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Disambiguation: Dutch 'Van' - 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

Van

click to hear 2
  1. of - possession, association etc. "William of Orange"
  2. from - point of origin or departure "from 9 to 5"
  3. by - "a painting by Van Gogh"
  4. various

1. 'van' = 'of'

'Van' in most cases can be translated as 'of' - which can mean many things, but all in the same field: ownership, possession, asociation, relationship, parts of something larger, constituting parts, specifying, further defining etc.
English often uses an apostrophe-S for the possessive, but in Dutch that is less common.
De hond van de buren is doodgegaan click to hear 2 3 4 [The dog of the neighbors'] - The neighbors' dog died
De mok van Piet click to hear 2 Pete's mug
Het cadeau van Bob click to hear 2 Bob's present ('cadeau' can also be written as 'kado')
't Huis is van haar click to hear 2 The house is [of her] hers
also: Het is haar huis click to hear It's her house
't Geld is van hun click to hear 2 The money is theirs
also: Het is hun geld click to hear 2 It's their money
also: Het is hun eigen geld click to hear It's their own money
de burgermeester van Amsterdam click to hear The Mayor of Amsterdam
De vrouw van m'n vader click to hear My Dad's wife (after a divorce)
De man van m'n moeder click to hear 2 My Mom's husband (after a divorce)
't geheim van de smid click to hear 2 [The blacksmith's secret] - A knack, special technique
de letter van de wet click to hear 2 [The letter of the law] - A literal reading, strict interpretation of the law
't Nederland van na de oorlog click to hear [The Netherlands of after the war] Postwar Holland
Het Delft van Vermeer click to hear 2 [The Delft of Vermeer] Vermeer's Delft
Willem van Oranje click to hear William of Orange (the Dutch George Washington)
Jacoba van Beieren click to hear 2 Jacoba of Bavaria (Bayern)
Godfried van Bouillon click to hear 2 3 4 Godfrey of Bouillon
De Straat van Gibraltar click to hear 2 The Strait of Gibraltar
Het Nauw van Calais click to hear 2 The Narrows of Calais (The Strait of Dover)
't Land van Maas en Waal click to hear 2 'The Land of the Meuse and the Waal'
De Bocht van Helgoland click to hear 2 The Bight (Bay) of Heligoland
De Golf van Biskaje click to hear 2 The Bay of Biscay
De Baai van San Francisco click to hear San Francisco Bay
Twee jaar van m'n leven click to hear 3 Two years of my life
De mooiste tijd van m'n leven click to hear 2 The best [time] years of my life
In de loop van de dag click to hear 2 3 In the course of the day (usually: in the afternoon)
De morgen van de laatste dag click to hear 2 The morning of the last day
't Begin van 't einde click to hear 2 (3) The beginning of the end
Op de rand van de afgrond click to hear 2 On the edge of the precipe
(de) tak van de familie click to hear Branch of the family
Aan de andere kant van de muur click to hear On the other side of the wall
Aan het eind van de straat gaan we rechtsaf click to hear At the end of the street we'll turn right
de dagen van de week click to hear the days of the week ->>
de maanden van het jaar click to hear the months of the year ->>
Een rij van drie mensen click to hear 2 a line of three people
poel van verderf click to hear 2 pool of vice
Een koekje van eigen deeg click to hear 2 ['a cookie of (your) own dough'] - 'a taste of your own medicine' - you yourself getting the bad treatment you thought up for (or already meted out to) others
De geur van dennennaalden click to hear The smell of pine needles
Een man van weinig woorden click to hear A man of few words
Dit is het verhaal van mijn familie click to hear This is the story of my family
ten noorden van click to hear 2 to the North of
Ik heb wel eens gehoord dat het nooit regent in het zuiden van Californië click to hear 2 I've heard sometime that it never rains in [the South of] Southern California
het zinken van het schip click to hear The sinking of the ship (passive sinking)
drie kaarten van dezelfde kleur click to hear 2 three (playing) cards of the same suit ->>
vier kaarten van verschillende kleuren click to hear 2 four cards of different suits
Vrijheid van meningsuiting click to hear Freedom of [opinion-] expression
Vrijheid van vergadering click to hear 2 Freedom of [meeting, 'gathering'] association
Gewetensvrijheid click to hear Freedom of conscience (to leave or change your religion)
Staat van beleg click to hear 2 State of siege
samenloop van omstandigheden click to hear [concurrence of circumstances] coincidence
een kans van één op tien click to hear 2 A chance of 1 in 10

Dutch also has a possessive form with an S-ending, like English has, but it is not as common. Many Dutch people write apostrophe-S for this possessive, following the English example, but it should really be without the apostrophe. On the other hand, Dutch does not have something like the somewhat archaic apostrophe-S after an 'of' sometimes seen in English.

De vrienden van m'n vader click to hear The friends of my father's
German: Die Freunde meines Vaters
M'n vaders vrienden click to hear My father's friends
De vrienden van Jan click to hear The friends of Jan's
Jans vrienden click to hear Jan's friends

In many standard phrases, you'll find the old-fashioned article 'der' click to hear which means 'of the.'

De macht der gewoonte click to hear 2 3 The power of (the) habit
De Vlakte der Kruiken click to hear The Plain of the Jars (Laos)
Het Periodiek Systeem der Elementen click to hear 2 The Periodic Table of the Elements ->>

When talking about containers or standard amounts, or about weight or volume units and their contents, English almost always inserts an 'of' in between. Dutch usually does not put in a preposition between those words. Dutch uses 'van' in phrases like this only when it's about the material an item is made of, and not about its contents.


een flesje water click to hear a small bottle of water
een tros druiven click to hear 2 3 a bunch of grapes
een zakje patat click to hear a small bag of French fries
een pond kaas click to hear 2 a pound of cheese
een kopje koffie click to hear a cup of coffee - more 'units'
hoedje van papier click to hear hat of paper, paper hat
het ijzeren masker / het masker van ijzer click to hear the iron mask / the mask of iron
de gouden schaal / de schaal van goud click to hear the golden bowl / the bowl of gold
de wollen muts / de muts van wol click to hear the woollen cap / the cap of wool

As you may have seen above, Dutch also uses 'van' when it's only about parts of a whole.

de helft van de bevolking click to hear half (of) the population

2. 'van' = 'from'

Dutch 'van' can also indicate a point of departure, a place of origin (in space) or a starting point (in time) - sometimes combined with 'tot' click to hear ('to') - van ... tot click to hear ('from ... to')
ver van huis click to hear 2 far from home
Woon je ver van je werk? click to hear Do you live far from your work?
van top tot teen click to hear from [top] head to toe
van negen tot vijf click to hear from 9 to 5
van acht tot zes click to hear 2 from 8 to 6
van 1940 tot 1945 click to hear from 1940 to 1945
tot en met click to hear up to and including
maandag tot en met zaterdag click to hear Monday through Saturday
van Den Haag naar Rotterdam click to hear 2 from The Hague to Rotterdam (the journey) ->>
van Gouda tot Schoonhoven click to hear 2 from Gouda to Schoonhoven (the area, or the distance)
Blijf van m'n lijf click to hear 2 Stay away from my body! (feminist slogan over independence and autonomy)
Verkeer van rechts heeft vaak voorrang click to hear 2 3 Traffic from the right often has the right of way
Dan hoor je het ook eens van een ander click to hear 2 [Then] That way you'll also hear it from someone else
Zeg maar wat je zou willen hebben van Sinterklaas click to hear 2 Just [say] tell me what you'd like to have from Santa
Van de regen in de drup click to hear 2 3 4 [From the rain into a drip] 'From the frying pan into the fire' - a move that didn't improve an already bad situation
Dan zijn we nog verder van huis click to hear 2 3 [Then we're even farther from home] - 'Then it will be even worse' - Making an already bad situation worse
De mens lijdt 't meest van 't lijden dat-ie vreest click to hear Man suffers most from the suffering he fears (the fear of suffering)
Wat heb je ervan geleerd? click to hear 2 3 What have you learned from it? What did it teach you?

"Van harte gefeliciteerd" click to hear 2 - "Van harte!" click to hear 2 and "Hartelijk gefeliciteerd" click to hear all mean: [Congratulations from the heart] Warmest congratulations - Birthday

Uit 't diepst van m'n hart click to hear From the [deepest] bottom of my heart

Many Dutch people have last names with 'van' and the name of a small town, village or hamlet, like for instance Van Wageningen click to hear - probably meaning an ancestor who moved to the big cities came from there. Very few people have names of big cities. Place Names and - Dutch Family Names.
In Dutch, this 'van' is written with a lowercase, small 'v' after a first name or an initial. - more

'Little words' in Dutch last names like 'van' click to hear 2 and 'de' click to hear are written with an undercase first letter after a first name or an initial, but with a capital first letter in all other cases. If there are two or more 'little words' only the first gets an uppercase letter. - Dutch First and Last Names
Jan van Riebeeck click to hear 2
Baron Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol click to hear 2 (a 1780s reformer)
Van Wageningen click to hear
Van der Waal click to hear 2 3
Christiaan de Wet click to hear 2 3
Generaal De Wet click to hear 2
19th Century South-African military leader
Vincent van Gogh click to hear 2
een schilderij van Van Gogh click to hear
a painting by Van Gogh

Van de hak op de tak springen click to hear 2 3 ['Jumping from heel to branch'] - in conversation, frequently and (apparenty) at random changing the subject
van 't kastje naar de muur click to hear 2 ['from the cabinet to the wall'] - sent on pointless errands - Sayings
van Pontius naar Pilatus click to hear ['from Pontius to Pilate'] - sent on pointless errands - Sayings
't Kaf van 't koren scheiden click to hear [Separate the chaff from the wheat] - the boys from the men, the sheep from the goats
Ik wil je niet van je werk houden click to hear 2 3 I don't want to keep you from your work

3. 'van' = 'by'

Talking about works of art or performances by artists, Dutch uses 'van' to identify the artist - English almost always says 'by.'
Een boek van Vestdijk click to hear 2 3 A book by Vestdijk
een schilderij van Van Gogh click to hear a painting by Van Gogh
't Doet me denken aan een boek van Mulisch click to hear 2 It makes me think of a book by Mulisch
Vorige week vrijdag was er een concert van ... click to hear Last week Friday there was a concert by ...
De CD ... van ... draai ik ook nog vaak. click to hear I also still often play the CD ... by ...
De film ... van ... vind ik ook erg goed. click to hear I also really like the movie ... by ... (literally: I think it's very good.)
Een paar maanden geleden zijn we naar een optreden van ... geweest. click to hear 2 A few months ago we were at a ... [performance] concert.

A few verbs that describe a reaction use 'van' for what brought about the change

Ik werd wakker van de wekker click to hear I was woken up by the alarm clock
schrikken van click to hear 2 to be shocked by, unpleasantly surprised by, taken aback by
Ik schrok van de prijs click to hear 2 I was taken aback by the price
Ik schrok van 't lawaai click to hear 2
I was taken aback by the noise
Ik werd ziek van de herrie click to hear I was sickened by the noise, the noise made me sick
Ik word er gek van click to hear I'm driven nuts by it, it's driving me crazy
Ik werd er helemaal naar van click to hear [I was made to feel horrible by it] - It made me feel sick all over
Ik word er doodmoe van click to hear 2 [I'm made to feel very tired by it] - It makes me feel exhausted
Ik word droevig van de toestand in de wereld click to hear 2 I'm saddened by what's going on in the world
De mens kan niet alleen van brood leven click to hear Man cannot live by bread alone

4. 'van' - other translations and verbs with 'van'

rood van binnen click to hear 2 red on the inside ('rare' meat)
Hij is lang van stof click to hear 2 ['He's long on material'] ~'He talks at great length' - 'His talking drags on and on'
de bal rolde van de tafel click to hear The ball rolled off the table
de bal rolde van de tafel af click to hear 2
Voetjes van de vloer! click to hear Feet off the floor! (Get dancing!)
De kippen zijn van de leg click to hear The chickens are ['off the lay'] not laying eggs
Hij is van slag click to hear He's [off-balance] not his normal self
Ben je van de trap gevallen? click to hear 2 3 Did you fall down the stairs? (usually said in jest, commenting on a short haircut)
houden van click to hear to like, to love ->>
Hij houdt niet van spruitjes click to hear 2 He doesn't like Brussels sprouts
Ik hou(d) van soep click to hear 2 3 I like soup
Hij houdt veel van honden click to hear He loves dogs
Hou(d) jij van opera? - Ik niet. click to hear Do you like opera? - I don't
Daar houd ik niet van click to hear 2 3 I don't like that, I don't want that
Hij houdt van jou click to hear He loves you - more 'houden van' - 2
Ik weet ervan click to hear 2 I know about it
Ik weet er niks van click to hear 2 I know nothing about it, I have no knowledge of it
Ik weet er alles van click to hear 2 I know all about it (and I don't like it)
Hij weet er meer van click to hear 2 He knows more about it (and usually he is not telling)
Hij weet veel van bijen click to hear 2 He knows a lot about bees, he's very knowledgeable
Er is mij niets van bekend click to hear 2 I know nothing about it
Ik denk van niet click to hear 2 3 {I think: not] - I don't think so
Ik hoop van niet click to hear I hope not
Wat denk jij d'rvan? click to hear 2 What do you think (of it)? (informal, singular 'you')
Wat zeg jij d'rvan? click to hear 2 3 What do you say (of it)?
Wat zegt U ervan? click to hear 2 What do you say (of it)? (polite 'you')
Wat zegt U d'rvan? click to hear 2 3 4 What do you say (of it)?
Je merkt er niks van click to hear 2 3 You [notice nothing] don't/won't notice (it)
Ben je daar zeker van? click to hear 2 3 4 Are you sure of that?
Het eten van varkensvlees is verboden click to hear 'Eating pork is not allowed'
verboden click to hear 2 'not allowed' think of: 'forbidden' (German: 'verboten')
Het drinken van alcohol is toegestaan click to hear 'Drinking alcohol is permitted'
Ik trek me er/d'r niks van aan click to hear 2 3 4 5 I don't pay attention to it
van plan zijn click to hear 2 to plan, to intend, to have in mind
We zijn van plan ... click to hear We are planning ..., the plan is ...
We waren van plan om ... click to hear We were planning ..., the plan was ...
We waren van plan om weg te gaan click to hear 2 We were planning on leaving, we were going to leave
We zijn van plan om morgen weg te gaan click to hear We're planning to leave tomorrow
Ik was van plan om het huis wit te verven click to hear I was [planning] going to paint the house white
Het is er nooit van gekomen click to hear 2 3 It never came about, it never happened (only plans)
last hebben van click to hear 2 to be bothered, troubled by (usually pain or feeling sick)
Daar krijg je last van click to hear 2 3 'That's going to bother you, that'll cause you trouble'
Ik krijg er last van click to hear 2 3 'It's going to make me sick'
Heb je d'r last van? click to hear 2 3 Does it bother you, is it giving you trouble?
Ik heb last van m'n maag click to hear My stomach is giving me trouble
Ik heb veel last van m'n maag click to hear My stomach is giving me a lot of trouble
Ik krijg er hoofdpijn van click to hear 2 [I get a headache from it] It's giving me a headache

Compound Words with 'Van'

vanmorgen click to hear this morning
vanmiddag click to hear this afternoon
vanavond click to hear 2 this evening, tonight
vannacht click to hear
tonight /or/ last night
vandaag click to hear 2 3 today
but:
morgen click to hear 2 tomorrow /or/ morning - more
môge click to hear 2 good morning! (slang)
Vandaag eten we vis click to hear 2 Today we're [eating] having fish
Vandaag of morgen click to hear 2 [Today or tomorrow] Any day now - soon
Vandaag de dag click to hear 2 Nowadays, these days, at present
Vanavond gaan we naar de bioscoop click to hear Tonight we'll go to the cinema, see a movie
Ik kon vannacht niet slapen click to hear Last night I couldn't sleep
't Gaat vannacht regenen click to hear
vandaan click to hear 2 ~from
Waar kom je vandaan? click to hear 2 3 Where are you from? / Where did you come from?
De plaats waar ik vandaan kom click to hear The place I'm from, my home town
vanzelf click to hear 2 by itself
vanzelfsprekend click to hear [self-speaking] self-evident
Het wijst zich vanzelf click to hear 2 It will be obvious, you'll quickly see how (No need for instructions or a manual)
Als 't niet vanzelf overgaat, ga ik ermee naar de dokter click to hear If it doesn't go away by itself, I'll go see a doctor about it
Ik moet er vandoor click to hear 2 I have to go, I'm leaving

Dutch 'Of' and English 'Van'

Dutch 'of' click to hear usually means 'or' - in a few phrases it means 'if' or 'as if' - Disambiguation: 'Of'
Kop of munt? click to hear Heads or Tails? (coin toss)
Wil je kaas of ham op je brood? click to hear Would you like cheese or ham on your bread?
Ik vraag me wel eens af of ... click to hear Sometimes I wonder if ...

English 'van' is a boxlike motor vehicle for transporting small groups of people or delivering goods to customers. The common Dutch word is (het) busje click to hear 2 ('small bus') - for delivering small items the somewhat official word is (de) bestelwagen click to hear 2 - Dutch uses the English word (de) caravan click to hear for a small detachable camper or trailer.

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

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Don't be a dief (thief) / dievegge (female thief) - diefstal (theft) - stelen (to steal) - heler (dealer in stolen goods) - hear Dutch - 2