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Dutch Plurals

(Het) meervoud click to hear 2 'the plural' - (het) enkelvoud click to hear 2 'the singular' - not to be confused with (de) eenvoud click to hear 2 'simplicity'
Dutch words have a plural either in -EN or in -S (a few can have both) - and there are some irregular plurals that will be listed at the end of the lesson.
There are three good rules:
  1. One-syllable words have -EN plurals
  2. Words ending in voiceless E ( click to hear 'schwa') followed by a consonant have -S plurals
  3. Diminutives (words ending in -JE) have -S plurals
Unfortunately, the three rules above do not cover all Dutch words, and there are several variations and irregularities.
For words outside the three groups defined above, you'll have to memorize the plurals.
A majority of Dutch words have an -EN plural, so if you don't know, that's your best guess.
Like in adjectives and verbs, adding the -EN plural ending may cause a spelling change of the root word: a consonant may need to be doubled, or a double vowel may become a single vowel. The logic of that beautiful dance of double or single vowels and consonants will be explained again.

In Dutch, the definite article 'the' is either 'de' click to hear or 'het' click to hear (often shortened to " 't " click to hear.)
Plurals always take 'de' as the article.
The indefinite article 'a' is: een click to hear - or for emphasis: één click to hear 'one'

Plurals in -S
Plurals in -EN
Resulting Spelling Changes
The F/V and S/Z Shift
10 Plurals in -EREN
Vowel Changes
Irregularities and Exceptions
Units of Measure

Plurals in -S

Almost all words with a voiceless E ( click to hear 'schwa') followed by a consonant in the last syllable have an -S plural (exceptions.) There are no one-syllable nouns with voiceless E.
(de) enkel click to hear / enkels click to hear 2 - ankle
(de) vogel click to hear 2 / vogels click to hear 2 - bird
(de) merel click to hear / merels click to hear - blackbird
(de) lepel click to hear / lepels click to hear - spoon
(de) tafel click to hear / tafels click to hear 2 - table
(de) stapel click to hear 2 / stapels click to hear - stack
(de) heuvel click to hear / heuvels click to hear 2 - hill
(de) tegel click to hear / tegels click to hear 2 - tile
(de) regel click to hear 2 / regels click to hear - 1. rule (instruction; prescription) 2. line (sentence)
(de) winkel / winkels click to hear - shop, store
(de) wortel click to hear / wortels click to hear - root; carrot
(de) appel click to hear / appels click to hear - apple
(de) sinaasappel click to hear 2 / sinaasappels click to hear - orange
(de) tunnel click to hear 2 / tunnels click to hear 2 - tunnel
(de) druppel click to hear / druppels click to hear 2 - drop (a very small amount of liquid)
(de) bijbel click to hear / bijbels click to hear - bible
(de) bezem click to hear / bezems click to hear - broom
(de) bliksem click to hear / bliksems click to hear 2 - lightning; lightning bolt
(de) molen click to hear / molens click to hear - windmill
(het) gegeven click to hear 2 / gegevens click to hear 2 - known fact, data ('given')
(de) jongen click to hear / jongens click to hear - boy
(de) toren click to hear / torens click to hear - tower; castle (chess)
(het) teken click to hear / tekens click to hear - sign, signal
(de) anjer / anjers click to hear - carnation (a flower)
(de) Nederlander click to hear 2 / Nederlanders click to hear 2 - Dutchman/men
(de) buitenlander click to hear / buitenlanders click to hear - foreigner, alien, expat - the word in South-African is: 'uitlander' click to hear 2
(de) polder click to hear / polders click to hear - polder, reclaimed land
(de) kraker click to hear / krakers click to hear 2 - squatter
(de) suiker click to hear / suikers click to hear - sugar
(de) vinger click to hear / vingers click to hear - finger - note NG pronunciation is different from English
(de) schouder click to hear / schouders click to hear - shoulder
(de) emmer / emmers click to hear - bucket
(de) veter click to hear 2 / veters click to hear 2 - shoelace, shoestring
(het) cijfer click to hear / cijfers click to hear - digit, number, mark
(de) koffer click to hear 2 / koffers click to hear - suitcase
(de) klinker click to hear / klinkers click to hear - vowel
(de) medeklinker click to hear / medeklinkers click to hear - consonant
Apostrophe-S
Dutch words ending in -a, -i, -o or -u have an S-plural, but it usually is an apostrophe-s: 'S plural, to keep the ending vowel long.
A single O in autos would be short, while autoos looks funny. (See also below.)
(de) paprika click to hear / paprika's click to hear - bell pepper
(de) camera click to hear / camera's click to hear - (picture) camera
(de) kolibri click to hear / kolibri's click to hear - hummingbird
(de) auto / auto's click to hear 2 - car
(de) foto / foto's click to hear - picture, photograph
(het) risico click to hear 2 / risico's click to hear - risk
(de) paraplu click to hear / paraplu's click to hear 2 - umbrella
Other -S Plurals
Many other words have -S Plurals. A few examples:
(de) ooievaar click to hear / ooievaars click to hear 2 - stork (the baby delivery bird)
(de) geranium / geraniums click to hear - geranium
(de) lelie / lelies click to hear - lily
(het) excuus click to hear / excuses click to hear 2 - apology; excuse - UU/U see below - this is a word from French
Modern Loanwords
Modern words adopted from foreign languages usually have an -S plural
(de) fan click to hear / fans click to hear - admirer, enthusiast, devotee
(de) computer click to hear / computers click to hear - computer
Diminutives and other words ending in -E
Diminutives (words ending in -je) always have an -S ending, like most words ending in -E
(het) meisje click to hear / meisjes click to hear - girl
(het) glaasje / glaasjes click to hear - small glass, usually filled with liquor
(het) koekje click to hear / koekjes click to hear - cookie
(het) snoepje click to hear / snoepjes click to hear - piece of candy
(het) krukje click to hear 2 / krukjes click to hear - stool (seat without back support)
(het) straatnaambordje click to hear 2 / straatnaambordjes click to hear - street name sign
(het) suikerklontje click to hear / suikerklontjes click to hear 2 - sugarcube
(het) viooltje / viooltjes click to hear - violet (a flowering plant)
(de) dame click to hear / dames click to hear - lady; queen (chess)
(de) postbode click to hear / postbodes click to hear 2 - postman, mail carrier
(de) machine click to hear 2 / machines click to hear 2 - machine - nietmachines click to hear staplers
Words ending in -E, derived from verbs, designating types of people
There is a small group of words ending in -E and often beginning with GE- that have an -EN ending. These words are derived from verbs or adjectives and indicate a type of person.
(de) gevangene click to hear / gevangenen click to hear - prisoner
(de) gelovige click to hear 2 / gelovigen click to hear - believer (Christian)
ongelovigen click to hear - non-believers (not Christians)
(de) heilige click to hear / heiligen click to hear 2 - saint
(de) bejaarde click to hear 2 / bejaarden click to hear - elderly person
(de) getuige click to hear 2 / getuigen click to hear 2 - witness
(de) afgevaardigde click to hear 2 / afgevaardigden click to hear 2 - delegate, representative
Unfortunately there is no general rule for words ending in -E
(de) voorwaarde click to hear / voorwaarden click to hear 2 - condition, precondition
Voiceless E-Consonant S-Plural Exceptions
Unfortunately, a few words ending in voiceless E followed by a consonant do not have an -S plural but an -EN plural. (see also)
(de) heiden click to hear / heidenen click to hear 2 - heathen - do note that the N in heidenen and these other words is not doubled, because the E is voiceless.
(de) christen click to hear / christenen click to hear - Christian - note that most people in Holland pronounce this CH as K *
(de) engel click to hear / engelen click to hear - angel
(de) reden click to hear 2 / redenen click to hear 2 - reason, cause
reason, sense is
(de) rede click to hear 2
(het) artikel click to hear / artikelen click to hear 2 - 1. article (newswpaper) 2. clause (document) 3. item (sales)
(de) schepen click to hear / schepenen click to hear - medieval lawman (an obsolete word) (schepen click to hear is also 'ships')

Plurals in -EN

Dutch words of one syllable have -EN click to hear plurals. The rule also applies when one-syllable words are the end part of compound words.
Dutch syllables are centered around vowels. A syllable ending in a consonant is called a 'closed syllable' - a syllable ending in a vowel is called an 'open syllable.'
When there is one consonant between vowels, that consonant almost always starts the second syllable and the first syllable is 'open.'
When there is more than one consonant, usually one remains with the first syllable, and that first syllable is 'closed.'
The -EN plural adds a syllable to words, and that syllable will take at least one consonant from the root word - if the root word ends in a single consonant, the previously last syllable goes from 'closed' to 'open,' and that may cause a problem.
Dutch spelling rules say that a single vowel in a closed syllable is short (double vowels are always long) - but a single vowel in an open syllable is long (except single E at the end of a word, which is voiceless click to hear.)
Ja click to hear ('yes') zo click to hear ('so; this way') nu click to hear 2 ('now') BUT: je click to hear ('you')
So for root words ending in a single consonant, the -EN plural causes:
- a doubling of that consonant when there is a single, short vowel, to keep the syllable 'closed' and the vowel 'short'
Example: (de) zon / zonnen click to hear zon-nen - 'sun/suns'
- or if there was a double, long vowel in the last syllable, it is now written as a single vowel, because the syllable is now 'open'
Example: (de) zoon / zonen click to hear zo-nen - 'son/sons'
This beautiful dance of double or single vowels and consonants is also found and explained in adjectives, verbs and long and short vowels.
1. -EN Plurals with Diphthongs
Diphthongs (au, ei, eu, ij, oe, ou and ui) are always long, both in 'open' and 'closed' syllables, so there are no further spelling changes when the plural -EN is added. IE is a way of spelling 'long I' - it also remains unchanged by adding an E-ending and for convenience I have put it in this group.
(de) wenkbrauw click to hear 2 / wenkbrauwen click to hear - eyebrow
(de) kabeljauw click to hear 2 / kabeljauwen click to hear 2 - cod, a fish
(de) kei click to hear 2 / keien click to hear - rock, boulder
(het) feit click to hear / feiten click to hear - fact
(de) kleur click to hear 2 / kleuren click to hear - color
(de) breuk click to hear 2 / breuken click to hear - a crack; fraction
(de) meeuw click to hear / meeuwen click to hear - seagull
(de) vlieg click to hear / vliegen click to hear - house fly/flies
(het) wiel click to hear 2 / wielen click to hear - wheel
(de) Ier / Ieren click to hear - Irishman/men
(de) Arabier click to hear / Arabieren click to hear 2 - Arab
(de) nier click to hear / nieren click to hear 2 - kidney
(de) mier click to hear / mieren click to hear 2 - ant
(de) rivier click to hear / rivieren click to hear - river
(de) margriet / margrieten click to hear - marguerite, daisy
(de) bandiet click to hear 2 / bandieten click to hear 2 - bandit
(de) fiets click to hear 2 3 / fietsen click to hear 2 - bicycle >>
(de) dienst click to hear / diensten click to hear - service
(de) dijk click to hear / dijken click to hear - levee, dike
(de) bij / bijen click to hear 2 - bee
(de) dij / dijen click to hear - thigh
partij click to hear / partijen click to hear - political party
(de) vijg click to hear 2 / vijgen click to hear - fig
(de) bloem click to hear 2 / bloemen click to hear 2 - flower
(de) hoek click to hear / hoeken click to hear 2 - angle; corner
(het) boek click to hear / boeken click to hear - book
(de) broek click to hear 2 / broeken click to hear - one pair of pants / multiple pairs of pants - English 'pants/trousers' does not have a singular, but Dutch does
(de) hoed click to hear 2 / hoeden click to hear 2 - hat
(de) voet click to hear / voeten click to hear 2 - foot/feet
(de) stoel click to hear / stoelen click to hear - chair
(de) schoen click to hear / schoenen click to hear - shoe
(de) vrouw click to hear / vrouwen click to hear - woman/women
(het) gebouw click to hear 2 / gebouwen click to hear - building
(de) ui click to hear 2 / uien click to hear - onion
(de) bui click to hear 2 / buien click to hear 2 - rainshower
(de/het) duin click to hear / duinen click to hear - dune
(de) struik click to hear 2 / struiken click to hear - bush
(de) vuist / vuisten click to hear 2 - fist
(het) enzym click to hear 2 / enzymen click to hear 2 - enzyme
2. Words Ending in more than One Consonant
When a word ends in more than one consonant, at least one will remain with the previously last syllable when the plural -EN ending creates a new syllable at the end of the word: the previously last syllable will remain closed, so there are no further changes to this type of words (mand/man-den, maand/maan-den.)
(de) mand / manden click to hear 2 - basket
(de) maand / maanden click to hear - month
(de) arm click to hear / armen click to hear 2 - arm - body part
(de) balk click to hear / balken click to hear - wooden beam
(de) hand click to hear / handen click to hear - hand
(het) land click to hear / landen click to hear 2 - land, country
(de) krant click to hear / kranten click to hear - newspaper ('courant')
(de) plank click to hear 2 / planken click to hear - board
(de) wang click to hear / wangen click to hear - cheek
(de) barst click to hear / barsten click to hear - crack
(het) paard click to hear 2 / paarden click to hear 2 - horse
(de) kaart click to hear / kaarten click to hear - postcard; playing card; map
(de) schaats click to hear 2 / schaatsen click to hear - (ice) skate >>
(de) mens click to hear 2 / mensen click to hear - man, human
(het) recht click to hear / rechten click to hear - right
(het) hert click to hear / herten click to hear 2 - deer/deer
(de) erwt / erwten click to hear 2 - (green, British) pea (W is not pronounced)
(de) speld click to hear / spelden click to hear - pin (sewing)
(het) recept click to hear 2 / recepten click to hear - recipe (cooking); prescription (medicine)
(de) terp click to hear / terpen click to hear - 'high ground, mound'
(de) Belg click to hear 2 / Belgen click to hear - Belgian person
(de) berg click to hear / bergen click to hear 2 - mountain
(de) plicht click to hear 2 / plichten click to hear - duty/duties
(het) ding click to hear / dingen click to hear 2 - thing
(de) kring click to hear 2 / kringen click to hear 2 - circle, ring
(de) verdieping click to hear / verdiepingen click to hear 2 - floor, storey >>
(de) ontwikkeling click to hear / ontwikkelingen click to hear 2 3 - development
(de) vreemdeling click to hear / vreemdelingen click to hear 2 - stranger, foreigner
(de) uitvinding click to hear / uitvindingen click to hear - invention
(de) uitzondering click to hear 2 / uitzonderingen click to hear 2 - exception
(de) wandeling click to hear 2 / wandelingen click to hear 2 - walk, hike
(de) vonk / vonken click to hear - spark
(de) vork click to hear / vorken click to hear - fork
(de) worm click to hear / wormen click to hear - worm
(de) klomp click to hear 2 / klompen click to hear - wooden clog
(de) long click to hear / longen click to hear - lung
(de) worst click to hear / worsten click to hear - sausage
(het) hoofd click to hear / hoofden click to hear 2 - head (human and horse)
(het) woord click to hear / woorden click to hear - word
(het) antwoord click to hear 2 / antwoorden click to hear - answer
(de) tulp click to hear / tulpen click to hear - tulip >>
(de) vrucht click to hear / vruchten click to hear 2 - a fruit, fruit >>
Examples of the Problem Words
Problems arise with the adding of the -EN syllable for the plural when words end in one consonant AND have either a single or a double vowel in the final syllable of the basic word. The previously final consonant will move from the root word to the -EN plural syllable, leaving a previously closed syllable open. Now a double, 'long' vowel must be written as a single vowel, but a single, 'short' vowel needs a new closing consonant.
(de) maan click to hear 2 / manen click to hear ma-nen - moon
(de) man click to hear 2 / mannen click to hear 2 man-nen - a man/men (male/males)
(de) Deen click to hear / Denen click to hear 2 De-nen - Dane, a person from Denmark
(de) den click to hear / dennen click to hear 2 den-nen - fir tree
(de) boom click to hear 2 / bomen click to hear bo-men - tree
(de) bom click to hear 2 / bommen click to hear 2 bom-men - bomb
(de) vloot click to hear 2 / vloten click to hear 2 vlo-ten - a fleet (ships)
(het) vlot click to hear 2 3 / vlotten click to hear 2 3 vlot-ten - raft (think of: 'to float')
3. -EN Plurals for Long (Double) Vowels before A Single Consonant
A single consonant at the end of a word will move to the -EN plural ending, leaving a previously 'closed' syllable 'open' - and then the double vowel will be written as a single vowel, because single vowels at the end of a syllable are 'long' (except E at the end of a word.) (naam/na-men)
(de) naam click to hear 2 / namen click to hear 2 - name
(het) raam / ramen click to hear 2 - window
(de) Amerikaan click to hear 2 / Amerikanen click to hear 2 - American
(de) daad click to hear / daden click to hear 2 - act ('deed') - 'geen woorden maar daden' click to hear 2 'we want action, not words'
(de) tomaat click to hear / tomaten click to hear - tomato/tomatoes
(het) apparaat click to hear / apparaten click to hear - device, (small) machine - (het) scheerapparaat click to hear (electric) shaver
(de) taak click to hear 2 / taken click to hear - task
(de) blaar click to hear 2 / blaren click to hear 2 - blister
(de) leraar click to hear 2 / leraren click to hear - male teacher at secondary school
(het) gevaar click to hear / gevaren click to hear - danger
(de) schaar click to hear / scharen click to hear - one pair of scissors / multiple pairs of scissors
English 'scissors' does not have a singular, but Dutch does
(de) aap click to hear / apen click to hear - monkey
(het) schaap click to hear / schapen click to hear 2 - sheep/sheep
(de) kraan click to hear 2 / kranen click to hear - faucet; crane
(de) staat click to hear / staten click to hear 2 - state, country
(de) zwaan click to hear / zwanen click to hear - swan
(het) kanaal click to hear / kanalen click to hear - channel
(het) verhaal click to hear 2 / verhalen click to hear - story, narrative
(de) vraag click to hear 2 / vragen click to hear - question
(het) ideaal click to hear 2 / idealen click to hear - ideal - note that E of the root word is pronounced as EE (Dutch IE)
(het) probleem click to hear 2 / problemen click to hear - problem
(het) been / benen click to hear - leg - human and horse
(de) teen click to hear / tenen click to hear - toe
(de) baksteen click to hear / bakstenen click to hear 2 - brick
(de) dobbelsteen click to hear 2 / dobbelstenen click to hear - die/dice
(de) keet click to hear 2 / keten click to hear 2 - shed at building site
(de) preek click to hear / preken click to hear - sermon - (de) donderpreek click to hear fiery sermon
(het) juweel click to hear 2 / juwelen click to hear - jewel
(de) crimineel click to hear 2 / criminelen click to hear 2 - criminal, felon, gangster
(het) oog click to hear / ogen click to hear - eye
(de) elleboog click to hear / ellebogen click to hear 2 - elbow
(de) gladiool / gladiolen click to hear - gladioli
(het) oor click to hear / oren click to hear - ear
(de) droom click to hear 2 / dromen click to hear - dream
(het) brood click to hear 2 / broden click to hear 2 - loaf/loaves of bread
(het) spoor click to hear 2 / sporen click to hear 2 - trace
(de) noot click to hear / noten click to hear - nut; note (music)
(de) poot click to hear 2 / poten click to hear - leg - of animals, tables & chairs
(het) uur click to hear / uren click to hear 2 - hour (also see note at bottom of the page)
(de) schuur click to hear 2 / schuren click to hear 2 - large shed, like on a farm - a small shed in a yard is: (het) schuurtje click to hear
4. -EN Plural for Short (Single) Vowels before A Single Consonant
A single consonant at the end of a word will move to the -EN plural, leaving a previously 'closed' syllable 'open' - to keep the vowel 'short' that first syllable needs to be 'closed' by a doubling of the final consonant of the root word.
(de) vlag click to hear / vlaggen click to hear 2 - flag
(de) plak click to hear / plakken click to hear - slice (cake, cheese - not bread)
(de) slak / slakken click to hear - snail, slug
(het) getal click to hear / getallen click to hear 2 - number
(de) kam click to hear 2 / kammen click to hear 2 - comb
(de) zwam click to hear 2 / zwammen click to hear - mushroom, toadstool
(de) pan click to hear 2 / pannen click to hear - pan, pot
(de) kar click to hear / karren click to hear - cart
(de) klas / klassen click to hear - class, grade
(de) rat / ratten click to hear - rat
(de) pen click to hear / pennen click to hear
(de) pen / pennen click to hear
- pen (writing)
(de) pet click to hear 2 / petten click to hear - cap (headgear)
(de) bes click to hear / bessen click to hear 2 - berry/berries
(het) mes click to hear 2 / messen click to hear 2 - knife/knives
(de) les click to hear / lessen click to hear 2 - lesson
(de) fles click to hear / flessen click to hear 2 - bottle
(de) wet click to hear / wetten click to hear - law
(de) schil click to hear / schillen click to hear 2 - peel, skin, layer
(de) bil / billen click to hear - buttock
(de) bril click to hear / brillen click to hear - one pair of glasses / multiple pairs of glasses
English 'glasses/spectacles' does not have a singular, but Dutch does
(de) lip click to hear / lippen click to hear - lip
(de) vis / vissen click to hear - fish/fish
(de) narcis / narcissen click to hear - daffodil
(het) eiwit click to hear / eiwitten click to hear - protein; egg-white
(de) os click to hear / ossen click to hear 2 - ox/oxen
(het) bos / bossen click to hear - forest
(de) vos / vossen click to hear 2 - fox
(het) bot click to hear / botten click to hear - bone
(de) grot click to hear / grotten click to
  hear - cave
(de) knop click to hear 2 / knoppen click to hear - bud
(de) spion click to hear 2 / spionnen click to hear 2 - spy/spies (I and O are pronounced separately, IO is not a diphthong)
(het) stuk click to hear 2 / stukken click to hear - 1. piece, part 2. document, paper
(de) bus click to hear / bussen click to hear 2 3 - 1. bus (transportation) 2. metal jar, container
(de) brug click to hear / bruggen click to hear - bridge
(de) krul click to hear / krullen click to hear - curl
-EN plurals for words ending in -EE or IE
When words ending in -EE or IE have an -EN plural, there will be a dieresis, 'Umlaut'-like double dots on the E of the -EN to indicate a syllable break.
The Dutch word for these double dots is trema click to hear and its function is completely different from the German Umlaut.
(de) orchidee / orchideeën click to hear - orchid
(het) idee click to hear / ideeën click to hear 2 - idea
(de) calorie click to hear / calorieën click to hear 2 - calorie
(de) kopie click to hear / kopieën click to hear - copy, xerox, not an original
(de) knie click to hear / knieën click to hear 2 - 'knee' - do notice that K is pronounced
- when the stress of the word ending in -IE is not on the IE, the trema is put on the E of the IE.
(de) olie click to hear 2 / oliën click to hear - oil

A Few Words with Two Plurals
A very small number of words has both an -S and an -EN plural. The -EN plural is usually a little old-fashioned. This list is not exhaustive.
(de) aardappel click to hear / aardappelen click to hear - aardappels click to hear potato/potatoes - do note that the L in aardappelen is not doubled, because the E is voiceless.
(de) doorn (doren) click to hear / doornen click to hear - dorens click to hear thorn - geen rozen zonder doornen click to
  hear ['no roses without thorns'] nice things come with possibly problematic attachments.
(de) la click to hear /or/ (de) lade click to hear 2 / laden click to hear - lades click to hear drawer - (het) ladenkastje click to hear 2 cabinet with drawers
(de) vitamine click to hear / vitaminen click to hear - vitamines click to hear - vitamin
--- hersenen click to
      hear
'the brain'
(the body part)
- hersens click to
      hear
'brains'
(brainpower,
intelligence)
the singular is only found in compound words:
(de) hersenschudding click to
      hear 2 ['brain-shaking'] 'concussion'
(de) hersenbloeding click to
      hear 2 ['brain-haemorrhage'] 'stroke'
(het) middel click to hear 2 / middels click to hear 2
'waists'
middelen click to hear
'means'
(het) wasmiddel click to hear 2 detergent - geneesmiddelen click to hear 2 medicines, medication, drugs
met alle mogelijke middelen click to hear 2 'with all possible means,' with everything available

The F/V and S/Z Shift

In Dutch, B and D at the end of words are pronounced as P and T. Pronouncing a B or D in that position doesn't come naturally to a Dutchman, it requires a little extra effort to set the mouth that way. But B and D in the middle of a word are easier and pronounced like English B and D.
(de) slab / slabben click to hear - bib
(de) rib / ribben click to hear 2 - rib
(het) bed / bedden click to hear - bed
(het) hoofd / hoofden click to hear - head (human and horse)
Dutchmen speaking English will often pronounce those final B's and D's like in Dutch, for instance making no difference between 'card' and 'cart,' and say the names Bob click to hear as 'bop' and Ed click to hear as 'et.' (Sorry, friends.)

Similar to B and D, Dutch words never end in V or Z. The Dutch mouth is not used to these sounds, they don't come easy to a Dutchman. In Dutch, V and Z need to be followed by a vowel - as the last letter of a word or when followed by a consonant, V changes to to F and Z changes to S. Linguists undoubtedly have a word for the sounds of that kind, but there is no need to know it.
Unlike B/P and D/T, the F/V and S/Z shift is shown in the Dutch spelling of the word. English shows the F/V shift in words like loaf/loaves and life/lives; I hear a sharpening from S to Z in words like house/houses and wise/wiser, though it doesn't show it in spelling (maybe not all English-speakers say it like this, and I may be wrong.)
English actually has a considerable number of words with an F/V shift, like: wife/wives, knife/knives, leaf/leaves, half/halves, dwarf/dwarves, elf/elves, shelf/shelves, wharf/wharves, hoof/hooves, scarf/scarves, wolf/wolves.
The list of Dutch words is not exhaustive.

(de) raaf / raven click to hear - raven
(de) zalf / zalven click to hear - cream? ointment
(de) zeef / zeven click to hear - strainer, sieve - 'zeven' click to hear is also 'number 7'
(de) dief / dieven click to hear 2 - thief/thieves
(de) brief click to hear 2 / brieven click to hear - letter (mail)
(de) golf / golven click to hear - wave
(het) hof / hoven click to hear - court; courtyard - also notice vowel lengthening - see below
(het) lijf / lijven click to hear - the human body (a bit common)
(de) hoef / hoeven click to hear 2 - hoof/hooves
(de) schroef click to hear / schroeven click to hear - screw (notice that CH in SCHR is not pronounced)
(de) boef click to hear 2 / boeven click to hear 2 - criminal (often jocular)
(de) duif / duiven click to hear - dove, pigeon
(de) kaas click to hear 2 / kazen click to hear - cheese
(de) baas / bazen click to hear - boss, master
(de) haas / hazen click to hear - hare
(de) vaas / vazen click to hear - vase
(de/het) aas click to hear / azen click to hear - ace (cards)
(de) laars click to hear / laarzen click to hear - boot
BUT: (de) kaars click to hear / kaarsen click to hear 2 - candle
(het) glas / glazen click to hear - glass - note plural and also diminutive vowel lengthening: (het) glaasje click to hear
(de) gans / ganzen click to hear 2 - goose/geese
(de) hals / halzen click to hear - neck, throat
- BUT: (de) wals / walsen click to hear - waltz; steamroller
(het) vers / verzen click to hear - poem, verse
(de) grens click to hear / grenzen click to hear - border
(de) lens click to hear 2 / lenzen click to hear - lens
(de) wees / wezen click to hear - orphan - 'wezen' is also slang for the infinitive of 'to be' and
(het) wezen click to hear 2 is 'the essence' and 'a being.'
buitenaardse wezens click to hear 2 "aliens, ET's"
(de) Chinees click to hear 2 / Chinezen click to hear 2 - a Chinese person
(de) kies click to hear 2 / kiezen click to hear - molar, tooth/teeth
(de) Fries / Friezen click to hear - a Frisian
(de) spons click to hear / sponzen click to hear - sponge
(de) doos / dozen click to hear - box
(de) roos / rozen click to hear 2 - rose
(de) reis click to hear 2 / reizen click to hear 2
(de) reis / reizen click to hear
- trip, journey, tour
(de) neus click to hear / neuzen click to hear 2 - nose
(de) reus click to hear / reuzen click to hear - giant
(de) biels / bielzen click to hear - railroad tie
(de) poes click to hear / poezen click to hear 2 - cat
(het) huis / huizen click to hear - house
(de) muis / muizen click to hear 2 - mouse/mice
(de) luis / luizen click to hear - louse/lice
(de) buis / buizen click to hear - pipe, tube
- BUT: (het) kruis / kruisen click to hear - cross
Related Adjectives
Dutch has a similar F/V and S/Z shift in adjectives:
braaf / brave click to hear - well-behaved, obedient
gaaf / gave click to hear 2 - unblemished, undamaged; slang: good, 'cool'
'(de) gave' click to hear 2 is a gift, a talent
lief / lieve click to hear - dear, sweet
doof / dove click to hear - deaf
grof / grove click to hear - coarse; rude - "groffe" click to hear is also said, but not written
"een groffe belediging" click to hear 2 a rude insult
- BUT: dof / doffe click to hear 2 - dull, things not shiny or sounds not clear
doffe ellende click to hear 'hopeless misery'
dwaas / dwaze click to hear - foolish, silly
vies / vieze click to hear 2 - dirty
- BUT: Fries / Friese click to hear - Frisian
- BUT: Chinees click to hear 2 / Chinese click to hear 2 - Chinese
boos / boze click to hear - angry
wijs / wijze click to hear 2 - wise, sensible, prudent
grijs / grijze click to hear - grey
- BUT: vers / verse click to hear 2 - fresh, new
- BUT: vals / valse click to hear - false, untrue
brons / bronzen click to hear 2 - bronze
serieus / serieuze click to hear - serious
Plurals in -EREN
English has child/children - Dutch has kind/kinderen. Similarities like this show the shared ancestry of the languages. Dutch has about a dozen words with an -EREN plural, mostly old words, probably already in use when the Germanic tribes roamed the forests of North-Western Europe.
(het) kind / kinderen click to hear - child/children
(het) ei / eieren click to hear - egg
(het) blad / bladeren click to hear 2 - leaf/leaves - note plural vowel length change - poetic plural: blâren click to hear
- diminutive vowel change: blaadje click to hear / blaadjes click to hear 2
(het) rad / raderen click to hear - wheel, cogwheel - note vowel length change -
the common word for 'wheel' is
(het) wiel click to hear 2 / wielen click to hear
(het) kalf / kalveren click to hear 2 3 - calf - note F/V shift
the diminutive is also often used:
(het) kalfje click to hear 2 / kalfjes click to hear 2
'Praten over koetjes en kalfjes' click to hear 2 - [to talk about cows and calves] to chat
(het) lam / lammeren click to hear - lamb - the diminutive is more common: (het) lammetje click to hear / lammetjes click to hear 2
(het) volk / volkeren click to hear - a people, a nation - alternate plural: volken click to hear 2
(het) lied / liederen click to hear 2 - song - the diminutive is more common: (het) liedje click to hear 2 / liedjes click to hear
(de?/het) hoen / hoenderen click to hear - fowl (obsolete - but note D-insertion) -
(de) kip click to hear / kippen click to hear 'chicken'
(het) rund / runderen click to hear 2 3 - bovine, cow, cattle animal -
more commonly people say:
(de) koe / koeien click to hear 2 'cow' or (de) stier click to hear 2 'bull'
(het) rundvlees click to hear beef - (het) rundergehakt click to hear ground beef
(het) been / beenderen - bone (also note D-insertion) is really old-fashioned.
You can say
(het) soepbeen click to hear 2 'soup bone,' and (het) beenmerg click to hear 2 3 'bone marrow'
but the common word for bone is (het) bot / botten click to hear
Vowel Changes
English has a larger number of plurals with a vowel change than Dutch: woman/women, man/men, mouse/mice, louse/lice, goose/geese, foot/feet, tooth/teeth.
(de) stad / steden click to hear - city, town
(de) smid / smeden click to hear - blacksmith - (de) smederij click to hear 'smithy,' a smith's workshop
(het) schip / schepen click to hear - ship - diminutive vowel change: (het) scheepje click to hear
(het) lid / leden click to hear - member
Vowel Lengthening
Dutch has quite a few plurals with a vowel lengthening in the plural. This list may not be complete. A foreigner could argue 'vowel lengthening' is not very different from 'vowel change,' but to Dutchmen it is.
(het) bad / baden click to hear - bath
(het) pad / paden click to hear - path - diminutive vowel change: (het) paadje click to hear
- BUT: (de) pad / padden click to hear - toad
(het) dal / dalen click to hear - valley
(het) dak / daken click to hear - roof
(de) dag / dagen click to hear - day
(het) dagje / daagjes click to hear 2 - day
(de) slag / slagen click to hear 2 - battle; blow
- BUT: (de) vlag click to hear / vlaggen click to hear 2 - flag - "De Nederlandse vlag is rood-wit-blauw" click to hear 2 3 'The Dutch flag is red-white-blue'
(het) verdrag click to hear 2 / verdragen click to hear 2 - treaty/treaties
(het) bedrag click to hear / bedragen click to hear 2 - sum, amount of money
(het) graf / graven click to hear 2 - grave
BUT ALSO: (de) graaf click to hear / graven click to hear - count (a nobleman)
(het) gat / gaten click to hear - hole - diminutive vowel change: (het) gaatje click to hear
(het) vat / vaten click to hear 2 - barrel - diminutive vowel change: (het) vaatje click to hear 2
(het) glas / glazen click to hear - glass - diminutive vowel lengthening: (het) glaasje click to hear - and note S/Z shift
(het) gebed / gebeden click to hear - prayer
(het) gebrek click to hear 2 / gebreken click to hear 2 - handicap, disability - gebrek aan click to hear 'lack of'
(het) spel click to hear / spelen click to hear - game, play
(het) bevel click to hear / bevelen click to hear 2 - order, command
(het) gen / genen click to hear - gene
(het) schot / schoten click to hear - shot
(de) god / goden click to hear - god
(het) gebod click to hear 2 / geboden click to hear 2 3 - commandment - De Tien Geboden click to hear 2 The 10 Commandments
Het Tiende Gebod click to hear 2 The 10th Commandment - "Gij zult niet stelen." click to hear Thou shalit not steal.
(het) lot / loten click to hear - lottery ticket - diminutive vowel change: (het) lootje click to hear
(het) slot click to hear / sloten click to hear 2 - lock; castle
(het) ion / ionen click to hear 2 - ion
(de) hertog / hertogen click to hear 2 - duke
(de) doctor / doctoren click to hear - person with a PhD; loosely: an MD
(de) professor click to hear / professoren click to hear - professor
(de) ventilator / ventilatoren click to hear - fan, ventilator
(de) transformator / transformatoren click to hear - transformer, electric power adaptor
BUT: (de) tor / torren click to hear - beetle
(het) hof / hoven click to hear - court; courtyard - F/V shift see above
A similar vowel lengthening is found in: kat - kater click to hear 2 - 'cat - male cat'
(De) sloot click to hear 'ditch' has the regular plural sloten click to hear 2 3 that's the same as the irregular plural of (het) slot click to hear 2 ('lock; castle')

Irregular Plurals and Exceptions

-lui instead of -mannen
Mannen die lui worden click to hear 2 3 - in almost all compound words ending in -man the regular plural -mannen sounds funny to Dutchmen. A rare exception is:
(de) vuilnisman / vuilnismannen click to hear - garbageman, dustman, sanitation engineer
Usually, we say -lui click to hear or -lieden click to hear instead of -mannen. 'Lui' by itself means 'people, folks' (now slightly unfavorable)
- je ouwelui click to hear 2 ('your olds folks') 'your parents' (slang) - but lui also means 'lazy.'
A common saying is: De beste stuurlui staan aan wal click to hear 'the most competent ship officers are always on shore' - it's easy to criticize from a distance.
(de) timmerman / timmerlui click to hear - carpenter
(de) zeeman / zeelui click to hear 2
equally good plural: zeelieden click to hear 2
- sailor
- sailors
(de) stuurman / stuurlui click to hear - ship officer ['steering man']
(de) tuinman / tuinlieden click to hear - gardener
vakman click to hear 2 / vakmensen click to hear 2 - professional
As you see, it's a bit complicated. For some words, the -lui or -lieden endings don't sound good, so there is a kind-of regular -EN ending for those words.
(de) edelman / edelen click to hear - nobleman/nobles
(de) Engelsman click to hear 2 / Engelsen click to hear 2 - Englishman/men >>
(de) Fransman click to hear / Fransen click to hear - Frenchman/men

-heid to -heden
The -heid/-heden words are often only found either in plural or singular. Is there only one truth?
(de) waarheid / waarheden click to hear - truth
twee halve waarheden click to hear - two half-truths
(de) hoeveelheid click to hear - amount
hoeveelheden click to hear 2 - amounts, quantities
omstandigheden click to hear 2 - circumstances
onwaarheden click to hear - [untruths] lies
de mensheid click to hear 2 - mankind, humanity
(de) schoonheid click to hear 2 - beauty
(de) meerderheid click to hear 2 - majority - Dutch Politics - Politics Words
(de) minderheid click to hear 2 3 - minority
minderheden click to hear 2 - minorities

Latin Plurals

(het) museum / musea click to hear - museum - 'museums' click to hear is acceptable
(de) politicus / politici click to hear 2 - politician(s) - notice the change in the C-pronunciation
(de) criticus / critici click to hear 2 - critic(s), reviewer(s) - notice the change in the second C-pronunciation >>
(de) musicus / musici click to hear - (serious) musician(s) - muzikanten click to hear 2 - (less serious) musicians
(de) technicus / technici click to hear - engineer(s), technician(s) - (de) geluidstechnicus click to hear 2 - sound engineer
(de) academicus click to hear 2 / academici click to hear 2 - a person (people) with a university degree
Dutch kussen click to hear 2 means 'kisses,' 'to kiss' and also 'pillow' (cushion?) Dutch-style plurals like technicussen are incorrect and sound really silly to Dutchmen. Words ending in -CUS that indicate a person's function or job have -I plurals like in the Latin originals. Other words that end in -US usually have an -USSEN plural.
(de) kubus click to hear / kubussen click to
  hear - cube
(de) cursus click to hear / cursussen click to hear 2 - course, a series of lessons

Various Exceptions

A very small number of longer words end in an syllable with short E, (stress on that final syllable) and have an -EN ending. This is obvious to Dutchmen, but foreign students may not recognize the ending as such and assume it's a voiceless E. Note that the final consonant is doubled in the plural to keep the E short.
(de) tabel click to hear 2 / tabellen click to hear 2 - table (list, schematic)
(het) toestel click to hear / toestellen click to hear - device, (small) machine - (het) fototoestel click to hear 2 picture camera
(de) rebel click to hear 2 / rebellen click to hear 2 - rebel
(het) loket click to hear / loketten click to hear - counter window
(de) raket click to hear / raketten click to hear 2 - rocket
(de) kroket / kroketten click to hear 2 - a deep-fried meat paste snack
(de) lerares click to hear / leraressen click to hear - female teacher at secondary school
(de) zangeres click to hear 2 / zangeressen click to hear 2 - lady singer
- But, exception to exception, probably because the word is a fairly recent French import:
(het) hotel click to hear / hotels click to hear - hotel
An unexpected irregularity: (het) gevoel click to hear / gevoelens click to hear 2 - feeling
Spelling rules say the syllable division in words like kraaien is kraai-en. Breaking off as kra-ien would look silly and IE would not be pronounced correctly.
(de) kraai click to hear 2 / kraaien click to hear 2 - crow
(de) haai click to hear / haaien click to hear 2 - shark
Words like koe and vlo have an I inserted before the -EN plural. Some people assume the I is already in the singular and say: koei, vlooi
(de) koe - koeien click to hear 2 - cow
(de) vlo - vlooien click to hear - flea
Dinosaurus ('dinosaur') is better not used in the plural. Dinosaurussen sounds funny because 'Russen' click to hear 2 means 'Russians' - singular: (de) Rus click to hear
(de) dinosaurus / sauriërs click to hear - dinosaur

Units of Measure

In Dutch, the units of measure are rarely used in the plural (except some in time.)
1 Meter, 2 meter click to hear 2 - 1 liter, 2 liter click to hear 2 - 1 kilo, 2 kilo click to hear 2 - 500 gram click to hear 2
The time units ending in -R (het) kwartier click to hear ('quarter, 15 minutes') - (het) uur click to hear ('hour') and (het) jaar click to hear ('year') are often used as both singular and plural; the regular plurals are uren click to hear 2 and jaren click to hear - kwartier as '15 minutes' does not have a plural. 'Quarter' as '25 cents' is (het) kwartje click to hear
Drie kwartier click to hear ('[3 quarters] 45 minutes') - vier uur click to hear ('4 hours') - vijf jaar click to hear 2 ('5 years')
The other Dutch 'time' units, like (de) dag / dagen click to hear ('day') are always used in the plural when the number is more than 1.
Week click to hear 2 / weken click to hear 2 ('week') - maand click to hear / maanden click to hear 2 ('month')
minuut click to hear / minuten click to hear 2 ('minute') - seconde click to hear 2 / seconden click to hear 2 - secondes click to hear 2 ('second, 1/60th of a minute')
Zes dagen click to hear ('6 days') - twee weken click to hear 2 ('2 weeks') - drie maanden click to hear 2 ('3 months') - vijf minuten click to hear 2 ('5 minutes')
Drie seconden click to hear 2 ('3 seconds') - according to my dictionary, drie secondes click to hear is also good, but I don't like it.
(de) lente click to hear ('Spring') - twintig lentes jong click to hear 2 ('twenty springtimes young' - said by slimeballs about young women)
When the statement is purely about the amount, the measurement, almost all units of measurement are used in the singular form:
dertig kilometer per uur click to hear ('30 kilometers an hour')
Twee jaar van m'n leven click to hear 2 ('2 years of my life')
Tien jaar geleden click to hear ('10 years ago')
Vier uur per dag click to hear 2 ('4 hours a day')
Tien minuten per uur click to hear 2 3 ('10 minutes each hour')
Twee gulden per stuk click to hear ('2 guilders each, 2 guilders for each item')
But when the statement is about the units of measurement themselves (and it's about more than one) they are used in the plural form:
drie kilometer lang click to hear 2 ('3 kilometers long') - drie lange kilometers click to hear 2 ('3 long kilometers')
drie jaar geleden click to hear 2 ('three years ago') - drie jaar lang click to hear 2 ('for three years') - drie lange jaren click to hear ('three long years')
drie dagen geleden click to hear 2 ('three days ago') - drie dagen lang click to hear ('for three days') - drie lange dagen click to hear ('three long days')
On a smaller scale, English still has this unexpected use of the singular in phrases like 'twenty-dollar bill' or 'nine-pound hammer.'

Welcome Learning Dutch? - Lesson 1 Site Map Pronunciation Words and Phrases Hear Dutch Names

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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