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Dutch Verbs - The Verb Stem - Smartphones Page

The conjugation of Dutch verbs starts with the verb stem. The English verb stem is simply the word after the 'to' of the infinitive. In principle, the Dutch verb stem is found by removing the -EN ending from the infinitive. (The infinitive is the verb form usually found in dictionaries or word lists.)
Uncomplicated Verb Stems
Complications
Spelling Rules
The V/F and Z/S Shifts
Irregular Stems
Irregular Verbs

Uncomplicated Verb Stems

meaning infinitive stem
to skate - schaatsen -
click to hear
schaats
click to hear 2 3
to crack, burst barsten
click to hear
barst
click to hear
to fast (not eat) vasten
click to hear
vast
click to hear
to think denken
click to hear 2
denk
to bring brengen
click to hear 2
breng
to drink drinken
click to hear
drink
to jump springen
click to hear 2 3
spring
click to hear
to lead leiden
click to hear
leid
to ride / to drive rijden
click to hear 2
rijd
click to hear
to grab grijpen
click to hear
grijp
to cut (with knife) snijden
click to hear
snijd
to search, look for zoeken
click to hear 2
zoek
to cry, weep
to howl (wolves)
huilen
click to hear
huil
to ride a bicyle fietsen
click to hear 2
fiets
click to hear 2
The verb stems in the examples above are 'regular' - removing the -EN ending gives you the verb stem - because they end in two different consonants or because they have a diphthong as their main vowel. Diphthongs are always 'long' and only vowels before a single consonant have the spelling rules changes.

Complications

Unfortunately, there are many exceptions to the basic verb stem rule. The stem formation is often complicated by:

'Long' and 'Short' Vowels - The Spelling Rules

The most important complication with the verb stems has to do with the Dutch spelling rules for 'long' and 'short' vowels.
'Long' and 'short' are traditional names. The difference is actually more a matter of tone than of length.
short A click to hear long A click to hear
short E click to hear
long E click to hear
'voiceless E' ('schwa') click to hear
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
'IE' is always long and is grouped under diphthongs in this context.
Dutch 'long A' sounds to me like the A in 'Chicago.'
Dutch 'voiceless E' sounds exactly the same as Dutch 'short U,' English 'uh.'
There is no sound in English like Dutch 'long U.'
'UW' click to hear is always long.
Vowels are very often represented by other letters in English. For instance, Dutch 'long E' sounds like English A with silent E, and the sound of English EE is like Dutch IE/'long I' - more.

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
Diphthongs are always 'long.'
(There are no sounds in English like Dutch EI/IJ, EU and UI.)

Adding an -E ending causes spelling changes, like you may have seen in in adjectives; so likewise, removing an -EN ending will lead to 'opposite' changes:

The sound of the vowel rarely changes, but the spelling does change following these rules:
meaning infinitive remove
-EN
stem
~to get halen
click to hear 2
hal haal
click to hear
to bake bakken
click to hear
bakk bak
click to hear 2
to hope hopen
click to hear 2
hop hoop
click to hear 2
to stop stoppen
click to hear
stopp stop
click to hear 2
to rent
(~hire)
huren
click to hear
hur huur
click to hear 2
to kiss kussen
click to hear 2
kuss kus
click to hear
to stare staren
click to hear 2
star staar
to knead kneden
click to hear 2
kned kneed
to swim zwemmen
click to hear
zwemm zwem
to sit,
be seated
zitten
click to hear
zitt zit
click to hear
to pray bidden
click to hear
bidd bid
click to hear
to fill vullen
click to hear 2
vull vul
to extinguish
(fire)
blussen
click to hear 2
bluss blus

There are a few not very common verbs with a stem of two or more syllables that have a 'voiceless E' ('schwa') as the stem's last vowel - which will remain a single vowel and the final consonant is also not going to double.

meaning infinitive stem
to shop winkelen
click to hear 2
winkel
click to hear 2
to smuggle smokkelen
click to hear 2
smokkel
to saunter slenteren
click to hear 2
slenter
to draw,
make a drawing
tekenen
click to hear 2
teken
click to hear 2 3
But some 'long' verb stems will have a long or a short vowel in their last syllable ... you'll have to memorize pronunciation.
meaning infinitive stem
to operate;
perform surgery
opereren
click to hear
opereer
to digest verteren
click to hear
verteer
to tell, relate vertellen
click to hear 2
vertel

The V/F and Z/S Shifts

A second, smaller group of stem exceptions are verbs with the V/F or Z/S shift. Some verb infinitives have a V or a Z before the -EN ending that will change to F or S in the stem.
In Dutch, V and Z are almost only found in front of vowels. (V can be found preceding L and R, for instance in vla click to hear (a light pudding) and vrij click to hear ('free.')) At the end of a word or in front of most consonants V and Z change to F or S. This shift is also found in nouns and adjectives - >>. The V/F shift is also found in English, like in 'life/lives.'
The V/F and Z/S shift may also be combined with the long and short vowel spelling changes.
meaning infinitive remove
-EN
stem
to rub wrijven
click to hear 2
wrijv wrijf
to feign veinzen
click to hear
veinz veins
to lose verliezen
click to hear 2
verliez verlies
click to hear
to dig graven
click to hear 2
grav graaf
click to hear
to give geven
click to hear 2
gevgeef
to read lezen
click to hear
lez lees
to believe geloven
click to hear 2
gelov geloof
to blush blozen
click to hear
bloz bloos

Irregular Stems

Thirdly, a few common one-syllable verbs with double A or a diphthong have an irregular stem:
meaning infinitive stem
to go gaan
click to hear
ga
click to hear 2
to stand,
be standing
staan
click to hear
sta
to slap, hit slaan
click to hear
sla
click to hear
to see zien
click to hear
zie
click to hear
to do doen
click to hear 2 3
doe
click to hear

Irregular Verbs

Like in most languages, the most common verbs are the most irregular and it doesn't make sense to give a verb stem. These verbs will be dealt with early in the series.
meaning infinitive
to be zijn click to hear more
to have hebben click to hear more
'will/shall'
(the future tense)
zullen click to hear
to be allowed to, 'may' mogen click to hear 2
to be able to, 'can' kunnen click to hear

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