie huis. (“I talk today quietly in the garden with my dear father about our beautiful house.”)
  • De jongen verft al uren aandachtig thuis de gele deur met zwarte verf. (“The boy has been carefully painting the yellow door with black paint for hours at home.”)
    → Do you see how the Dutch sentence order differs from that in English? Have a look at the previous examples and compare the different structures. This will make a great addition to your Dutch word order exercises!

However, it’s also possible to place the time and place adverbs at the beginning of the sentence. This is generally done to put emphasis on these adverbs:

  • Vandaag praat ik rustig in de tuin met mijn lieve vader over ons mooie huis. (“Today, I talk today quietly in the garden with my dear father about our beautiful house.”)
  • In het huis verft de jongen al uren aandachtig de gele deur met zwarte verf. (“In the house, the boy has been painting the yellow door carefully with black paint for hours.”)

Did you notice that, in this case, the verb comes BEFORE the subject? Be sure to make a note of this difference for your future reference. 

Okay, these sentences are getting a bit crazy with all the adverbs, adjectives, and objects. Luckily, sentences don’t have to be this complicated. You can just use a subject, verb, object, and maybe one adjective or adverb to get into more detail. It’s better to keep it simple when you start learning a language.

4. Adding a Verb at the End of a Sentence

A Girl Studying and Laughing

Regarding the conjugation of verbs, Dutch is quite a strange language. Did you know it’s possible to add a verb at the end of a sentence? You can’t do this with all Dutch conjugations, but in the present perfect, past perfect, future simple, future perfect, conditional, and conditional perfect, verbs may be added to the end of a sentence.

Let’s have a look at the eight Dutch tenses:

The eight tenses of the regular verb praten (“to talk”)
1. Onvoltooid tegenwoordige tijd (“Present Simple”)Describes something that is happening nowIk praat“I talk”
2. Onvoltooid verleden tijd (“Past Simple”)Describes a situation that happened in the pastIk praatte“I talked”
3. Voltooid tegenwoordige tijd (“Present Perfect”)Describes something that happened in the past and has already endedIk heb gepraat“I have talked”
4. Voltooid verleden tijd (“Past Perfect”)Describes an action or event that happened in the past and ended in the pastIk had gepraat“I had talked”
5. Onvoltooid tegenwoordige toekomende tijd (“Future Simple”)Talks about something that will happen in the futureIk zal praten“I will talk”
6. Voltooid tegenwoordige toekomende tijd (“Future Perfect”)Describes an action that will have been completed before another action in the futureIk zal hebben gepraat“I will have talked”
7. Onvoltooid verleden toekomende tijd (“Conditional”)Used in a “what if” scenario, used to speculate about somethingIk zou praten“I would talk”
8. Voltooid verleden toekomende tijd (“Conditional Perfect”)Describes a future hypothetical situation in the pastIk zou hebben gepraat“I would have talked”

So how does it work with the other components of the Dutch sentence structure?

Here’s an example for all six of the Dutch tenses that can make sentences end with a verb:

  • Present perfect: De jongen heeft in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf geverfd. (“The boy has painted the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)
  • Past perfect: De jongen had in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf geverfd. (“The boy had painted the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)
  • Future simple: De jongen zal in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf verven. (“The boy will paint the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)
  • Future perfect: De jongen zal in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf hebben geverfd. (“The boy will have painted the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)
  • Conditional: De jongen zou in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf verven. (“The boy would paint the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)
  • Conditional perfect: De jongen zou in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf hebben geverfd. (“The boy would have painted the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)

As you can see, the Dutch sentence structure for these tenses will be:

Subject + Working verb + Adverb + Adjective + Direct object + Adjective + Indirect object + Other verb

Do you think this Dutch sentence word order is very complicated? Then make sentences with less components. For example:

  • De jongen heeft urenlang de deur geverfd. (“The boy has painted the door for hours.”)
  • Ik zou rustig in de tuin met mijn vader hebben gepraat. (“I would have talked quietly with my father in the garden.”) 
    → Try to think of easy sentences like this that you can use. 
    → Do you want to make a negative sentence that ends with a verb? The word niet (“not”) comes AFTER the working verb.

5. Another Conjugation: The Imperative

The imperative (in Dutch: de gebiedende wijs) is used for commands, orders, and suggestions. Similar to English, there’s no subject in this conjugation, and the sentences usually start with the verb.

A Woman Ordering Her Colleague To Do Something

For example:

  • Verf de deur groen. (“Paint the door green.”)
  • Praat rustig met je vader. (“Talk quietly with your father.”) 

Let’s have a look at the imperative word order in Dutch. These examples show two different word orders:

Verb + Direct object + Adverb

Or

Verb + Adverb + Direct object

These different word orders are caused by the fact that the first adverb is connected to the object (de deur, meaning “the door”), while the second adverb is related to the verb (praten, meaning “to talk”).

As you can notice, these sentences are often shorter than descriptive sentences. But of course, you can also add several adverbs, adjectives, or an indirect object.

Verb + Adverb + (Adjective) + Direct object + (Adverb) + (Indirect object)

For example:

  • Verf nu die lelijke deur groen. (“Now paint this ugly door green.”)
  • Praat rustig met je vader door de telefoon. (“Talk quietly with your father on the phone.”) 
  • In the imperative mode, the word niet (“not”) also comes AFTER the verb when making negative sentences.

6. Making Questions

To make a question, turn the verb and subject of a statement around. 

Verb + Subject + Adverb + (Adjective) + Direct object + (Adjective) + (Indirect object)

For example: 

  • Verf je morgen die lelijke deur groen? (“Will you paint that ugly door green tomorrow?”)
  • Praat hij graag met zijn vader door de telefoon? (“Does he like to talk to his father on the phone?”) 
    → In questions, the word niet (“not”) comes AFTER the subject and verb. For example: Praat hij niet graag met zijn vader? (“Doesn’t he like to talk to his father?”)
    → Try to make your own questions as part of your Dutch word order exercises. What Dutch questions can you think of?
Different Question Words in English

Another way to make questions is through question words:

  • Wie (“Who”): Wie verft de deur? (“Who paints the door?”)
  • Waar (“Where”): Waar verf je de deur? (“Where do you paint the door?”)
  • Wanneer (“When”): Wanneer verf je de deur? (“When do you paint the door?”)
  • Hoe (“How”): Hoe verf je de deur? (“How do you paint the door?”)
  • Waarom (“Why”): Waarom verf je de deur? (“Why do you paint the door?”)
  • Wat (“What”): Wat doe je met de deur? (“What do you do with the door?”)

As you can see, the Dutch word order with question words is:

Query word Verb + Subject + Direct object

The wie (“who”) question word is an exception, as there’s no subject mentioned.

7. How DutchPod101 Can Help You Learn More Dutch

In this guide, you’ve learned the ins and outs of the word order in Dutch sentences. You now know all about the Dutch sentence structure.

Do you feel ready to put all of this knowledge into practice? Or would you like to do more Dutch word order exercises?

Make sure to discover everything that DutchPod101.com has to offer, such as the multiple vocabulary lists with audio recordings and other useful free resources. Learn some new words and put them into practice to form your own Dutch sentences.

Would you like a private teacher? DutchPod101 also has the MyTeacher Premium PLUS service. Here, you can get private one-on-one classes about Dutch word order and other crucial language features, with personalized feedback, interactive assignments, and professional advice. 

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