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Dutch Verbs: A Continuous - Smartphones Page

Introduction
The Auxiliary Verbs

Examples:
Simple Tenses
Perfect Tenses
Another Continuous
Dutch does not have a continuous like English 'to be' with a present participle (verb-ing) - but in Dutch you can say that an activity is ongoing with verbs like 'zitten' (to sit, to be seated), 'liggen' (to lie, be lying down), 'staan' (to stand, to be standing) or 'lopen' (to walk) with te click to hear and a verb infinitive. (This is one of the few places where Dutch uses 'te' with a verb in the sense of English 'to.')
(de) duurvorm click to hear 2

[reading in bed]
ik lig te lezen click to hear I'm reading

There is not always an activity involved like the zitten etc. verbs indicate. For instance, I don't have to be sitting down when I say:
Ik zit te denken aan een cadeau click to hear
('I'm thinking of a present.')
This Dutch continuous is almost only used for people, occasionally for animals.

The Auxiliary Verbs

zitten to sit, be sitting, be seated
ik zit I sit
wij zitten we sit
ik zat I sat
wij zaten we sat
ik heb gezeten I have sat
click to hear - more

liggen to lie down
ik lig I'm lying down
wij liggen we lie down
ik lag I lay down
wij lagen we lay down
ik heb gelegen I have lain down
click to hear - more

staan to stand, be standing
ik sta I stand
wij staan we stand
ik stond I stood
wij stonden we stood
ik heb gestaan I have stood
click to hear 2 - more

lopen to walk
ik loop I walk
wij lopen we walk
ik liep I walked
wij liepen we walked
ik ben gelopen
ik heb gelopen
I have walked
click to hear 2 - more
(For the continuous, only the 'hebben' perfect is used)

Examples: The Simple Tenses

Ik zat te denken aan ... click to hear
I was thinking of ...
Ik zit te denken aan een cadeau click to hear
I'm thinking of a present

Ik zat te wachten op ... click to hear
I was waiting for ...
Ik zat te wachten op een telefoontje click to hear
I was waiting for a phone call

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

We zaten gezellig te praten click to hear 2
We were having a pleasant conversation, a nice chat

(herinneringen ophalen click to hear 2 to reminisce, bringing up memories)
We zaten gezellig herinneringen op te halen click to hear 2
We were reminiscing pleasantly, we were having a good time chatting about the past

Hij zit te zwammen. click to hear
He's talking nonsense.

Hij zit te zeuren. click to hear 2
He is nagging, talking about irrelevant things in a very annoying way.
Zit niet zo te zeuren! click to hear 2
Now stop that nagging!

Ik zit te vernikkelen. click to hear 2
I'm freezing, I'm cold.

D'r zit een hond te blaffen. click to hear 2 3 4
A dog is barking. (borderline)

Ik lig te lezen click to hear
I'm reading
Hij ligt te lezen. click to hear
He's reading. (Probably lying down doing that.)
Lekker lui liggen lezen click to hear
Enjoying a lazy read

Ze lagen te slapen click to hear
They were sleeping

Hij ligt te etteren. click to hear 2
He's engaging in provocative, useless talk or actions, making a nuisance of himself.

Hij stond te praten met ... click to hear
He was talking to ...
Hij stond te praten met Piet click to hear
He was talking to Piet

We staan te wachten op een taxi. click to hear 2 3
We're waiting for a taxi.

Ik sta te trillen op m'n benen click to hear 2
['I'm shaking on my legs'] - 'I'm trembling with fear or from exhaustion'

Ik sta nergens meer van te kijken click to hear 2
Nothing [is surprising] surprises me anymore

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

Er staat iemand bijbels uit te delen click to hear 2
There's a guy handing out bibles

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

Er loopt een dronken man te schreeuwen click to hear 2
There's a drunk guy shouting

We liepen naar de vogels te luisteren click to hear 2
We were listening to the birds

Examples: The Perfect Tense

The Dutch 'continuous' is not often used in the perfect tense - but when it does there isn't the past participle but the infinitive:

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

Hij heeft de hele week lopen klagen. click to hear 2
He's been complaining all week.

Compare with:
Ik heb de hele dag gelopen click to hear 2 3
I walked all day, I've been walking all day

We hebben lopen demonstreren. click to
    hear
(We hebbe lope demonstrere click to hear 2 3)
We have been in a protest march.

Another Continuous

There is another, less common way to indicate an ongoing activity with 'zijn' click to hear ('to be' ->>) and "aan 't" click to hear 2 with a verb infinitive - maybe related to English 'a' in forms like 'asleep,' and 'awake.' ("I'm gonna be a-wed.")
You'll see this figure used, but I do not recommend its use by students. To me, it only sounds right in very specific situations but I can't think of rules for its use. My feeling is that it's mostly used for I and we and physical-activites verbs.

subject zijn
(to be)
aan 't verb
infinitive

Ik ben aan 't koken. click to hear
I'm preparing dinner (or other hot food)

Ik ben een brood aan 't bakken. click to hear 2
I'm baking bread.

Wat ben je aan 't doen? click to hear
What are you doing, working on, busy with?

Ik ben aan 't winkelen click to hear 2
'I am shopping'
Ik was aan 't winkelen click to hear
'I was shopping'

aan 't schrijven click to hear 2 3
writing

Dan heb je de poppen aan het dansen click to hear 2 3
(expression) - ['Then you'll have the puppets dancing' - the show will start] - 'then the fat is in the fire, all hell will break loose'

When used with a noun, "aan 't" just takes the literal meaning 'at the'

Ze zijn aan het goede adres. click to hear 2
They came to the right address, they're at the right place (usually figuratively)

"Aan 't werk" click to hear 2 3 4 means 'let's get working' - To work! Let's get started! Let's start working!

Laten we aan 't werk gaan. click to hear 2 3
Let's get to work, start working.
Aan de slag! click to hear 2
To work! Let's get started! Let's start working!

zitten - liggen - staan - lopen

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Gij zult niet stelen click to hear 'Thou shalt not steal'