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Disambiguation: Dutch 'Het' - Multiple Meanings and Related Words

Disambiguation: Many common Dutch words have more than one meaning.

Disambiguation Home - 'Al' - 'Als' - 'Daar' - 'Dan' - 'Dat' - 'Door' - 'Eens' - 'Er' - 'Erg' - 'Even' - 'Haast' - 'Het' - 'Laat' - 'Maar' - 'Net' - 'Nog' - 'Of' - 'Om' - 'Over' - 'Toen' - 'Van' - 'Voor' - 'Vroeg' - 'Waar' - 'Wat' - 'Zo' - more


click to hear 2 3

/ 't

click to hear
  1. the (#2) - "the little street"
  2. it - "it's late" - "the car - it's broken"

het and 't 
1. het and de = the
Words Taking Both het and de
2. het = it

het and 't

- het click to hear 2 3 / 't click to hear
Do note that 'het' has the Dutch 'short E' click to hear while the abbreviation " 't " is pronounced with voiceless, unstressed E, 'schwa' click to hear. Unfortunately, it's not very common to write the abbreviation. Dutchmen usually write 'het' but often say " 't. " On this 'het' page I've tried to give the phonetic rendering, but elsewhere on my website you may often find 'het' pronounced as " 't " and (occasionally) vice versa.
het is click to hear it's, it is
't is click to hear 2 3 it's, it is
Het Delft van Vermeer click to hear The Delft of Vermeer, Vermeer's Delft
't Delft van Vermeer click to hear The Delft of Vermeer, Vermeer's Delft

Do also note that apostrophe-T " 't " is not written with a capital letter when it's the first word of a line. In lines like that, the second word is capitalized. In the rare family names that start with apostrophe-T, like author 't Hart click to hear (Maarten) the T is also always lowercase.

't Spijt me heel erg click to hear 2 3 I'm very sorry about it
't Mag geen geld kosten click to hear 2 [It may not cost] - I don't want to pay (serious) money for it
't Weer sloeg plotseling om click to hear 2 3 The weather suddenly changed
't Houten huis is heel oud click to hear The wooden house is very old

You'll find the same capitalization with the Dutch apostrophe-S time indications - >>

's Avonds ging de zon onder click to hear 2 In the evening the sun went down
's Woensdags eten we vaak linzen click to hear 2 3 On wednesdays we often [eat] have lentils

1. 'Het' = 'the' (#2)

Dutch has two words for the definite article ('the.') The majority of Dutch nouns takes 'de' click to hear 2 but a minority (something like 35% in my estimate) takes 'het' click to hear 2 3 Diminutives (words ending in -je) are 'het words' but otherwise there are no useful rules - you'll just have to memorize the words that go with 'het.' The plurals of all words take 'de.'
Compound words usually take the 'de' or 'het' of the last constituent part of the word.
It is sometimes said that 'het'-words are 'neutral' (neutraal click to hear 2) or 'neuter' (onzijdig click to hear 2 3) but they can refer to males or females.
De vrouw click to hear 2 ('the woman') - de man click to hear 2 3 ('the man') - 't hondje click to hear 2 ('the doggie, the little dog') - het meisje click to hear 2 ('the girl') - het kleine broertje click to hear ('the little brother') - het mannetje click to hear 2 ('male animal' - and jocular 'guy for special jobs')
Daar heb ik een mannetje voor click to hear 2 3 4 (jocular) 'I [have] know a guy for (to do) that speccial job'
't Idee! click to hear 2 The idea!
In 't nieuws click to hear 2 In the news
Op de rand van de afgrond click to hear On the edge of the precipe
Aan de andere kant van de muur click to hear On the other side of the wall
De morgen van de laatste dag click to hear 2 The morning of the last day
Ik zag de zon in de zee zinken click to hear I saw the sun sink into the sea
De verre toekomst en de nabije toekomst click to hear The (far) distant future and the near future
de dikke en de dunne click to hear 2 the fat one and the (thin) skinny one (Laurel & Hardy)
Het zinken van het schip click to hear The sinking of the ship ('passive' sinking NOT 'making it sink')
't Kaf van 't koren scheiden click to hear Separating the chaff from the wheat (men from boys, sheep from goats)
't Zekere voor 't onzekere nemen click to hear 2 3 'Taking the certain over/before the uncertain' (not taking risks)
tussen de bomen in 't bos click to hear Among the trees in the forest
De bal wordt in 't doel geschoten click to hear 2 ( click to hear 2) The ball is shot (shot) into the goal (goal)
't Nederland van na de oorlog click to hear [The The Netherlands of after the war] Postwar Holland
't Geheim van de smid click to hear 2 'The secret of the blacksmith' - a 'knack,' special way of doing something
't Water staat me tot de lippen click to hear The water is coming up to my lips - it can't go on like this
De kat op 't spek binden click to hear Tying the cat to the bacon - creating a dangerous situation
't Oog is groter dan de maag click to hear 2 The eye is bigger than the stomach - said when you put more food on your plate than you can eat
het noorden click to hear 2 (the North)
het oosten click to hear 2 (the East)
het zuiden click to hear 2 (the South)
het westen click to hear 2 3 (the West)
(het) kompas click to hear 2
(de) windwijzer click to hear 2

Sometimes Dutch uses the article 'het' where English leaves it out

Hoe zeg je dat in 't Nederlands? click to hear 2 How do you say that in Dutch?
geheel in 't zwart click to hear entirely, all in black (clothes)

The superlative degree of an adjective used as a noun takes 'het.'

Welke dag komt je 't beste uit? click to hear What day would suit you best?
Wim is 't grootst click to hear 2 3 Wim is the tallest
Wanneer heb je voor 't laatst een brief geschreven? click to hear When was the last time you wrote a letter?
op 't ergste voorbereid click to hear 2 prepared for the worst

A Few Words that Can Take both 'de' and 'het'

A few words can have 'de' or 'het' - usually taking a different meaning.
Voetbal click to
  hear - 'de voetbal' is 'soccer ball' but 'het voetbal' is the sport 'soccer,' European and Latin American football ->>
Noodweer click to hear 2 'het noodweer' is very bad, dangerous weather, while 'de noodweer' is justifiable self-defense.
Aas click to
     hear 'de aas' is the 'ace' in cards ->> while 'het aas' is 'carrion, bait' meat to attract hunters' prey
Blik click to hear 2 'de blik' is 'look, glance' or 'expression' (on face) and 'het blik' is either the metal 'tinplate' or a 'can, tin can' (originally made of that metal) - (het) blikje click to hear 2 ('small' tin can)
Koper click to
       hear het koper is the metal 'copper,' but de koper is 'buyer,' a person who buys or has bought
Hoorn click to hear 2 (also written as 'horen' - het hoorn is the material, and de hoorn is an item 'made of' that material, like on animal heads or helmets, or to blow on. It's not unusual, the 'material' as a 'het'-word, and items made or consisting of the stuff as 'de'- words.
Kurk click to
	   hear 'de kurk' is a bottle-stopper, while 'het kurk' is the woodlike bark material those bottle-stoppers are made of
Leer click to hear het leer is 'leather' while de leer is 'doctrine, system of belief or thinking'
Mens click to hear 2 '(de) mens' is 'human being,' plural: mensen click to hear
- 'De mens' click to hear 2 3 (always with 'de') is 'Man, humankind'
De mens kan niet van brood alleen leven click to hear 2 'Man cannot live by bread alone'
De mens lijdt 't meest van 't lijden dat-ie vreest click to hear 'Man suffers most from the suffering he fears'
De mens wikt, God beschikt click to hear 2 3 'Man deliberates, God decides'
- 'het mens' is an unpleasant, obnoxious not-very-young woman.
- (Het) kind click to hear 2 means 'child,' but it can also be an unpleasant, obnoxious young woman.
-(Het) mensenkind click to hear 2 3 is a poetic word for 'human child' and does not mean 'Mankind,' which is 'de mensheid' click to hear 2 'humankind') - it's almost a False Friend
Portier click to hear 2 3 'de portier' is 'doorman' ('porter'?) and 'het portier' is 'car door.'
Punt click to hear 2 3 4 'de punt' is a dot, a period at the end of a line or the tip of for instance a knife; 'het punt' is the most important part of a viewpoint or reasoning. English 'point' also has this double meaning.
Staal click to
      hear 'het staal' is the metal 'steel' while 'de staal' is a fabric sample, a 'swatch.'
(het) stalenboek click to hear 2 'fabric samples catalog'
(het) plaatstaal click to hear 2 'plate steel,'
(de) staalplaat click to hear 2 3 'steel plate'
Stof click to hear 2 3 4 'het stof' is 'dust,' while 'de stof' is 'fabric' or 'material' - or figuratively, 'subject matter'
(de) stofzuiger click to hear 2 ['dust-sucker'] vacuum cleaner
Voel hoe zacht de stof is! click to hear 2 3 Do feel how soft the fabric is!
Hij is lang van stof click to hear 2 'He always talks at great length'
In compound words, 'stof' usually means 'material,' "stuff" for instance:
(de) brandstof click to hear 2 (['burning stuff'] - 'fuel')
(de) splijtstof click to hear 2 'fissile material'
springstof click to hear 2 'explosives'
- see also: The Periodic Table of The Elements
Veer click to
    hear 'het veer' is 'ferry,' while 'de veer' can be 'feather' or 'spring' (tensile)
Kussen click to hear 2 'het kussen' is pillow ('cushion'?) but kussen is also the plural of '(de) kus' click to hear ('kiss.') The plural of 'kussen' 'pillow' is 'kussens' click to hear - kussen is also a verb meaning 'to kiss,' and when used as a noun it's also 'het kussen' (English 'the kissing')
Genie click to hear 2
(French G)
'(het) genie' is 'a person of genius' or that gift, 'the genius, exceptional ability' while '(de) genie' is 'the army corps of engineers'

2. 'Het' = 'it'

Dutch 'het' click to hear 2 3 / 't click to hear can also be the English impersonal pronoun 'it' - referring to a non-male and non-female 'neutral/neuter' item mentioned before or implied - but Dutch usage is not identical to English 'it.' I have the impression English 'he' and 'she' usually refer to people and for instance not to animals or things; but Dutch generally uses hij click to hear 'he' (and occasionally zij click to hear 'she') for 'de'-words and 'het' for 'het'-words. See also Personal Pronouns.
If I understand Molinarius correctly, 'it' and 'het' in this sense are called 'placeholders' for the 'antecedent' - the item mentioned before or implied. Saying "It's cold" is short for 'The weather is cold,' like "It's eight o'clock" is short for 'The time is eight o'clock,' and "It's dangerous" means 'The situation is dangerous.'
Ik spreek geen Nederlands ... click to hear 2 I don't speak Dutch ...
... maar ik kan het wel verstaan click to hear 2 3 ... but I do understand it ('het'/'it' = Dutch)
't Eten - 't was lekker click to hear The food - it was (tasty) good
't Eten - 't was koud click to hear The food - it was cold
De auto - hij is stuk click to hear 2 The car - it is broken, doesn't go
De dag - hij was lang click to hear 2 The day - it was long
't Schip - 't is gezonken click to hear
The ship - it (she?) has sunk ->>
't Sneeuwt click to hear It is snowing
't Is begonnen click to hear It has started, it has begun
't Is te laat click to hear It's too late
't Is jouw beurt click to hear 2 3 It's your turn
't Is er nooit van gekomen click to hear 2 3 It never came about, it never happened (it never went beyond plans)
't Geeft niet click to hear 2 3 4 It doesn't matter, it's all right, 'never mind'
't Is niet logisch click to hear 2 3 It's not logical
't Is te gecompliceerd click to hear 2 It's too complicated
't Is meer dan duizend dollar click to hear 2 3 It's more than a thousand dollars
't Is meer dan een miljoen euro click to hear 2 It's more than a million euros ->>
't Is moeilijk te vinden click to hear 2 3 It's hard to find
't Kan vriezen en 't kan dooien click to hear 'It may freeze or it may thaw' - things can go either way
't Went click to hear 2 You get used to it
Het vroor dat 't kraakte click to hear 2 It was freezing [so hard] that it cracked (ice, I assume) - 'Het' = the weather / 't = the ice
Als 't regent wordt de wedstrijd afgelast click to hear If it rains the match will be canceled
't Heeft de hele dag geregend click to hear 2 3 It's been raining all day
't Is een taak voor de overheid click to hear 2 It is a task for the government
't Gaat niet om 't geld! click to hear It's not about the money
't IJzer smeden als 't heet is click to hear 2 3 ['Smith,' forge] Work the iron when it's hot
Wie 't weet mag 't zeggen click to hear 2 ['Who knows it'] The person who knows (it - the answer) may say it - it can also mean: 'It's anybody's guess
... en toen werd 't donker click to hear 2 3 4 ... and then it got dark
Toen 't donker werd gingen we naar huis click to hear When it got dark we went home
't Weerbericht zegt dat 't morgen gaat regenen click to hear The weather forecast says (that) it's going to rain tomorrow
't Is er nooit van gekomen click to hear 2 3 It never came about (we were planning it, but it never happened)
Je hebt 't goed gedaan click to hear You have done (it) well (singular 'you')
Jullie hebben 't goed gedaan click to hear You guys have done (it) well
Hij heeft 't verkeerd gedaan click to hear He has done it wrong, in the wrong way
Zij hebben 't verkeerd gedaan click to hear They have done it wrong, in the wrong way
Ik heb 't niet gedaan click to hear I have not done it
We hebben 't niet gedaan click to hear We have not done it
Ik heb 't wel gedaan click to hear I did do it
Is 't 't waard? click to hear Is it worth it?
Al is de leugen nog zo snel, de waarheid achterhaalt haar wel click to hear 2 3 4 (saying) ['However quick a lie may be, the truth will overtake it'] - Lies won't last, truth will come out eventually

Sometimes Dutch uses the placeholder 'het' where English leaves it out

Ik kan 't niet verklaren click to hear 2 I can't explain (I don't understand)
Ik kan 't niet uitleggen click to hear 2 I can't explain (I can't tell you, I can't put it in words)
Ik wil 't weten click to hear 2 I want to know
Ik weet 't niet click to hear 2 I don't know
Ik snap 't click to hear 2 3 I understand
Hij bedoelt 't goed click to hear 2 He means well
Heb je 't koud? click to hear 2 3 [Do you have it cold?] - Are you cold?
Ik herinner me 't niet. click to hear 2 I don't remember [it.]
Ik kan me 't niet herinneren. click to hear 2 I [can't] don't remember [it.]
(Ik kan 't me niet herinneren. click to hear) I [can't] don't remember [it.])
Nou herinner ik 't me weer. click to hear 2 Now I remember [it] [again.]

Synomyms, Alternates and Related Words

When used with a preposition, English placeholder 'it' is not 'het' in Dutch but 'er' click to hear See the 'er' disambiguation page.
Kijk er eens goed naar click to hear 2 3 Look sharp at it, take a moment to inspect it closely
Ik ben er trots op click to hear 2 3 I'm proud of it
Like placeholder 'it' being translated as 'er' when a preposition is involved, placeholder 'that' with a preposition is not 'dat' but 'daar' ->> and placeholder 'what' with a preposition is not 'wat' but 'waar' ->>. See also: Placeholders with Prepositions
Daar heb ik geen tijd voor click to hear 2 I don't have time for that
Waar hou(d) je van? click to hear What do you like?

Extreme Examples

de brand click to hear 'the fire'
het brandt click to hear 2 'it [burns] is burning'
'brand' and 'brandt' sound exactly the same: click to hear
de regent click to hear 'the governor of the Dutch Indies'
het regent click to hear 2 3 4 'it is raining'
The stress in regent is in different places

Dutch Vocabulary Overview - Dutch Grammar Overview - Listen to and Read Dutch

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Don't be a dief (thief) / dievegge (female thief) - diefstal (theft) - stelen (to steal) - heler (dealer in stolen goods) - hear Dutch - 2