Search my site: 'Like' the Dutch Website on Facebook
- New Page: December 2014
revised October 2016

Disambiguation: Dutch 'Er' - Multiple Meanings and Related Words

Disambiguation: Many common Dutch words have more than one meaning.

Disambiguation Home - 'Al' - 'Als' - 'Daar' - 'Dan' - 'Dat' - 'Door' - 'Eens' - 'Er' - 'Erg' - 'Even' - 'Haast' - 'Het' - 'Laat' - 'Maar' - 'Net' - 'Nog' - 'Of' - 'Om' - 'Over' - 'Toen' - 'Van' - 'Voor' - 'Vroeg' - 'Waar' - 'Wat' - 'Zo' - more

Er

click to hear /or/ click to hear
  1. a less specific 'there' - "We're almost there"
  2. there is / there are ... - pointing out something, stating a fact - "There are no mountains in Holland"
  3. (with preposition) placeholder 'it' - "I didn't think of it"
  4. a somewhat meaningless, hard-to-translate interjection -

In the 'there' and 'it' meanings, 'Er' is a less specific, less pointed 'daar' click to hear ('there') and 'dat' click to hear ('that') - see also 'daar' and 'dat' disambiguation pages.
English 'there is' / 'there are' mean the same as Dutch 'er is' click to hear 2 / 'er zijn' click to hear 2 and they are used in the same contexts; likewise, English 'it is' is equivalent to Dutch 'het is' click to hear but it may not be that simple in other languages. I think 'there is / there are' is used in statements about presence or existence, while 'it is' is used in more general 'abstract' statements ('It's raining.')
I noticed one of my students often said things like "Ik denk aan het." - It made me realize that in Dutch we say 'er' for that 'it' - when a preposition is involved. It's an important difference between Dutch and English.
I have to admit the divisions between the categories in this entry are fluid.

1. 'er' = 'there,' 'around' - in this/that place

We zijn er bijna click to hear 2 We're almost there
We zijn er click to hear 2 3 [We are 'there'] We have arrived at our (travel) destination
Ik ben er niet bekend click to hear 2 3 I'm not familiar with that area, I don't know my way around there
Begrijp je echt wat er staat? click to hear 2 Do you really understand what is written there, "what it says"
Ik ben er weer! click to hear 2 3 [I'm here again] - I'm back
Als ik er niet ben ... click to hear If I'm not here, in case that I'm not present ...
Als ik er niet meer ben ... click to hear 2 3 When I'm no longer around, when I'm gone (dead) ...

Synomyms, Alternates and Related Words

hier en daar click to hear here and there
De uitgang is daar click to hear The exit is (over) there
Dat huis daar click to hear That house (over) there

2. 'er is / er zijn' = 'there is / there are' - introducing statements

Er is beneden ook een slaapkamer click to hear There's also a bedroom downstairs
Er is boven een atelier click to hear 2 There's an artist's studio upstairs
Er is een koude wind click to hear 2 There's a cold wind
Is er genoeg brood? click to hear 2 3 Is there enough bread?
Er is genoeg eten click to hear 2 3 There is enough food
Er is genoeg tijd click to hear There is enough time
Er is iemand aan de deur click to hear There is someone at the door
Er is iets mis click to hear 2 3 There's something wrong
Er is nog veel papier click to hear 2 There is still a lot of paper
Er is geen reden tot paniek click to hear 2 3 There is no reason for to? panic
Er is geen enkel bewijs click to hear 2 There is [not any] not a shred of evidence
Ik zag op het nieuws dat er geen oplossing gevonden is click to hear I saw on the news that no solution has been found
Ik wou dat er een betere manier was click to hear I wish there was a better way (to do something)
Er zijn geen bergen in Nederland click to hear There are no mountains in Holland
Er zijn binnenkort verkiezingen click to hear 2 There will be elections soon
Er zijn weinig getuigen click to hear There are few witnesses
Er zijn mensen die zeggen dat ... click to hear 2 There are people who say that ...
Stel je voor dat er geen auto's waren! click to hear 2 Imagine that there were no cars!
Stel je voor dat er geen auto's zouden zijn! click to hear 2 Imagine that there would be no cars!
Alsof er geen grotere problemen in de wereld zijn click to hear As if there are no bigger problems in the world
Er waren veel klachten click to hear There were many complaints
Er komt onweer click to hear There's a storm coming, there will be a thunderstorm
Er wordt gebeld click to hear 2 ['There is a ringing'] - the doorbell is rung
Er werd veel gesproken over vrijheid click to hear 2 There was much [talking done] talk about freedom
Er stonden een paar mensen in de rij voor het loket click to hear There [stood] were a few people in line at the counter
Er moet nog hard gewerkt worden click to hear There still needs to be done (a lot of) hard work, It still needs a lot of hard work
Er zou veel schade zijn click to hear It was said there was great damage
Er zouden geen overlevenden zijn click to hear 2 Unconfirmed reports said there were no survivors
(In the last two lines, zou click to hear 2 and zouden, the 'past tense' of the verb for the future tense zullen click to hear indicate uncertainty in the statement - more)

3. 'er' (with preposition) = 'it'

English 'it' can be a 'placeholder' - indicating something implied or mentioned before. It is often translated as 'het' click to hear 2 3 or the shortened " 't " click to hear - >> But when 'it' is combined with a preposition Dutch says 'er' and not 'het.' The preposition may form one word with 'er' but doesn't have to.
Dutch and English may leave out the 'er'/'it' - in different sentences
The correct use of the prepositions is one of the great problems of learning a foreign language. You might want to look at my page on the basic meaning of the Dutch prepositions.

AAN click to hear (in these examples) about; to; of
Je moet er wat aan doen click to hear 2 3 4 You should do something about it
Er is toch niks aan te doen click to hear 2 3 Nothing can be done about it anyway
Ik kan er niks aan doen click to hear [I can't do anything about it] - I can't help it /or/ It's not my fault
Ik moet er niet aan denken click to hear 2 I try not to think about it, I don't want to think about it
Ik denk er vaak aan click to hear 2 3 I often think of it
Ik vind er niks aan click to hear ['I find nothing in it'] - I don't like it (it's not interesting)
Er komt geen eind aan click to hear 2 There is no end to it (it goes on and on)
Je kunt er geen touw aan vastknopen click to hear 2 'You cannot attach a rope to it' - it's unintelligible - Sayings
Je hebt er een hoop werk aan click to hear 2 3 ['You have a lot of work on? it'] - It's a lot of work for you
Er zit een luchtje aan click to hear 2 ['There's a funny smell to it'] - It's suspicious - Sayings
Denk eraan dat de zomertijd dit weekend ingaat click to hear [Think of it] Keep in mind, don't forget that the Daylight Saving Time starts this weekend
Ben je eraan gehecht? click to hear 2 Are you attached to it? Is it (an object) important to you?

ACHTER click to hear (in these examples) behind
't huis erachter click to hear 2 the house behind it

BOVEN click to hear 2 (in these examples) above, over
de laag erboven click to hear 2 the layer above, the layer on top if it

BIJ click to hear (in these examples) to; at; in; close by
Ik kan er niet bij click to hear 2 3 [I cannot reach to it] It's beyond me
Hou je hoofd erbij click to hear 2 3 4 Keep your head at it - pay attention, stay focused
Een ei hoort erbij click to hear An egg belongs to it, should go with it (advertising slogan)
't Past er goed bij click to hear 2 It fits in well, goes together well (said of food, clothes or furniture)
Er is haast bij click to hear 2 3 4 [There is urgency to it] - It's urgent
Ik stond erbij en ik keek ernaar click to hear 2 3 I was standing close by (it) and I was looking at it

IN click to hear 2 (in these examples) in
Geloof jij erin? click to hear 2 3 Do you believe (in) it?
Ik heb er zin in click to hear 2 I feel like it, I'm looking forward to it

MEE click to hear (in these examples) about, with
Als 't niet vanzelf overgaat, ga ik ermee naar de dokter click to hear It it doesn't go away by itself, I'll go see a doctor about it
Hou er onmiddelijk mee op! click to hear 2 3 Stop it right away!
Je bent er maar druk mee click to hear 2 3 You are rather busy with it, It keeps you busy, it takes a lot of your time
Ik wil er niks mee te maken hebben click to hear 2 3 I don't want to have anything to do with it, I don't want to be involved in it
Veel succes ermee click to hear 2 4 Good luck with it
Hoe is 't ermee? click to hear [How is it with you?] - How are you?
Weg ermee! click to hear 2 Away with it! Out with it! Throw it out!

NA click to hear (in these examples) after
het boek erna click to hear 2 The book after it, the next book

NAAR click to hear (in these examples) at, for
Kijk er eens goed naar click to hear 2 3 Look sharp at it, take a moment to inspect it closely
Hij gooit er met de pet naar click to hear 2 3 'He is throwing his cap at it' - he doesn't make a serious effort - Sayings
Hij had er wel oren naar click to hear 2 3 'He sure had ears for it' - he'd like to join in (an activity) - Sayings

NAAST click to hear 2 (in these examples) next to
de auto ernaast click to hear 2 the car next to it

OM click to hear (in these examples) around
Je kunt er niet omheen click to hear 2 3 ['You can't pass around it'] You can't ignore it, you'll have to deal withit

ONDER click to hear (in these examples) below, under
de verdieping eronder click to hear 2 the floor below it

OP click to hear (in these examples) of (out) on
Ik ben er trots op click to hear 2 3 I'm proud of it
Ik heb je er al vaak op gewezen click to hear 2 3 4 I've pointed it out to you many times already
Je kunt erop rekenen click to hear 2 You can count on it
Doe er een postzegel op click to hear 2 3 Put a (mail) stamp on it

OVER click to hear 2 (in these examples) about, on, over
Ik wil er nog even over nadenken click to hear 2 3 I would like to think about it for a little while longer
Hij dacht er niet lang over na click to hear 2 3 4 He didn't take long to think about it
Hij heeft er niet lang over nagedacht click to hear 2 He has not taken long to think about it
Hij heeft 't er vaak over click to hear 2 3 He often talks about it
Ik heb er niet goed over nagedacht click to hear 2 3 4 I didn't think it out well
Ik wil er nog een nachtje over slapen click to hear 2 I would like to sleep on it (take decision tomorrow)
Hij laat er geen gras over groeien click to hear 2 3 He doesn't let grass grow over it - taking quick action
Er zijn weinig boeken over click to hear There are (only a) few books about it *
Automatisch, zonder erover na te denken click to hear 2 Automatically, without thinking (about it)
Ben je er overheen? click to hear 2 Did you get over that? (Have you recovered? Is it no longer a problem?)

TEGEN click to hear (in these examples) against
Ik kan er niet meer tegen click to hear 2 3 I can't stand (against, up to) it anymore
Er is geen enkel bezwaar tegen click to hear 2 There is not any objection against it (go ahead)

TEGENOVER click to hear (in these examples) opposite, across
't huis ertegenover click to hear 2 3 4 The house opposite it, on the other side of the street
't huis schuin ertegenover click to hear 2 The house diagonally across

TUSSEN click to hear (in these examples) between, among
't huis ertussenin click to hear 2 3 the house in between (them)

VAN click to hear 2 (in these examples) of, about, from
Ik werd er ziek van click to hear 2 I got sick of it, it made me ill (literally or figuratively)
Ik word er ziek van click to hear 2 I get sick of it, it makes me ill (literally or figuratively)
Ik word er doodmoe van click to hear 2 I get dead-tired of it
Ik krijg er hoofdpijn van click to hear 2 [I get a headache from it] It gives me a headache
Ik krijg er last van click to hear 2 3 It's going to bother me, it will make me sick
Ik word er misselijk van click to hear 2 3 4 [I become nauseous of it] It makes me nauseous, it gives me nausea
Je zult er geen spijt van krijgen click to hear 2 You won't regret it
Ik weet ervan click to hear 2 I know about it, I'm familiar with the situation
Ik weet er alles van click to hear 2 I know all (everything) about it (usually not a boast about great learning but indicating you're familiar with an unpleasant situation)
Ik weet er niks van click to hear 2 I know nothing about it
Er is mij niets van bekend click to hear 2 [Nothing is known to me about it] - I know nothing about it
Hij weet er meer van click to hear 2 He knows more about it
Ik werd er helemaal naar van click to hear It made me feel horrible (an event or fear made me feel sick)
Hij lust er wel pap van click to hear 2 [He would like porridge of it] - He likes it very much - Sayings
Je merkt er niks van click to hear 2 3 You won't notice (it)
Ik word er gek van click to hear [I'm being driven crazy by it] - It is driving me crazy
Ik geloof er niks van click to hear 2 3 [I believe nothing of it] - I don't believe a word of it
Wat heb je ervan geleerd? click to hear 2 3 What have you learned from it? What did it teach you?
Komt er nog wat van? click to hear 2 [Is something coming about?] - Is something happening, is there any progress - get busy!
Ik krijg er genoeg van click to hear 2 [I'm getting enough of it] - I'm getting tired of it

VOOR click to hear 2 (in these examples) for, before
Ik heb er geen tijd voor click to hear 2 Ik don't have time for it
Er is geen tijd voor click to hear 2 There is no time for it
Er is geen plaats voor click to hear 2 3 There is no room for it
Er is geen goede reden voor click to hear 2 3 There is no [good] valid reason for it
Er was weinig animo voor click to hear 2 3 There was little enthusiasm for it (to get involved)
Is er geen Nederlands woord voor? click to hear 2 3 Is there no Dutch word for it?
Ik heb er geen woorden voor click to hear 2 3 I have no words for it, I'm speechless from emotion
de sonate ervoor click to hear 2 the sonata before, the earlier sonata

When one word ends with a vowel and the next word starts with a vowel, Dutchmen sometimes insert a D between those vowels for ease of pronunciation. Inserting a letter takes less effort than a 'vocal stop.'
With 'er' this results in " d'r " click to hear 2 3 - note the vowel changing from 'short E' click to hear to 'voiceless, unstressed E (schwa)' click to hear
In this section, like elsewhere on the website, I'm showing the common speech " d'r " - but usually it is written as 'er.'

Ik trek me er niks van aan click to hear 2 I'm not bothered by it, I don't care
Ik trek me d'r niks van aan click to hear 2 3 I'm not bothered by it, I don't care
Wat heb je eraan? click to hear 2 3 [What do you have of it] - What's the use (of it) (to you)?
Wat heb je d'r aan? click to hear 2 [What do you have of it] - What's the use (of it) (to you)?
Wat zegt U ervan? click to hear 2 What do you say (of/about it)? (polite, formal 'you')
Wat zegt U d'rvan? click to hear 2 3 4 What do you say (of/about it)? (polite, formal 'you')
Wat zeg jij d'r van? click to hear 2 3 What do you say (of it)? (informal 'you')
Wat denk jij d'r van? click to hear 2 What do you think (of it)?
Neem je d'r iets voor? click to hear 2 Do you take something for (against) it? (medication)
Ik hoop dat je d'r tijd voor hebt click to hear 2 3 4 I hope you'll have time for it
Heb je d'r wat van geleerd? click to hear 2 What have you learned of it? What did it teach you?
Heb je d'r last van? click to hear 2 3 Does it bother you?
Heb je d'r wat aan? click to hear 2 Is it of (any) use to you?
De stekker d'r uit trekken click to hear 2 Pulling the plug (from it) - make an end to it
Ik kan me d'r zo kwaad over maken click to hear 2 I get so angered by it, it makes me very angry
Je kunt je d'r geen buil aan 'vallen click to hear It won't hurt you (it's a small payment) - Sayings
Hoe kom je d'r bij! click to hear 2 [How did you reach that conclusion?] - What you're saying is outrageous
Tasje d'r bij? click to hear 2 3 4 5 (Would you like) a bag with it? (cashier asking)
Weg d'r mee! click to hear 2 3 Away with it! Throw it out!
Similar to this 'er' (and "d'r") for placeholder 'it' with a preposition, Dutch has 'daar' for 'that' and 'waar' for 'what' placeholders with prepositions. See also common problems

4. 'Er' as a 'pragmatic marker'

'Er' can also be a somewhat meaningless, hard-to-translate interjection. Words like that are sometimes called 'pragmatic markers' - in some phrases they can be left out, but often not. Dutch looks a bit bare without them.
Er was eens ... click to hear 2 3 Once upon a time there was ... (fairy tales start) ->>
Er was er eens ... click to hear Once upon a time there was ...
Wie heeft gewonnen? click to hear Who won?
Wie heeft er gewonnen? click to hear Who won?
Wie heeft de wedstrijd gewonnen? click to hear Who won the match?
Wie heeft hier de leiding? click to hear Who's in charge here?
Wie heeft er hier de leiding? click to hear Who's in charge here?
De Vries is de baas. click to hear DeVries is the boss.
Leaving out 'er' in the next two sets of examples would be poor Dutch. 'Wat is aan de hand?' sounds wrong. The correct use of these words must be difficult for foreign students.
De winter komt eraan click to hear 2 Winter is coming
Ik ben benieuwd wie er gaat winnen click to hear 2 3 4 I'm curious who's going to win
Wie weet er nog een mop? click to hear [Who knows another joke?] - Anybody has a joke to tell?
't Ziet er vies uit click to hear 2 It looks dirty - usually: unappetizing
't Ziet er slecht uit click to hear 2 It looks bad - usually: it's not going to get better
Ik wil weten wat er gebeurd is click to hear 2 3 I want to know what happened
Wie is er aan de beurt? click to hear [Who's on turn] - Whose turn is it?
Wat is er veranderd? click to hear 2 What has changed?
Wat is er anders? click to hear 2 3 What's different? /or:/ What else is there? No alternative
Wat is er aan de hand? click to hear What's going on?
Wat is er gaande? click to hear 2 What's going on? (old-fashioned)
Wat zou er gebeuren? click to hear 2 What would happen?
Wat is er van hem geworden? click to hear 2 What became of him?
Wat is er gebeurd? click to hear 2 3 What happened?
Wat is er? click to hear 2 3 [What is it?] - usually asked when there seems to be a problem: What's wrong?
Wat is er met Jan? click to hear 2 What is with Jan? What's wrong with Jan?

Dutch Vocabulary Overview - Dutch Grammar Overview - Listen to and Read Dutch

email - Copyright © Marco Schuffelen 2014. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed, or hotlinked to.
Don't be a dief (thief) / dievegge (female thief) - diefstal (theft) - stelen (to steal) - heler (dealer in stolen goods) - hear Dutch - 2