TOP
Welcome - Site Maps: Mobile - Desktop
Verbs Home

Dutch Verbs Combined and 'Te'

Simple sentences have just one verb, the 'working verb.' The working verb changes with the subject: I am, you are, he is. More complicated sentences can have one or more verbs next to the working verb.
The Dutch perfect tenses use the auxiliary verbs 'hebben click to hear ('to have') or zijn click to hear (otherwise: 'to be') and ... traditionally you'd think a past participle, but some verbs have an infinitive in the perfect tense; the passive voice uses the auxiliary verb 'worden' click to hear 2 with a past participle. All other verb combinations have the secondary verb or verbs in the form of infinitives. The 'secondary' verbs are usually at the end of the line - see word order.

English puts 'to' in front of most infinitives, but its Dutch equivalent 'te' click to hear is unusual. It's only used for infinitives in sentences with a working verb from a certain group of verbs. The verbs that don't use 'te' also don't use a past participle but an infinitive in the perfect tenses when combined with other verbs. There is also another complication with the use of 'te' in the perfect tenses.

Overview

Examples

Ik hoorde de vogels click to hear 2 3 I heard the birds - one verb:   'hoorde'

Ik heb de vogels gehoord click to hear 2 3 I've heard the birds - perfect tense
- working verb = auxiliary verb:
  'heb'
- past participle:   'gehoord'

Ik hoorde de vogels fluiten click to hear 2 3 I heard the birds [whistle] sing - 'special group' working verb:   'hoorde'
- with verb infinitive:   'fluiten'
- no 'te'

Ik probeerde te fluiten click to hear 2 3 I tried to whistle - working verb not 'special group'  'probeerde'
- verb infinitive   'fluiten'
- with   'te'

Ik kon de vogels horen click to hear 2 3 I [could hear] was able to hear the birds - 'special group' working verb   'kon'
- with verb infinitive   'horen'
- no   'te'

Ik hoop de vogels te horen click to hear 2 3 I hope to hear the birds - working verb not 'special group  'hoop'
- verb infinitive 'horen'
- with 'te'

(In the perfect tenses, 'hebben' or 'zijn' are 'auxiliary verbs;' we'll call the verb that's put in the perfect tense the 'main verb' and we'll call other verbs 'secondary verbs.')

Ik had gehoopt de vogels te horen click to hear 2 I had hoped to hear the birds - perfect tense
- 'regular' main verb past participle
  'gehoopt'
- secondary verb infinitive   'horen'
- with   'te'

Ik heb de vogels horen fluiten click to hear 2 3 I've heard the birds sing - perfect tense
- 'special group' main verb
 'horen'
- with secondary verb infinitive   'fluiten'
- and no 'te'

We zitten te luisteren click to hear 2 3 We are listening - simple tense
- with
'te'
We hebben zitten luisteren click to hear 2 3
(We hebben zitten te luisteren click to hear 2 3 4) We were listening - perfect tense
- but
'te'-group main verb as infinitive   'zitten'
- 'te' optional

This page will help you understand the use of infinitives in Dutch verb combinations and when to use 'te.'

As a native speaker I have no difficulty where to use an infiitive in the perfect tense or when to use 'te.' It all comes 'naturally' to me, it's all 'automatic.' I never paid much attention to it, but now that I looked at it more closely in preparing this page I see that it must be difficult for foreign students.

Contents

Overview
Examples
(above)
The Perfect Tenses and The Past Participle
The Passive Voice
The Future Tense
Verb Combinations, Infinitives and 'Te'
The 'Special Verbs'
The Other Verbs
The Dutch Continuous in The Simple Tenses
Verb Combinations in The Perfect Tenses
The 'Special Verbs' in The Perfect Tenses
The Dutch Continuous in The Perfect Tenses
Irregular Verbs: 'hoeven' and 'leren'
The Other Verbs in The Perfect Tenses
A Complication
Multiple Verbs
'Independent Use' of the 'Special Verbs'
Verbs in Sub-sentences
Word Order
Other Meanings of 'Te'
English 'Modal Verbs'

The Perfect Tenses and The Past Participle

The perfect tenses in English use 'to have' as an auxiliary verb with the past participle of the relevant verb. Dutch uses 'hebben click to hear ('to have') or zijn click to hear ('to be') and a past participle

(het) werkwoord click to hear ['working word'] is the Dutch word for 'verb' - not necessarily the 'working verb'

(het) hulpwerkwoord click to hear ['helping verb'] - auxiliary verb
(de) voltooide tijd click to hear 2 3 perfect tense
(het) voltooid deelwoord click to hear past participle

ik heb gehad click to hear I have had
ik had gehad click to hear 2 I had had
ik ben geweest click to hear I have been
ik was geweest click to hear 2 I had been
ik heb gegeven click to hear I have given
ik ben gegaan click to hear I have gone

Ik heb jullie veel woorden gegeven click to hear 2 I've given you guys many words

We hebben een goed jaar gehad click to hear We've had a good year

Heb je genoeg gegeten? click to hear Have you eaten enough?

Waar ben je geweest? click to hear 2 3 Where have you been?

Wat heb je ervan geleerd? click to hear 2 3 What have you learned from it? What has it taught you?

Er is iets heel ergs gebeurd click to hear 2 3 4 Something very bad, something horrible has happened

more hebben 'to have'
more zijn 'to have' for the perfect tense / 'to be'
The Perfect Tenses, The Past Participle

The Passive Voice

In English, the passive voice uses the auxiliary verb 'to be' and a past participle; Dutch uses the auxiliary verb 'worden' click to hear 2 with a past participle. (The differing use of these verbs may be confusing - more - but that does not concern us here.)
(de) lijdende vorm click to hear ['suffering form'] - the passsive voice

Het huis wordt geverfd click to hear The house is being painted

Ik werd afgeleid click to hear 2 I was distracted

De bal wordt in het doel geschoten click to hear 2 3 4 The ball is [shot] kicked into the goal (varying stress)

Hij werd gemarteld click to hear 2 He was tortured Hij is gemarteld geworden click to hear 2 He has been tortured ->>

Aanstoot wordt genomen, niet gegeven click to hear 2 3 Offense is taken, not given

Er wordt al zoveel gezegd click to hear 2 So much is being said already

Dat werd verwacht click to hear 2 That was expected

more worden - 'to be' (for the passive form)
- The Passive Voice

The past participle is (next to its use as an adjective) only found in the perfect tenses and the passive voice. Otherwise, the working verb is combined with infinitives. Take 'zullen' of the future tense as an example:

The Future Tense

The future tense uses the verbs 'will' and 'shall' in English and the auxiliary verb 'zullen' click to hear in Dutch. The other verb is not a past participle but an infinitive, and without 'to' in English or 'te' in Dutch
de toekomende tijd click to hear 2 'the future tense'
(de) onbepaalde wijs click to hear '(the) infinitive'

Morgen zal 't wel beter zijn click to hear 2 3 Tomorrow (it) will be better

Ik zal opschieten click to hear I'll hurry

Hoe zal 't aflopen? click to hear How will it end? Compare with:
Hoe is 't afgelopen? click to hear [How has it ended?] - How did it end?

Stel je voor dat er geen auto's zouden zijn click to hear Imagine that there [would be] were no cars

Wat zou er gebeuren? click to hear 2
What would happen?

Ik zou niet gaan click to hear 2 3 4 I wouldn't go

't Zou kunnen click to hear 2 It could be

more zullen - The Future Tense

Verb Combinations, Infinitives and Te

Look for the infinitives and 'te' in the following lines:

't Hoeft niet grappig te zijn click to hear 2 3 4 It doesn't have to be funny 't Moet wel interessant zijn click to hear 2 But it has to be interesting

Er kan niet genoeg geld zijn click to hear There cannot be enough money (it's impossible that there is enough money) Er blijkt genoeg geld te zijn click to hear 2 3 [There turns out to be ...] It turns out that there is enough money

Some verbs as working verbs in combination with other verbs always put 'te' in front of the secondary verbs infinitives, and other verbs don't put a 'te' in front of secondary verbs.
Past participles are only used in the perfect tenses and the passive voice; the secondary verbs in all other verb combinations are infinitives.

The 'Special Verbs'

Very common verbs that as working verbs don't put 'te' in front of secondary verbs: zullen click to hear 'shall/will' (for the future tense)
kunnen click to hear 'can, being able to'
willen click to hear 2 'to want to, desire'
mogen click to hear 2 'may, be allowed to'
moeten click to hear 2 'must, have to'
laten click to hear 'to let, allow'
gaan click to hear 'to go, going to'
doen click to hear 2 3 'to do, make'
blijven click to hear 2 'to remain, stay, continue'
komen click to hear 'to come'
leren click to hear 'to learn' and 'to teach' *
zien click to hear 'to see'
horen click to hear 2 'to hear'
voelen click to hear 2 'to feel'

Note the use of the infinitive ('next to' the working verbs) in the sentence examples

We zullen wel zien click to hear 2 We'll see Eerlijk zullen we alles delen click to hear 2 We'll share everything fairly Wie zal dat betalen? click to hear 2 Who'll pay for that? Je zult er geen spijt van krijgen click to hear 2 You won't be sorry (about it) - more zullen

Je kon heel ver zien click to hear You could see very far, visibility was excellent Ik kan 't niet vinden click to hear 2 3 I can't find it We kunnen niet zo doorgaan click to hear 2 3 We can't go on like this - more kunnen

Ik wil Nederlands leren click to hear 2 3 I want to learn Dutch Willen jullie meezingen? click to hear Would you guys like to sing along? Kom je binnen of wil je buiten blijven? click to hear Are you coming in or would you like to stay outside? (I'm closing the door) - more willen

ik mag geen varkensvlees eten click to hear I'm not allowed to, I can't eat pork Als het licht groen is mag je doorrijden click to hear 2 When the light is green you may drive [through] on ‑>> Jullie mogen wel Nederlands praten click to hear 2 [You may ...] It's alright to speak Dutch Ze mogen wel oppassen click to hear [They sure may pay attention] - They'd better be careful - more mogen

Vis moet zwemmen click to hear 2 3 4 Fish [must] got to swim Als 't licht rood is moet je stoppen click to hear 2 3 4 When the light is red you have to stop Waarom moet 't zo moeilijk zijn? click to hear 2 Why does it have to be so difficult? We moesten hard werken click to hear We had to work hard - more moeten

Laat ik dat eerst even doen click to hear 2 Let me do that first de kraan laten lopen click to hear 2 to let the faucet [walk] run Laten we aan 't werk gaan click to hear 2 Let's start working - more laten

Morgen ga ik witlof maken click to hear Tomorrow I'm going to prepare Belgian endives ‑>> Ga meteen je huiswerk maken! click to hear [Go do] Start on your homework right away Gaat 't morgen regenen? click to hear 2 Is it going to rain tomorrow? - more gaan

In combinations with other verbs, 'doen' is usually translated as 'to make'
Hoop doet leven click to hear [Hope makes living possible] Hope fuels life De druppel die de emmer deed overlopen click to hear 2 3 (saying) '[The drop that caused the bucket to spill over] The straw that broke the camel's back' 't Doet me denken aan een boek van Mulisch click to hear 2 It makes me think of a book by Mulisch - more doen

Alles blijft veranderen click to hear 2 Everything keeps changing Ik blijf 't proberen click to hear 2 3 4 I keep trying [it] 't Blijft de hele week regenen click to hear 2 It [keeps] will keep raining all week - more blijven

Ze komen zondag bij ons eten click to hear 2 3 They're coming [to eat at our place] for dinner on Sunday Kom je thee drinken? click to hear 2 [Are you coming for drinking tea?] - Please come for a cup of tea Hij komt morgen de kachel maken click to hear He'll come by tomorrow to repair the heater, he'll fix the heater tomorrow - more komen

Leer ons alzo onze dagen tellen click to hear 2 3 So teach us to number our days (Ps 90:12) Hij leerde fietsen in Nederland click to hear 2 3 He learned to ride a bike in Holland Ik leerde 'm kennen in 't leger click to hear 2 3 I [learned] came to know him in the army Also see the note on 'leren' in the perfect tense below

The verbs of what the senses tell you,
zien click to hear 'to see'
horen click to hear 2 'to hear' and
voelen click to hear 2 'to feel'
can be combined with a verb infinitive without 'te'
- more: 'The Senses'

Ik zag je voorbijkomen click to hear 2 3 4 I saw you pass by Ik zag de zon in de zee zinken click to hear I saw the sun sink into the sea Ik zag 't niet meer zitten click to hear (saying) ['I didn't see it sit anymore,' I didn't see things in place anymore] - I was depressed Hij zag de bui al hangen click to hear 2 3 (saying) ['He had already seen the rainshower "hanging"'] - 'He understood trouble was brewing' - more zien

Ik hoorde de glazen rinkelen click to hear 2 3 I heard the (drinking) glasses tinkle Ik hoorde de vogels fluiten click to hear 2 3 I heard the birds [whistle] sing Ze keek alsof ze 't in Keulen hoorde donderen click to hear 2 3 4 5 (saying) She looked (the look on her face was) as if she heard [it] thunder rumbling in Cologne' - great surprise at hearing something completely unexpected - more horen

Ik voelde de aarde beven click to hear 2 3 I felt the earth [tremble] shake - more voelen

The Other Verbs (in The Simple Tenses)

Only the verbs in the 'special group' leave out 'te' when as working verbs combined with other verbs - the verbs outside the 'Special Group' as working verbs put 'te' at the verb infinitives they're combined with - in the simple tenses. The perfect tenses are more complicated and will be dealt with in another section - (below)
Note that not all verbs can be combined with other verbs - and the verbs in the examples below are not a complete list of verbs that put 'te' in front of infinitives they're combined with.

sentence examples:

zijn click to hear to be
't Is moeilijk te vinden click to hear 2 3 It's hard to find Is er wat te eten? click to hear 2 3 4 Is there something to eat? Dat was te verwachten click to hear 2 That was to be expected, that could have been expected Er is nog zoveel te doen! click to hear 2 3 There is still so much to do! - more zijn

hebben click to hear to have
Ik heb wel wat beters te doen click to hear 2 3 I sure have something better to do Hij heeft de smaak te pakken click to hear 2 (saying) [~He was captured by the taste] - he really likes it (a new activity) Wat heb je daarop te zeggen? click to hear 2 What do you have to say about that? (What is your comment?) - more hebben

proberen click to hear to try
Ik probeer Nederlands te leren click to hear I'm trying to learn Dutch Probeer wakker te blijven click to hear Try to stay awake Probeer 't eenvoudig te houden click to hear 2 Try to keep it simple

beginnen click to hear to begin, start
Ik begin 't te begrijpen click to hear 2 I'm beginning to understand Net voordat 't begon te regenen click to hear 2 3 Just before it [started to reain] rained 't Begint te waaien click to hear [It] A wind is starting to blow - more beginnen

hoeven click to hear is almost always in the negative with niet click to hear 2 ('not, do not') or geen click to hear ('no, zero quantity') and then means 'don't need, no need, not necessary, don't want, don't have to'
We hoeven niet te blijven click to hear 2 3 We don't have to stay (we can leave) Je hoeft niet weg te gaan click to hear 2 3 You don't have to [go away] leave (you can stay, for example for dinner) Hij hoefde zich niet te bewijzen click to hear He didn't have to prove himself - Hoeven is irregular in the perfect tense
- more hoeven

durven click to hear 2 'to dare'
Durf te kiezen click to hear 2 3 Dare to choose (commit, don't stay on the sidelines) Hij durfde niks te zeggen click to hear 2 3 [He dared to say nothing] - He didn't dare to say anything, he was afraid to speak up

krijgen click to hear to receive, to 'get,' to be given (the meaning can be very different)
We krijgen iemand te eten click to hear 2 We'll [get] have [someone] a visitor for [eating] dinner We kregen brood te eten click to hear 2 We were given bread to eat

denken click to hear 2 to think
Hij dacht 't te weten click to hear 2 he thought he knew [it] Hij dacht 't te kunnen click to hear 2 3 he thought he could [do it] - He thought he would be able to Ik dacht te weten click to hear 2 I thought [to know] I knew Ik denk erover op te houden click to hear 2 3 I'm thinking of stopping

weten click to hear usually means 'to know,' but here it means 'being able to'
Hij wist te ontsnappen click to hear 2 3 He was able to escape Hij wist 't te vinden click to hear 2 3 He was able to find it - more weten

vergeten click to hear 2 3 'to forget' ('vergeten' is both the infinitive and the past participle)
Ik vergat te tanken click to hear I [forgot] had forgotten to tank (buy gas, fill the tank) Vergeet niet de hond uit te laten click to hear 2 Don't forget to walk the dog Vergeet niet je telefoon op te laden click to hear 2 Don't forget to recharge your telephone

lijken click to hear to look like, seem, appear
Er lijkt weinig geld te zijn click to hear 2 It looks like there's little money De minuutwijzer lijkt wel helemaal stil te staan click to hear 2 3 The minutes hand seems to stand still, have stopped completely

blijken click to hear to turn out, prove, appear
Er blijkt toch genoeg geld te zijn click to hear 2 It turns out that there is enough money after all Ze bleken oplichters te zijn click to hear 2 [They turned out to be] It turned out they were swindlers

schijnen click to hear to appear, seem, look like; also: to shine
Er schijnt iets gebeurd te zijn click to hear 2 3 4 It looks like something happened 't Schijnt niet waar te zijn click to hear 2 3 It appears not to be true

Again, the verbs in the examples above are not an exhaustive list of verbs with 'te' -- all verbs outside the 'special group' that as working verbs combine with other verb infinitives use 'te' in the simple tenses. Note that not all verbs can be combined.

The Dutch Continuous in The Simple Tenses

Dutch does not have a present participle (verb-ing) like English, and Dutch does not have a contiuous (also called 'progressive') like "we are waiting" but Dutch can indicate an ongoing activity with the verbs:
'zitten' click to hear (to sit, to be seated),
'liggen' click to hear 2 (to lie, be lying down),
'staan' click to hear (to stand, to be standing) or
'lopen' click to hear 2 (to walk)
with te click to hear and a verb infinitive.
(de) duurvorm click to hear 2 - The Dutch Continuous

We zitten te eten click to hear [We're eating] - We're having [food] dinner (or lunch)

Ik lig te lezen click to hear I'm reading

Dat staat ons ook te wachten click to hear 2 That is waiting for us too, we can expect that too

Hij loopt te schelden click to hear He is swearing, cursing out

more - zitten - liggen - staan - lopen

Verb Combinations In The Perfect Tenses

There is not much difference in Dutch between the simple past tense and the present perfect tense - you can often save yourself the trouble of the complications by avoiding the present perfect tense and using the simple past tense.

examples: (some repeated from the introduction)

Ik hoorde de vogels fluiten click to hear 2 3 I heard the birds [whistle] sing Ik heb de vogels horen fluiten click to hear 2 3 I've heard the birds sing

We zitten te luisteren click to hear 2 3 We are listening We zaten te luisteren click to hear 2 3 We were listening We hebben zitten luisteren click to hear 2 3
(We hebben zitten te luisteren click to hear 2 3 4) We have been, we were listening

Ik hoop de vogels te horen click to hear 2 3 I hope to hear the birds Ik had gehoopt de vogels te horen click to hear 2 I had hoped to hear the birds

The 'Special Verbs' in The Perfect Tenses

The 'Special Verbs' use an infinitive and not a past participle when in the perfect tenses combined with other verbs (combined with other verbs than the auxiliary verbs 'hebben' and 'zijn')

Ik hoorde de vogels click to hear 2 3 I heard the birds

Ik hoorde de vogels fluiten click to hear 2 3 I heard the birds [whistle] sing

Ik heb de vogels gehoord click to hear 2 3 I've heard the birds

Ik heb de vogels horen fluiten click to hear 2 3 I've heard the birds sing

Ik kon de vogels horen click to hear 2 3 I could hear the birds

Ik heb de vogels kunnen horen click to hear 2 3 4 I [have been] was able to hear the birds

A Perfect tense for zullen click to hear ('shall/will') is very unusual. The only example I can think of:

Ik had zullen wachten click to hear 2 3 I was going to wait, the plan was that I would wait (but it didn't happen) - not really a perfect tense, more a 'conditional'

Examples of the other 'Special Verbs' in combinations with other verbs:

Ik had kunnen weten dat ... click to hear 2 I could have known that ... 't Had erger kunnen zijn click to hear 2 3 4 It could have been worse

Wat hebben we al niet willen opknappen! click to hear 2 We had big plans to fix things. - Nescio

Ik heb even de eeuwigheid mogen aanschouwen click to hear 2 3 [I have been allowed for a moment to view eternity] - I was allowed a brief glimpse of eternity

Daar had je aan moeten denken click to hear 2 (3 4) You should have thought of that

Ik heb de eieren laten schrikken click to hear [I have scared the eggs] (Put just-boiled eggs in cold water for easier peeling)

De wind is gaan liggen click to hear The wind has ['gone to lay down'] died down

't Heeft me doen nadenken click to hear 2 3 It has made me think (about ...) 't Heeft me doen inzien click to hear 2 3 it has made me understand, it gave me the insight

Ik ben komen fietsen click to hear 2 3 [I've come biking] - I've come by bike

'Leren' is a special case - see note below

Ik heb water zien branden click to hear 2 I've seen water burn (I've seen something that's impossible) Ik heb al wat huizen zien vallen! click to hear I have already seen many [houses fall] (trading) companies fail! - Multatuli

Ik heb 'm nooit horen lachen click to hear 2 3 4 I've never heard him laugh Ik heb je horen vloeken click to hear 2 I [have] heard you cursing

Ik heb de aarde voelen beven click to hear 2 3 4 5 I have felt the earth tremble

The Dutch Continuous in The Perfect Tenses

As seen above, in the simple tenses the verbs of the 'Dutch Continuous' zitten, liggen, staan and lopen are combined with infinitives and use 'te' - but when in the perfect tense combined with other verbs, zitten, liggen, staan and lopen will be infinitives, not past participles, and te click to hear is usually left out (but it's not wrong to use it.)

Hij heeft de hele week lopen klagen. click to hear 2 He's been complaining all week. (Hij heeft de hele dag lopen te klagen. click to hear He's been complaining all day.)

(as already seen above)
We zitten te luisteren click to hear 2 3 We are listening We zaten te luisteren click to hear 2 3 We were listening We hebben zitten luisteren click to hear 2 3
(We hebben zitten te luisteren click to hear 2 3 4) We have been, we were listening

We hadden zitten kaarten click to hear 2 3
We hadden zitten te kaarten click to hear 2 We had been playing cards

Hij heeft de hele middag zitten typen. click to hear 2
(Hij heeft de hele middag zitten te typen. click to hear 2 He has been typing all afternoon.)

Irregular Verbs: 'hoeven' and 'leren'

In the simple tenses you need to put a 'te' in front of verbs that hoeven click to hear is combined with, but in the perfect tenses 'te' is optional after 'hoeven' - and 'hoeven' does not have a past participle

Ik hoefde niet te wachten click to hear 2 I didn't have to wait Ik heb niet hoeven wachten click to hear 2
Ik heb niet hoeven te wachten click to hear 2 I didn't have to wait

Ik heb niet hoeven te betalen click to hear 2 I didn't have to pay

'Leren' click to hear can be both 'to learn' and 'to teach'

Ik heb veel geleerd click to hear 2 3 I have learned [much] many things Ik heb jullie veel geleerd click to hear 2 I have taught you guys [much] many things

When in the perfect tense combined with other verbs, leren can either be an infinitive or a past participle. The past participle 'looks more serious,' refers to matters 'of the mind' or things learned from unpleasant experiences.
'Heb leren' does not put 'te' in front of accompanying infinitives, but 'heb geleerd' does.

Ik heb leren zwemmen click to hear 2 3 I've learned to swim It's not good Dutch to say:
'Ik heb geleerd te zwemmen'
but you can say:
Ik heb geleerd tegen de stroom in te zwemmen click to hear 2 3 I've learned [to swim against the current] - to go my own way, rebel, not follow current trends, fashion or popular thinking, go against the majority

Ik heb 'm leren kennen in 't leger click to hear 2 3 I've come to know him in the army

Ik heb geleerd te zwijgen click to hear 2 3 I've learned to keep silent, keep my mouth shut You can as well say:
Ik heb leren zwijgen click to hear 2 3

Ik heb leren luisteren click to hear 2
Ik heb geleerd te luisteren click to hear 2 I've learned to listen

More 'leren' in the Word Order section below

The Other Verbs in The Perfect Tense

Most of the verbs that as working verb add 'te' to following initiatives also do that when in the perfect tense. An infinitive after a past participle without 'te' feels wrong.

Ik hoop de vogels te horen click to hear 2 3 I hope to hear the birds Ik had gehoopt de vogels te horen click to hear 2 I had hoped to hear the birds

Ik probeerde te fluiten click to hear 2 3 I tried to whistle Ik heb geprobeerd te fluiten click to hear 2 3 I have tried to whistle

Ik heb geprobeerd te helpen click to hear 2 I have tried to help

Ik heb geprobeerd te zwijgen click to hear I have tried to stay silent, not to speak up

A Complication

Many compound verbs split up in the present tenses, for instance opletten click to hear 2 'to pay atttention, watch closely'

opletten to pay attention
ik let op I'm paying attention
ik lette op I paid attention
ik heb opgelet I have paid attention
click to hear 2 - more
When splitting compound verbs are used in combinations with working verbs that are not in the 'special group' the infinitives split up and the 'te' is placed in-between.

Hij zit niet goed op te letten click to hear 2 3 He is not paying close attention Je moet goed opletten click to hear 2 3 You have to pay close attention

Hij probeerde de kist op te tillen click to hear 2 3 He tried to lift the wooden box Hij kan vijftig kilo optillen click to hear 2 3 He can lift 50 kilos

'Vergeten' above has two more examples of splitting verbs

Multiple Verbs

Sometimes there are more than two or three verbs in a sentence. When the main verb requires it, there will only be one 'te'
Look at Word Order below for an unusual feature

Hij lijkt te winnen click to hear 2 3 [He looks like ...] It looks like he's winning Hij lijkt te gaan winnen click to hear 2 3 [He looks like ...] It looks like he's going to win You can also say:
Het lijkt erop dat hij gaat winnen click to hear 2 It looks like he's going to win

Ik heb leren improviseren click to hear 2 3 I've learned to improvise Ik heb moeten leren improviseren click to hear 2 I've had to learn to improvise

Ik heb moeten leren lezen click to hear I've had to learn to read

Ze wilde gaan zwemmen click to hear 2 3 She (had) wanted to go swimming

(Ik heb een paar jaar pianoles gehad click to hear I've had piano lessons for a [couple of] few years) Maar ik had beter gitaar kunnen leren spelen click to hear But learning to play the guitar would have [been better] made more sense

Ik had geschiedenis moeten gaan studeren click to hear I should have studied history in college (or university) - I should have chosen history as a student

Ik wil niks verloren laten gaan click to hear 2 I [want nothing] don't want anything to get wasted, I don't want to waste anything

Kon ik nog maar even blijven liggen! click to hear 2 3 If only I could [remain lying down] stay in bed a little longer

'Independent' Use of the 'Special Verbs'

Almost all the 'Special Verbs' can be used 'independently,' not combined with other verbs, and then they will be past participles in the perfect tenses. Sometimes there is a small change of meaning.
The only verbs that don't have a past participle are the auxiliary verb for the future tense zullen click to
  hear ('shall/will') and the 'irregular verb' hoeven click to hear ('hoeven' is explained above)
The past participles for kunnen click to hear 'can, being able to' and moeten click to hear 2 'must, have to' are very unusual. I have recorded them (unthinkingly) but I cannot think of a good line using them, and they're untranslatable. ik heb gekund click to hear ik heb gemoeten click to hear 2 Maybe these four verbs above can only be combined with verbs.

Ik heb 't nooit gewild click to hear 2 I never wanted it (to happen)

Ik heb 'm (hem) nooit gemogen click to hear 2 3 I never really liked him

Ik heb 't maar zo gelaten click to hear 2 I just left it like that (I was done with it)

Hij is even naar buiten gegaan click to hear He [went] has stepped out for a moment

Ik heb de was gedaan click to hear 2 I've done the laundry Al de domme dingen die ik gedaan heb click to hear 2 3 All the stupid things I've done

't Is allemaal hetzelfde gebleven click to hear 2 It all has stayed the same (nothing has changed)

Er is iets tussen gekomen click to hear 2 3 Something came [in between] up (what was planned can't go on)

Heb je haar gezicht gezien? click to hear 2 Have you seen her face?

Heb je 't nieuws al gehoord? click to hear 2 3 Have you (already) heard the news?

Ik had me nog nooit zo ziek gevoeld click to hear 2 3 I had never felt that sick (before)

Most of the verbs in the 'non-te' group can also be used 'independently,' without a second verb - often with a slightly different meaning. The verbs in this group always have a past participle in the perfect tenses, also when combined with secondary verbs. So the verbs of the 'te'-group have regular perfect tenses - but note the exceptions 'hoeven' and the verbs of the 'Dutch Continuous' zitten, liggen, staan and lopen

Verbs in Sub-sentences

When sentences are divided in two or more sub-sentences by commas or words like for instance en click to hear 2 ('and') or maar click to hear ('but') - or when there are other sub-sentences ('subjunctive clauses') after conjucntions like 'dar,' 'wat' or 'hoe' etc. - more - each part with its own subjects and working verbs, the verbs from the one part are not 'combined' with the verbs in the other part.

We zouden gaan fietsen maar 't begon te regenen click to hear We were going to make a bike ride but it started to rain

Ik had schrijver willen worden, maar ik ben spreker geworden click to hear I wanted to be a writer but I've become a speaker

Ik had kunnen weten dat 't slecht zou aflopen click to hear 2 3 I could have known that it would end badly

Zelfs als hij geweten had dat het zou gaan regenen ... click to hear 2 Even if he had known it was going to rain ...

Ik moet toch weten wat er gebeurt in de wereld click to hear 2 3 I really need to know what's going on in the world

Ik zou willen dat ik harder kon schoppen click to hear 2 I really wish I could kick (a ball) harder

Word Order

(revised)
Usually, the working verb comes after the subject, and other verbs are placed at the end of the line, but the best place for a past participle that's combined with one or more other verbs is right after the auxiliary 'working verb' 'hebben' or 'zijn.' The verbs that use a past participle in combinations with other verbs also put a 'te' in front of the infinitives they're combined with.
In a similar pattern, verbs from the 'adding te' group (when combined with other, secondary verbs) will also come right after a working verb from the 'Special Group,' possibly followed by an object and/or complement and the other verbs then put at the end of the line.
'Leren' is very useful in the examples because it can appear both as the infinitive leren (not adding 'te') and the past participle geleerd (adding 'te')
Time and/or place may be inserted in-between the working verb for the perfect tense and the past participle.

Preferred word order in perfect tense or 'Special Verb' with infinitive from the 'adding te' group when combined with other verbs:

subject
hebben/zijn or 'Special Group' working verb
(time, place)
past participle/infinitive from 'adding te' group
(object)
'te' + verb infinitive(s)

Ik heb de vogels gehoord click to hear 2 3 I've heard the birds

Ik had gehoopt de vogels te horen click to hear 2 I had hoped to hear the birds

Ik heb de vogels kunnen horen click to hear 2 3 4 I [have been] was able to hear the birds

Ik heb de vogels horen fluiten click to hear 2 3 I've heard the birds [whistle] sing

Ik ben vergeten de huur te betalen click to hear 2 3 I [have forgotten] forgot to pay the rent

Ik heb de reis moeten afzeggen click to hear 2 3 I've had to cancel te trip

Ik heb gisteren nog kaartjes kunnen krijgen click to hear 2 3 I was still able to get tickets yesterday

Ik heb geprobeerd Nederlands te leren click to hear 2 3 I have tried to learn Dutch

Ik heb geprobeerd de vogels te horen click to hear 2 3 I have tried to hear the birds

Ik heb gisteren in Amsterdam geprobeerd een visum te krijgen click to hear 2 3 Yesterday I've tried to get a visa in Amsterdam

Ik ga morgen in Amsterdam proberen een visum te krijgen click to hear 2 3 Tomorrow I'll try to get a visa in Amsterdam

Ik heb op een oud schip geleerd haring te kaken click to hear 2 3 I have learned to gut herring on an old ship
herring - 'haring kaken'

Ik wil op een oud schip haring leren kaken click to hear 2 3 I want to learn to gut herring on an old ship

- not really 'wrong,' but not the preferred way:
Ik wil op een oud schip leren haring te kaken click to hear I want to learn to gut herring on an old ship Placing the object before the past participle in lines like this is really wrong:
'Ik heb op een oud schip haring geleerd te kaken'
is not good Dutch

Ik heb in Deventer koek leren bakken click to hear 2 3 I've learned to bake 'cake' in Deventer

Ik wil in Deventer koek leren bakken click to hear 2 I want to learn to bake 'cake' in Deventer

Ik heb in Deventer geleerd koek te bakken click to hear 2 3 I have learned to bake 'cake' in Deventer
(de) koek click to hear 2 - 'cake'

'Time' is always before 'place' but there is some freedom in word order - see examples

Ik heb geleerd tegen de stroom in te zwemmen click to hear 2 3
Ik heb tegen de stroom in leren zwemmen click to hear 2 3 4 I've learned [to swim against the current] - to go my own way, rebel, not follow current trends, fashion or popular thinking, go against the majority

Other Meanings of 'Te'

Dutch te click to hear can often be translated as 'too'

Het was te veel click to hear It was too much

Heb je te veel gegeten? click to hear 2 Have you eaten too much? Did you eat too much?

Niet te laat opstaan! click to hear Don't get up too late!

Het is nog te vroeg click to hear 2 3 It's still too early

te veel van 't goede click to hear 2 too much of [the] a good thing

Te veel mensen met te veel geld click to hear 2 Too many people with too much money ->>

om te click to hear can be translated as 'to' or 'for' - giving the reason, purpose or goal

goed om te weten click to hear 2 3 good to know

Ik moest rennen om de bus te halen click to hear 2 3 I had to run to catch the bus

't Is niet om te lachen click to hear 2 3 4 It's not for laughing, it's nothing to laugh about, it's no laughing matter

Nederlands is een mooie taal ... click to hear Dutch is a beautiful language ... ... maar misschien niet om te zingen click to hear ... but maybe not for singing

Hij was te klein om over de schutting te kijken click to hear 2 He was too [small] short to look over the fence

Te dom om voor de duivel te dansen click to hear 2 Too stupid to dance for the devil (a not-too-bright person)

In bureaucratic usage, 'te'   can indicate the place where a person lives:

... huisarts te 's-Gravenhage click to hear 2 3 ... family doctor in The Hague

There are other uses of 'te' in Dutch that I cannot fully explain yet.

English 'Modal Verbs'

In English, there is a small group of unusual verbs called 'modal verbs' (must, shall, will, should, would, can, could, may and might) that are somewhat similar to what I call Dutch 'Special Verbs,' like they have no -S ending for present-tense third-person singular ('he, she, it') and no past participle, and the verbs they are combined with are in the infinitive without 'to.' It explains that there is no T in hij zal click to hear 2 3 ('he will') - hij kan click to hear 2 3 ('he can, he is able to') and hij mag click to hear 2 3 ('he may, he is allowed to') - though these three are from rather irregular verbs anyway. But it could explain the absence of the T in hij wil click to hear 2 3 ('he wants to') from the otherwise regular and weak verb willen click to hear 2 ‑>> But the number of 'Special Verbs' in Dutch is much higher.
Dutch does not have a present participle like English sometimes uses in these cases.

We can dance
We were dancing
I hope to dance
I saw you dancing

More Verbs

email - Copyright © Marco Schuffelen 2018. 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'