TOP / MENU
Welcome Mobile - Desktop
~ Desktop/Tablet Version of This Page

Dutch Spelling and Pronunciation (1) - Smartphones Page - >>2

Where Dutch spelling is not phonetic and other spelling and pronunciation issues

Dutch spelling is rather phonetic: each letter and each letter combination is usually pronounced the same way, and there is just one way of writing for each sound - though you need to understand the spelling rules for 'long' and 'short' vowels, and (of course!) there are some problems and exceptions.
In most European languages, vowels and consonants are represented by the same letters. There are of course exceptions, and especially in English most vowels go by other letters - and when you listen closely there are almost always small differences in sound.
When you're learning Dutch words, you'll come across spelling and pronunciation that looks illogical or irregular - this page and the next (still in preparation) will help you understand those issues.
For a complete overview of Dutch Pronunciation go to: Pronunciation Reference

'Long' and 'Short' Vowels
Diphthongs
'Voiceless, Unstressed E'
Exceptions to Phonetic Spelling:

Unexpected 'Short A'
End-of-Word B

End-of-Word D
DT
G and CH

H after T
the -IG ending

the -ISCH ending
J
the -LIJK ending

SCHR
UW
W
WR

'Long' and 'Short' Vowels

Dutch vowels can be 'long' or 'short' - traditional names, the difference is actually more in tone than in length.
short A click to hear
long A click to hear
short E click to hear
long E click to hear
'voiceless, unstressed E' ('schwa') click to hear
more below
short I click to hear
long I (IE) click to hear
short O click to hear
long O click to hear
short U click to hear
long U click to hear
There is no sound in English like Dutch 'long U,' but it is found in French, like in cru or dur click to hear and in German, like in Hügel and Muesli click to hear

EXAMPLES:
short A:
- al click to hear ('already') >> - star click to hear ('rigid, inflexible') - hart click to hear ('heart') - zak click to hear ('bag; pocket') - kat click to hear ('cat')
long A:
- ja click to hear ('yes') - daar click to hear ('there') - slaap click to hear 2 ('sleep') - taal click to hear 2 3 ('language')
short E:
- test click to hear ('test') - en click to hear 2 ('and') - ster click to hear ('star') - hek click to hear ('fence') - grens click to hear ('border')
long E:
- nee click to hear ('no') - veel click to hear 2 3 ('many, much') - meer click to hear 2 ('more; a lake') - zeep click to hear ('soap') - twee click to hear ('2')
short I:
- ik click to hear 2 3 (' I ') - wit click to hear ('white') - stil click to hear ('quiet, silent') - niks click to hear ('nothing') - fris click to hear 2 ('fresh; chilly')
long I, IE:
- hier click to hear 2 ('hier') - niet click to hear 2 ('not') ->> - ziek click to hear ('sick, ill') - drie click to hear ('3') - vriend click to hear 2 ('friend')
short O:
- of click to hear ('or') - hond click to hear ('dog') - wol click to hear ('wool') - krom click to hear 2 ('bent, crooked')
long O:
- boot click to hear 2 ('boat') - oog click to hear ('eye') - oor click to hear ('ear') - boom click to hear ('tree') - doos click to hear ('box')
short U:
- hut click to hear ('hut') - hulp click to hear ('help, assistance') - spul click to hear ("stuff") - rust click to hear ('rest, quiet')
long U:
- nu click to hear 2 ('now') - U click to hear ('you' - formal) - uur click to hear ('hour') - duur click to hear ('expensive') - vuur click to hear 2 ('fire')

A double vowel is always 'long' but a single vowel can be either 'long' or 'short' - but you can tell from the letters around it.

- more

Examples:

maan click to hear (moon)
Ma click to hear (Mom)
manen click to hear (moons)
man click to hear (man, a male)
mannen click to hear (men)
vloot click to hear 2 (fleet)
vlo click to hear 2 (flea)
vloten click to hear 2 (fleets)
vlot click to hear 2 3 (raft)
vlotten click to hear 2 3 (rafts)

'Long I' is often written as IE (there is no 'II' for 'long I') - also when the rules say single I would be enough.
- dier click to hear 2 ('animal') - dieren click to hear 2 ('animals') - rivier click to hear ('river') - flexibel click to hear 2 ('flexible')

You'll also need to know about the shuffle of single and double vowels and consonants for adjectives, plurals and verbs.

Unfortunately, compound words keep the spelling and pronunciation of the constituting parts and the rules for 'short' and 'long' vowels above may not apply. For instance:
komen click to hear ('to come') - komma click to hear 2 ('comma')
- but: komaf click to hear 2 ('origin, descent')

Double Consonants
Double consonants are pronounced as a single consonant, not 'longer' or with a pause in between. They usually indicate that a single vowel before them is 'short.'
dubbel click to hear (double) - dubbeldekker click to hear 2 (doubledecker bus; biplane)
bal click to hear / ballen click to hear (ball/balls)
vis click to hear / vissen click to hear (fish/fish(es))
grot click to hear / grotten click to hear (cave/ caves)
groot click to hear 2 / grote click to hear 2 (large, big, tall, great)
/ grootte click to hear (size)

Also, some verb forms differ in meaning and spelling but not in pronunciation:
'wij wachten' click to hear ('we are waiting') sounds exactly the same as
'wij wachtten' click to hear 2 ('we waited, we were waiting')
wij laden click to hear 2 (we load, we are loading)
/ wij laadden click to hear we loaded, we were loading)
wij praten click to hear 2 ('we are talking)
/ wij praatten click to hear 2 (we were talking') - more
In normal speech, double consonants in compound words are also pronounced as a single consonant. You would only hear them in deliberately slow speech.
handdoek click to hear 2 (towel) - griepprik click to hear (flu shot)
let-ter-gre-pen click to hear 2 (syllables) - compare: letter click to hear 2 ('letter, character')

The Dutch Diphthongs

Diphthongs are always pronounced in the same way and have no spelling rules like for 'long' and 'short' vowels

The Dutch diphthongs:

AU = OU click to hear EI = IJ click to hear
EU click to hear OE click to hear UI click to
  hear

There are no sounds in English like Dutch EI/IJ, EU and UI.
A sound like Dutch EI/IJ is found in French, like in soleil click to hear 2 ('sun') or the city of Marseille click to hear
A sound like Dutch EU is found in French, like in deux click to hear (French: '2') and German has a sound like Dutch EU in some words with Ö or OE like Gödel click to hear (a mathematician) or schön click to hear 2 3 (German: 'beautiful, good') and you may have heard of the Swedish city of Göteborg click to
  hear
A sound like Dutch UI is found in French, like in l'oeil click to hear ('the eye') - compare with Dutch: - luier click to hear 2 ('diaper, nappy')

EXAMPLES
AU = OU
AU and OU represent the same sound, sound the same - blauwe houweel click to hear ("blue pickaxe")
nauw click to hear ('narrow, tight') - blauw click to hear ('blue') - au! click to hear ('ouch!') - dauw click to hear ('dew') - gauw click to hear ('quick, quickly') - rauw click to hear ('raw') - klauw click to hear 2 ('claw')
koud click to hear ('cold') - oud click to hear 2 3 ('old') - zout click to hear 2 ('salt') - nou click to hear ('now') - vrouw click to hear ('woman') - touw click to hear ('rope, string') - Gouda click to hear ('city in Holland, cheese type')
EI = IJ
EI and IJ represent the same sound, sound the same
- ei hei steil click to hear ('egg / moor, heath / steep')
- IJ hij stijl click to
   hear ('body of water near Amsterdam / he / style')
feit click to hear ('fact') - vijg click to hear 2 ('fig') - wijn click to hear 2 ('wine') - reis click to hear 2 ('journey, trip') - rijst click to hear ('rice')
EU: deur click to hear 2 ('door') - neus click to hear ('nose') - kleur click to hear 2 ('color') - breuk click to hear 2 ('crack, breach; fraction')
OE: hoe click to hear ('how') - koe click to hear ('cow') - goed click to hear ('good, well') - stoel click to hear ('chair')
UI: ui click to hear 2 ('onion') - duim click to hear 2 ('thumb') - huis click to hear 2 ('house') - bruin click to hear 2 3 ('brown')

'Voiceless, Unstressed E'

The 'voiceless, unstressed E,' also called 'schwa' click to hear is outside the rules for 'long' and 'short' vowels. It may be one the greatest problems of Dutch pronunciation - but there are a few rules: EXAMPLES:
aarde click to hear ('the earth; soil, dirt') - kopje click to hear ('cup, small cup')
bedroefd click to hear ('sad, saddened') - belasting click to hear ('tax, burden') - begin click to hear ('beginning, start') - behalve click to hear ('except')
gebruik click to hear 2 ('use') - geheim click to hear 2 ('secret') - gewoon click to hear ('common, normal, usual') - gedrag click to hear ('behavior')
terug click to hear ('back' - return) - tekort click to hear 2 ('shortage')
verlies click to hear ('loss') - vertaling click to hear 2 ('translation')
binnen click to hear 2 ('inside') - buiten click to hear 2 3 ('outside') - mensen click to hear ('people, men, human beings')
water click to hear 2 ('water') - ander click to hear ('other') - onder click to hear ('below, under')
appel click to hear ('apple') - lepel click to hear ('spoon') - winkel click to hear 2 ('shop, store')

The examples below are the only one-syllable words with 'voiceless E' ...
de click to hear ('the') ->> - te click to hear ('at; too') - me click to hear ('me') ->> - je click to hear ('you') - ge click to hear (Flemish 'you') - we click to hear ('we') - ze click to hear ('she; they')
(The city of Enschede click to hear is the only instance I know of where an unaccented single E at the end of a word is not a 'voiceless, unstressed E')
- 'n click to hear ('a') - 't click to hear ('the; it') ->> - m'n click to hear ('my') - z'n click to hear ('his') - 'r click to hear ('her; ~there') - d'r click to hear ('her; ~there')
... but many other one-syllable words start with or end in the letters of the 'voiceless E'-prefixes and suffixes mentioned above but have 'short E.' Prefixes and suffixes are only found in words of more than one syllable.
For instance:
ik ben click to hear 2 ('I am') - bes click to hear ('berry') - gen click to hear ('gene') - tel click to hear ('count') - ver click to hear ('far') el click to hear ('ell' - ancient length measure) - en click to hear 2 ('and') - er click to hear ('~there') ->>
When there is one E and another vowel than E or a diphthong in a two-syllable word, it's usually the other vowel or the diphthong that has the stress in the word, and the E will be 'voiceless, unstressed.
- gave click to hear 2 ('gift') - geval click to hear ('case') - gevaar click to hear ('danger')
But also in words of two or more syllables be-, ge-, te- and ver- are not always prefixes and -e, -en, -er and -el are not always suffixes.
Words with several E's are hard for foreign students.
It may well be that single E's before a double vowel are always 'short.'
Look at the examples below to get an idea of the problem. With words like these you'll have to memorize the pattern in the pronunciation, where the stress in the word is.
bevel click to hear ('order') - beven click to hear 2 ('to tremble') - benen click to hear 2 ('legs') - gezel click to hear ('companion') - gesel click to hear ('whip, scourge') - tegen click to hear ('against') - vertel click to hear ('tell me') - verte click to hear 2 ('far off, ~distance') - verven click to hear 2 ('to paint')
spelregel click to hear 2 ('a game rule')
veldleger click to hear ('army in the field')
berenvel click to hear ('bear skin')
medemens click to hear ('a fellow human')
reservedeken click to hear ('a spare blanket')
More Examples

The Most Important Exceptions to Phonetic Spelling

Unexpected 'Short' A
In the first syllable of a word, an A followed by one consonant and a vowel should be 'long A' click to hear but often are 'short A' click to hear
Sometimes, but not always, the stress in these words is on a 'long' or 'short' vowel or a diphthong in the second syllable.
When learning words, pay extra attention to words with with a single A in the first syllable
familie click to hear ('family, relatives') - katoen click to hear ('cotton') - kwaliteit click to hear 2 ('quality') - manier click to hear ('manner, way of doing') - papier click to hear 2 ('paper (material)') - paraplu click to hear ('umbrella') - azijn click to hear ('vinegar') - Arabier click to hear ('an Arab') - parade click to hear 2 ('parade') - balans click to hear 2 ('balance, equilibrium')
But many words have long A's in the first syllable, for instance: avond click to hear ('evening') - schaduw click to hear ('shadow') - radio click to hear 2 ('radio') - tragisch click to hear 2 ('tragic') - alimentatie click to hear ('alimony, child support') - asociaal click to hear 2 ('anti-social')
Single A's in the first syllable are 'long' when followed by one consonant and the vowel in the second syllable is a 'voiceless, unstressed E,' for instance in: adem click to hear ('breath') - krater click to hear ('crater') - kamer click to hear ('a room,' "chamber") - kabel click to hear ('cable') - kazen click to hear ('cheeses') - Karel click to hear ('Charles')
- kater click to hear 2 ('male cat; hangover')
But again: - kabaal click to hear 2 ('noise') - kanaal click to hear ('canal') - kaneel click to hear ('cinnamon') - kapel click to hear ('chapel') - kapot click to hear ('broken, not working')
Even though it a 'short A' instead of a 'long A,' it is somewhat like 'voiceless, unstressed E.' The other vowels, I, O and U don't have a complication like this.

B at the end of words pronounced as P
At the end of words and before T, B is pronounced as P
eb click to hear 2 ('ebbtide') - lab click to hear ('lab, laboratory') - ik heb click to hear ('I have') - jij hebt click to hear 2 ('you have')
- but as B in the middle of a word: wij hebben click to hear 2 ('we have')
Also in compound words: - labjas click to hear ('lab coat') - compare with: lapjes click to hear ('patches, pieces of fabric')

D at the end of words pronounced as T
ik had click to hear 2 ('I had') - brood click to hear 2 ('bread, a loaf of bread')
- but as D in the middle of a word: wij hadden click to hear 2 3 4 ('we had') - broden click to hear 2 ('loaves of bread, breads')
Compare: boot click to hear 2 ('boat') - boten click to hear 2 ('boats')

DT is pronounced as T
breedte click to hear ('width' - "breadth") - handtekening click to hear ('signature') - hij wordt click to hear 2 ("he becomes ..." - compare with: ik word click to hear ("I become ...") - see also: the passive voice)

G / CH
There is no sound in English like Dutch G/CH but a similar sound is found in European Spanish, and in Hebrew and Arabic.
nacht click to hear (night) - dag click to hear 2 (day; goodbye) - chaos click to hear ('chaos') - gast click to hear 2 (guest)
There may be a slight difference between how CH and G are pronounced by Dutch people, but students shouldn't worry about that.

H after T is not pronounced
theorie click to hear 2 ('theory') - apotheek click to hear 2 ('pharmacy') - thuis click to hear ('at home') - thema click to hear ('theme')
Compare: thee click to hear ('tea') / teen click to hear ('toe')

-IG ending: voiceless E - G click to hear
veilig click to hear ('safe') - vorig click to hear ('previous') - weinig click to hear 2 ('little, few') - grimmig click to hear 2 ('grisly, grim') - vermenigvuldigen click to hear 2 3 ('to multiply') - gezellig click to hear 2 3 4 5 (somewhat untranslatable: '~pleasant, ~nice, ~enjoyable, ~gregarious, ~cosy' ->>)

-ISCH ending: Dutch long I - S, no CH click to hear
chemisch click to hear ('chemical') - elektrisch click to hear ('electric') - medisch click to hear ('medical')

Dutch J is like English 'Consonant Y'
jakkes! click to hear ('yuck!') - jong click to
    hear ('young') - jongen click to hear ('boy') - jaar click to hear ('year')

-LIJK ending: 'IJ as voiceless, unstressed E' click to
   hear
rijkelijk click to hear ("richly," 'abundantly') - vrijelijk click to hear ('freely, liberally') - verrukkelijk click to
     hear ('delicious') - ijselijk click to hear ("ice-ly" 'dreadful, frightening') - lelijk click to hear 2 ('ugly')

CH in SCHR is not pronounced
- schroef click to hear ('a screw') - schram click to hear ('scratch') - schrijven click to hear 2 3 ('to write') ->> - verschrikkelijk click to hear ('horrible')
Some Dutchmen pronounce a faint G in SCHR, but I have great difficulty doing that. - schrapen SR 2 3 / SCHR 2 ('to scrape') (It is possible that I insert the 'faint G' subconsciously)

Single U in UW is always long
Uw click to hear ('your' - polite) - duw click to hear ('a push') - zenuw click to hear ('nerve') - zwaluw click to hear ('swallow' - a bird) - sluw click to hear ('sly, clever') - schuw click to hear ('very shy')

Dutch W
Keep lips relaxed, not rounded as if for a kiss like in English W; Dutch W starts with the front upper teeth touching the lower lip, but not clearly blowing out air like for a V or F. The sound is formed in the back of the mouth, and not in the front like English W.
ik was click to hear ('I was; I'm washing') - waar click to hear ('where; true') ->> - week click to hear 2 ('week') - woord click to hear ('word')
Compare: wet click to hear ('law') / vet click to hear ('grease, fat')

W before R is pronounced as V
wreed click to hear ('cruel') - wrijven click to hear ('to rub') - wrijving click to hear 2 ('friction') - wrak click to hear ('wrecked ship') - wraak click to hear ('revenge') - wrat click to hear 2 ('wart')
Compare: wrede click to hear ('cruel') / vrede click to hear ('peace')

- More Exceptions and Irregularities

More Good Dutch Smartphone Pages

email - Copyright © Marco Schuffelen 2016.
All rights reserved. This material may not
be published, broadcast, rewritten,
redistributed, or hotlinked to.
Gij zult niet stelen click to hear 'Thou shalt not steal'