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Dutch Verbs: The Past Tense - Smartphones Page

The simple past tense
onvoltooid verleden tijd click to hear 2
('unfinished past tense') - ovt click to hear

The simple past in Dutch has two forms: plural and singular.
Like in English, many common verbs are 'strong,' meaning that for the past tense (and often also for the past participle) they have a vowel (or diphthong) change, and sometimes also a consonant change for a new 'past-tense-stem.' 'Weak' verbs just add endings to the verb stem we know and love from the present tense.
sterke werkwoorden click to hear 2 'strong verbs'
zwakke werkwoorden click to hear 2 3 'weak verbs'

'Weak' Verbs - 't kofschip
'Strong' Verbs

Weak Verbs - 't kofschip

The Dutch simple past has two types of endings for weak verbs: verbs with stems ending in T, K, F, S, CH and P (known as 't kofschip-verbs) have an -TE ending for the singular, -TEN for the plural, while verbs with stems ending in other letters have -DE and -DEN endings.
't kofschip click to hear

Simple Past Model:
't kofschip-type Weak Verbs
ik STEM + te I
jij STEM + te you (singular, informal)
hij STEM + te he
wij STEM + ten we
jullie STEM + ten you (plural, informal)
zij STEM + ten they
U STEM + te you (polite)
Simple Past Model: Other Weak Verbs
ik STEM + de I
jij STEM + de you (singular, informal)
hij STEM + de he
wij STEM + den we
jullie STEM + den you (plural, informal)
zij STEM + den they
U STEM + de you (polite)

Examples:

danken - stem: dank
- 't kofschip-type: T-endings
danken to thank
ik dankte I thanked
jij dankte you thanked (singular, informal)
hij dankte he thanked
wij dankten we thanked
jullie dankten you thanked (plural, informal)
zij dankten they thanked
U dankte you thanked (polite)
click to hear
'Danken' click to hear 2 is a bit old-fashioned. I used it for clarity of sound. 'Bedanken' click to hear 2 is more common - ik bedankte click to hear

stemmen - stem: stem
NOT 't kofschip-type: D-endings
stemmen to vote / to tune
ik stemde I voted
jij stemde you voted
hij stemde he voted
wij stemden we voted
jullie stemden y'all voted
zij stemden they voted
U stemde you voted
click to hear

fietsen - stem: fiets
- 't kofschip-type: T-endings
(fietsen click to hear 2 ) to ride a bike
ik fietste I rode a bike
jij fietste you rode a bike (singular)
hij fietste he rode a bike
wij fietsten we rode a bike
jullie fietsten you rode a bike (plural)
zij fietsten they rode a bike
U fietste you rode a bike (polite)
click to hear

horen - stem: hoor
- NOT 't kofschip-type: D-endings
(horen click to hear 2 ) to hear
ik hoorde I heard
jij hoorde you heard
hij hoorde he heard
wij hoorden we heard
jullie hoorden y'all heard
zij hoorden they heard
U hoorde you heard
click to hear

Verbs with stems ending in D or T will have the regular -DE, -DEN, -TE or -TEN endings, but the double D or T is pronounced the same as a single D or T - for the plural, you will see the difference in the written form, but there's no difference in pronunciation between the present and the past tense.

'Wij lachen' click to hear 2 ('we laugh, we are laughing')
is clearly different from
'wij lachten' click to hear 2 ('we laughed, we were laughing') - but
'wij wachten' click to hear ('we are waiting')
sounds exactly the same as
'wij wachtten' click to hear 2 ('we waited, we were waiting') and
'laden' sounds exactly the same as 'laadden' click to hear ('to load, loaded')
wij laden click to hear 2 'we are loading'
wij laadden click to hear 'we were loading, we loaded'
wij praten click to hear 2 / wij praatten click to hear 2 ('we are talking / we were talking')

wachten - stem: wacht
- 't kofschip-type: T-endings
(wachten click to hear ) to wait
ik wachtte I waited
jij wachtte you waited
hij wachtte he waited
wij wachtten we waited
jullie wachtten y'all waited
zij wachtten they waited
U wachtte you waited
click to hear

leiden - stem: leid
- NOT 't kofschip-type: D-endings
(leiden click to hear ) to lead
ik leidde I led
jij leidde you led
hij leidde he led
wij leidden we led
jullie leidden y'all led
zij leidden they led
U leidde you led
click to hear

Also note: zetten click to hear

zetten to put, place
ik zet I put
wij zetten we put
ik zette I put (past tense)
wij zetten we put (past tense)
ik heb gezet I have put
click to hear 2
The verb stem is zet click to hear - in the simple present plural, a T is added to keep the vowel 'short,' but in the simple past the second T is part of the past-tense ending

Fine point: The F/V and S/Z shift and 't kofschip

Verbs with a V or Z in the infinitive before the -EN ending will have stems ending in F or S, but they are not 't kofschip-verbs and do get -DE and -DEN endings in the past tense.
You may notice that the vowels before V or Z are almost always 'long.'
(Some of the verbs in the examples are not very common.)
meaning infinitive stempast tense
(singular)
to believe geloven
click to hear 2
geloof geloofde click to hear 2
believed
to promise beloven
click to hear 2 3 4
beloof beloofde click to hear 2
promised
to shuffle, walk without energy sloffen
click to hear 2
slof slofte click to hear 2
shuffled
[Marco Everyday I'm Shufflin']
meaning infinitive stempast tense
(singular)
to blush blozen
click to hear
bloos bloosde click to hear
blushed
to wash wassen
click to hear 2
was
click to hear
waste click to hear 2
washed
cows etc. taking in grass grazen
click to hear 2
graas graasde click to hear
grazed
to plane (wood) schaven
click to hear
schaaf schaafde click to hear 2
planed
to forge, counterfeit, falsify vervalsen
click to hear
vervals vervalste click to hear
forged
to dance dansen
click to hear 2
dans
click to hear 2
danste click to hear 2
danced
to waltz walsen
click to hear
wals
click to hear
walste click to hear
waltzed
to tremble beven
click to hear 2
beef
click to hear 2
beefde click to hear 2
trembled
to fear vrezen
click to hear 2
vrees
click to hear
vreesde click to hear 2
feared
to cross kruisen
click to hear 2
kruis
click to hear
kruiste click to hear 2
crossed
~to bubble bruisen
click to hear
bruis bruiste click to hear
~bubbled
to rustle (wind) ruisen
click to hear 2
ruis
click to hear 2
ruiste click to hear 2
rustled
to whizz suizen
click to hear 2
suis suisde click to hear
whizzed
to grin grijnzen
click to hear 2
grijns
click to hear
grijnsde click to hear 2
grinned
to feign veinzen
click to hear
veins veinsde click to hear 2
feigned

Strong Verbs

'Strong' verbs have a vowel change in the past tense, and sometimes also a change of consonants. There are similarities between Dutch and English verbs, but not really systematic and there are no good rules. You'll just have to memorize which verbs are 'strong' and what their forms are.
Simple Past Model: Strong Verbs
I ik STRONG-PAST-STEM
you (singular) jij STRONG-PAST-STEM
he hij STRONG-PAST-STEM
we wij STRONG-PAST-STEM + en
you (plural) jullie STRONG-PAST-STEM + en
they zij STRONG-PAST-STEM + en
you (polite) U STRONG-PAST-STEM

EXAMPLES

(vinden click to hear 2 ) to find
ik vond I found
jij vond you found (singular, informal)
hij vond he found
wij vonden we found
jullie vonden you found (plural, informal)
zij vonden they found
U vond you found (polite)
click to hear 2

vragen to ask
ik vroeg I asked
jij vroeg you asked (singular, informal)
hij vroeg he asked
wij vroegen we asked
jullie vroegen you asked (plural, informal)
zij vroegen they asked
U vroeg you asked (polite)
click to hear

(helpen click to hear 2 ) to help, assist
ik hielp I helped
jij hielp you helped (singular, informal)
hij hielp he helped
wij hielpen we helped
jullie hielpen y'all helped
zij hielpen they helped
U hielp you helped (polite)
click to hear

Almost all strong verbs with an A in the past tense will have that A short in the singular and long in the plural. The only exceptions are hadden, the past tense of hebben 'to have' - and dachten click to hear 2 the plural past tense of denken click to hear 2 and brachten click to hear 2 the plural past tense of brengen click to hear 2 - A's which of course can never be 'long' before that CHT (or even before CH.)
wij dachten click to hear 2 3 'we thought'
wij brachten click to hear 2 'we brought'

(hebben click to hear) to have
ik had I had
jij had you had (singular)
hij had he had
wij hadden we had
jullie hadden you had (plural)
zij hadden they had
U had you had (polite)
click to hear

(zien click to hear) to see
ik zag I saw
jij zag you saw (singular, informal)
hij zag he saw
wij zagen we saw
jullie zagen y'all saw
zij zagen they saw
U zag you saw (polite)
click to hear

(liggen click to hear 2 ) to lie down
ik lag I was lying down
jij lag you were lying down
hij lag he was lying down
wij lagen we were lying down
jullie lagen y'all were lying down
zij lagen they were lying down
U lag you were lying down
click to hear 2

(komen click to hear ) to come
ik kwam I came
jij kwam you came (singular)
hij kwam he came
wij kwamen we came
jullie kwamen y'all came
zij kwamen they came
U kwam you came (polite)
click to hear

(eten click to hear ) to eat
ik at I ate, was eating
jij at you ate, were eating
hij at he ate, was eating
wij aten we ate, were eating
jullie aten y'all ate, were eating
zij aten they ate, were eating
U at you ate, were eating
click to hear

Verbs that have an F/V or S/Z shift in the present tense also will have that shift in the past tense, and it may be combined with the short A in the singular, long A in the plural:

geven to give
ik gaf I gave
jij gaf you gave
hij gaf he gave
wij gaven we gave
jullie gaven y'all gave
zij gaven they gave
U gaf you gave
click to hear

(lezen click to hear ) to read
ik las I read, was reading
jij las you read, were reading
hij las he read, was reading
wij lazen we read, were reading
jullie lazen y'all read, were reading
zij lazen they read, were reading
U las you read, were reading
click to hear
[old picture of little boy reading]
ik las click to hear

(schrijven click to hear 2 3 ) to write
ik schreef I wrote
jij schreef you wrote
hij schreef he wrote
wij schreven we wrote
jullie schreven y'all wrote
zij schreven they wrote
U schreef you wrote
click to hear
(Note that CH in SCHR is not pronounced)
[a few lines of my handwriting as a child]
ik schreef click to hear

There are no useful rules for what the strong verbs changes are, but there is sometimes a similarity with English verbs - a list of strong verbs.
More about strong verbs on the page about the Perfect Tenses - next.

<< the present tense - the perfect tenses >>

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