TOP
Home
Site Map
Mobile
Learning Dutch?
There's Never Been
A Better Time
Pronunciation
Listening
Hear Names
Words Phrases Grammar Facebook
Search my site:

Spliting Dutch Verbs

Sometimes Dutch verbs split up: which verbs and when, and where does the split-off go?

Dutch often runs words together. A nice example:
(de) spoorwegovergangwachter click to hear
['rail-road-over-pass-guard'] - railroad crossing guard
Words made up of different components are called 'compound words.'
Dutch also has compound verbs, often made up of a basic verb with a preposition. A (to foreign students) difficult complication is that some compound verbs split up in the simple present and simple past tense, the prepostions or other words separating from the verb. But there are two clear rules for which verbs do separate and which do not, although there is a special, somewhat unusual case where the verbs don't split up, and another somewhat unusual case where infinitives split up.

An Example
Rule #1: Inseparable Prefixes
Rule #2: The Stress in the Verb
Where Does the Split-Off Go?
Two Special Examples
Advanced Stuff:

Special Case #1: Conditional Sub-sentences

Special Case #2: Infinitives Splitting

An Example of a Splitting Verb

optillen click to hear to lift (up)

overview
optillen to lift (up)
ik til op I lift
wij tillen op we lift
ik tilde op I lifted
wij tilden op we lifted
ik heb opgetild I have lifted
click to hear

simple present tense
optillen to lift
ik til op I lift
jij tilt op you lift (singular, informal you)
hij tilt op he lifts
wij tillen op we lift
jullie tillen op y'all lift (plural, informal you)
zij tillen op they lift
U tilt op you lift (polite you)
click to hear

simple past tense
(optillen) to lift
ik tilde op I lifted
jij tilde op you lifted
hij tilde op he lifted
wij tilden op we lifted
jullie tilden op y'all lifted
zij tilden op they lifted
U tilde op you lifted
click to hear

Past participles do not split up;
the past participles' GE- is inserted between the two parts of splitting verbs:

present perfect tense
ik heb opgetild click to hear I have lifted

Examples of usage:

Til het niet op! click to hear 2 Don't lift it Ik tilde z'n fiets op click to hear 2 3 I lifted up his bike Special case #1: conditions like  'toen:'
Toen ik z'n fiets optilde begreep ik hoe hij zo hard kon rijden click to hear 2 3 4 When I lifted up, picked up his bike I understood how he could ride that fast Ik kan 't niet optillen click to hear 2 3 4 I can't lift it, I'm not able to lift it up Hij kan vijftig kilo optillen click to hear 2 3 He can lift 50 kilos (120 pounds) Special case #2: infinitives split up in combination with certain verbs:
Hij probeerde de kist op te tillen click to hear 2 3 He tried to lift the wooden box (de) lift click to hear is the Dutch word for 'elevator'
liften click to hear 2 3 can be the plural of (de) lift  'elevator' or the Dutch verb for 'hitchhiking'

Rule #1: Inseparable Prefixes

BE-, ER-, GE-, HER-, ONT-  and VER- are 'inseparable prefixes.' They don't come off in the simple present and past tenses. Compound verbs that do not split up also don't add GE- in their past participles.

Examples:

beloven to promise
ik beloofde I promised
ik heb beloofd I have promised
click to hear

betalen to pay
ik betaalde I paid
ik heb betaald I have paid
click to hear

erkennen to acknowledge
ik erkende I acknowledge
ik heb erkend I have acknowledge
click to hear

geloven to believe
ik geloof I believe
wij geloven we believe
ik geloofde I believed
wij geloofden we believed
ik heb geloofd I have believed
click to hear 2

herhalen to repeat
ik herhaalde I repeated
ik heb herhaald I have repeated
click to hear

ontdekken to discover
ik ontdekte I discovered
ik heb ontdekt I have discovered
click to hear

(a strong verb)
vergeten to forget
ik vergat I forgot
ik ben vergeten I have forgotten
click to hear

verhuizen to move, relocate
ik verhuisde I moved
ik ben verhuisd I have moved
click to hear

Be aware that not all word beginnings BE-, GE- and VER- are compound words. Most two-syllables verbs are not compound verbs, but 'regular verbs' don't split up either (so it doesn't matter.)
You can tell by the pronunciation, BE- GE- and VER- with 'short E' click to
hear or 'long E' click to hear are not prefixes, but BE- GE- and VER- with 'voiceless, unstressed E' (the schwa) click to hear are prefixes.

See for example: geven click to hear 2 'to give'

overview
geven to give
ik geef I give
wij geven we give
ik gaf I gave
wij gaven we gave
ik heb gegeven I have given
click to hear 2

Rule #2: The Stress in the Compound Verb

Some of the compound verbs that are not in the 'inseparable prefixes' BE-, ER-, GE-, HER-, ONT-  and VER- group also don't split up, but others do. They don't split up when the stress in the word is on the basic verb part, but the verbs in this group do split up when the stress is on the other part of the compound verb (often a preposition.) The splitting up mostly happens in the simple present and simple past tense.
The not-splitting verbs in this group also don't add GE- to their past participles, and the splitting verbs in this group put the GE between the first part and the base verb

Examples:

a strong verb:
achterlaten to leave behind
ik laat achter I'm leaving behind
ik liet achter I left behind
ik heb achtergelaten I have left behind
click to hear

achterhalen to retrieve, find out
ik achterhaal I'm finding out
ik achterhaalde I found out
ik heb achterhaald I have found out
click to hear

achtervolgen to pursue, follow
ik achtervolg I'm pursuing
ik achtervolgde I pursued
ik heb achtervolgd I have pursued
click to hear

overhalen to persuade
ik haal over I'm persuading
ik haalde over I persuaded
ik heb overgehaald I have persuaded
click to hear

overtuigen to convince
ik overtuig I convince
ik overtuigde I convinced
ik heb overtuigd I have convinced
click to hear

opruimen click to hear to tidy up, clear, put/store things in their place

opruimen to tidy up, clear
ik ruim op I'm tidying up
wij ruimen op we're tidying up
ik ruimde op I was tidying up
wij ruimden op we were tidying up
ik heb opgeruimd I have tidied up
click to hear

onderduiken to go into hiding
ik duik onder I'm going into hiding
ik dook onder I went into hiding
ik ben ondergedoken I have gone into hiding
click to hear

onderhouden to maintain, do maintenance
ik onderhield I was maintaining
ik heb onderhouden I have maintained
click to hear

voordoen to show, demonstrate, ~teach
ik doe voor I'm showing
ik deed voor I showed
ik heb voorgedaan I have showed
click to hear

a strong verb:
meenemen to take along
ik neem mee I'm taking along
ik nam mee I took along
ik heb meegenomen I have taken along
click to hear

a strong verb:
weggaan to leave ['go away']
ik ga weg I'm leaving
ik ging weg I left
ik ben weggegaan I have left
click to hear

schoonmaken ['to make clean'] - to clean
ik maak schoon I'm cleaning
wij maken schoon we're cleaning
ik maakte schoon I cleaned
wij maakten schoon we cleaned
ik heb schoongemaakt I have cleaned
click to hear

Where Does the Split-Off Go?

The split-off usually comes after the verb and goes after the object (if there is one) or even to the end of the line

doorgaan click to hear 2 to continue
't Leven gaat door click to hear 2 Life goes on

As already seen above:
optillen click to hear to lift (up)
Ik tilde z'n fiets op click to hear 2 3 I lifted up his bike Til het niet op! click to hear 2 Don't lift it

'Voordoen' click to hear 2 'to show, to demonstrate something'
De sergeant deed het schoonmaken voor click to hear 2 3 The sergeant showed the cleaning procedure

'Nadoen' click to hear 2 3 ['to do after'] to imitate, usually in parody
Hij deed the president na click to hear 2 3 He was imitating the president

'Aandoen' click to hear 2 can be 'to turn on' lights or mechanisms, and also 'to put on' clothes, footwear and things like that
Doe 't licht aan click to hear 2 3 Turn on the light Doe laarzen aan click to hear 2 3 Put on boots Another common meaning of 'aandoen' is 'to cause grief or trouble.'
Wat doe je me aan! click to hear 2 You're causing me much grief

achterlaten click to hear 2 to leave behind
Ik liet hem achter in Babylon click to hear 2 3 I left him behind in Babylon 'Ik liet hem in Babylon achter' is just as good

afruimen click to hear 2 to clear, clear away (usually said about stuff on tables) Wie ruimt de tafel af? click to hear 2 Who'll clear the table?

Two Special Examples

Some verbs have both a splitting and a non-splitting form, with different meaning:

'Ondergaan' can have the stress in two different places:

When the stress is on the base verb ('gaan')  the compound verb doesn't split:
Hij onderging de behandeling geduldig click to hear 2 He patiently underwent the treatment Hij onderging de behandeling zonder te klagen click to hear He underwent the treatment without complaining

But when the stress of the word is on the preposition ('onder')  this verb splits in the simple tenses:
De zon gaat onder click to hear 2 The sun is going down De zon ging onder click to hear The sun went down

Different placing of the stress in the word 'voorkomen' changes its meaning:

Voorkom problemen click to hear 2 Prevent problems Ik heb kunnen voorkomen ... click to hear 2 3 I was able to prevent ... We hadden 't kunnen voorkomen click to hear 2 We could have prevented it Wat kan ik doen om 't te voorkomen? click to hear 2 What can I do to prevent it? Voorkomen is beter dan genezen click to hear 2 It's better to prevent than to cure

't Komt vaker voor click to hear 2 3 [It happens more often] - It's not a unique event 't Komt in de beste families voor click to hear 2 3 4 It happens in the highest circles Je komt me zo bekend voor click to hear 2 3 You look so familiar (Have we met before? Do I know you?) 't Komt me zo bekend voor click to hear 2 3 It looks (or sounds) so familiar (it's not the first time I see (hear) this?) 't Is nooit eerder voorgekomen click to hear 2 3 4 It never happened before Ik heb doen voorkomen ... click to hear 2 3 I have pretended, made it look like ...

but also:  We komen voor de muziek click to hear 2 We have come for the music, we're here for the music - ('komen voor')

Advanced Stuff:
Special Case #1: Compound Verbs Re-Attaching?

'Conditional sub-sentences' indicate a condition for the other part of the sentence. I think English grammarians call them 'subordinate clauses.' They often start with words like toen ('when') - als ('if' and 'when') or omdat ('because.') In these 'conditional sub-sentences' verbs do not split.
Also note in the lines below that in the second part of the sentence, after the condition statement, the verb moves before the subject - more
Examples:

regular:  De zon ging onder click to hear The sun went down regular:  De muziek begon click to hear The music started but:  Toen de zon onderging begon de muziek click to hear When the sun went down the music started

regular:  De zon ging onder click to hear The sun went down regular:  Het werd donker click to hear It [became, turned] got dark but:  Toen de zon onderging werd het donker click to hear When the sun went down it got dark

Ze gingen weg toen de zon onderging click to hear 2 They left when the sun went down

regular:  De bliksem sloeg in click to hear 2 Lightning hit but:  Toen de bliksem insloeg ging het licht uit click to hear 2 When lightning hit the light went out

Condition Words ('Conjunctions'?)

als click to hear if, when
omdat click to hear because
wanneer click to hear when
- condition
toen click to hear 2 when
- time
waar click to hear where
hoe click to hear how
wie click to hear 2 who
wat click to hear what
tenzij click to hear 2 unless
alsof click to hear as if

Doe 't licht aan click to hear 2 3 Turn on the light Toen ik het licht aandeed sloegen de stoppen door click to hear 2 3 When I turned on the light the fuses blew Ik ga weg click to hear 2 I'm going away, I'm leaving Doe je het licht uit als je weggaat? click to hear Will you please turn off the light when you leave?

Ik tilde z'n fiets op click to hear 2 3 I lifted up his bike Ik begrijp er niks van click to hear 2 3 [I understand nothing of it] - I don't understand any of it, it's a complete mystery to me Toen ik z'n fiets optilde begreep ik hoe hij zo hard kon rijden click to hear 2 3 4 When I lifted up his bike I understood how he could ride that fast

De zon komt door click to hear 2 The sun is coming [through] out (clouds are disappearing) Als de zon doorkomt na een regenbui click to hear 2 3 When the sun comes [through] out after a shower

De verwachte groei bleef uit click to hear 2 3 The expected growth didn't come about De fabriek werd weer gesloten click to hear 2 The factory was closed (again) Daar de verwachte groei uitbleef, werd de fabriek weer gesloten click to hear 2 Because the expected growth didn't come about the factory was closed (again)

Wanneer is 't klaar? click to hear 2 3
When [is] will it be ready?) Als 't meezit ... click to hear 2 If things go well, if we're lucky ... Als 't meezit is 't morgen klaar click to hear If things go well it will be ready tomorrow Als 't tegenzit ... click to hear 2 if it doesn't go well, if we're not lucky, if things don't work out ... Als 't tegenzit kan 't nog wel een week duren click to hear If things don't work out, it may take a week 't Zit ons niet mee click to hear 2 3 It's not going well, we're having a lot of trouble, luck seems against us

Advanced Stuff:
Special Case #2: Infinitives Splitting

English has a group of verbs with certain functions and unusual characteristics called 'Modal Verbs,' like
must, shall, will, should, would, can, could, may, and might.
Dutch has a somewhat different group of verbs, not all equivalents, that share some of those functions and characteristics. I wrote a long page about them. I call it a 'special group' of verbs.

zullen click to hear 'shall/will' (for the future tense) ‑>> 2
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' ‑>>
helpen click to hear 2 'to help, assist' ‑>>
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' ‑>>

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. 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 unusual and more complicated you could avoid problems by sticking to the simple past tense instead of the present perfect tense - See the special page)
I was a bit puzzled when I first noticed the splitting up of infinitives and the 'te'  in-between the parts. Studying examples and thinking up more examples the rule seems to be that infinitives split up when verbs outside the 'special group' are as working verbs combined with infinitives.
Note that not all verbs can be combined with other verbs.

As already seen above:
Hij probeerde de kist op te tillen click to hear 2 3 He tried to lift the wooden box compare with:  Ik kan 't niet optillen click to hear 2 3 4 I can't lift it, I'm not able to lift it up Hij kan vijftig kilo optillen click to hear 2 3 He can lift 50 kilos (120 pounds)

Ik denk erover op te houden click to hear 2 3 I'm thinking about stopping, quitting compare with:  Daar moet je mee ophouden click to hear 2 You should stop doing that

Hij zit niet goed op te letten click to hear 2 3 He's not paying close attention compare with:  Je moet goed opletten click to hear 2 3 You have to pay close attention

De minuutwijzer lijkt wel helemaal stil te staan click to hear 2 slow slow2 The minute hand seems to have come to a complete standstill ‑>>

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 charge your telephone

We waren van plan om weg te gaan click to hear We were planning to leave We zijn van plan om morgen weg te gaan click to hear We're planning, our plan is to leave tomorrow Je hoeft niet weg te gaan click to hear 2 3 You don't have to leave (you can stay for dinner etc.)

Examples with verbs from the 'special group' - infinitives don't split up, no 'te'

Willen jullie meezingen? click to hear Would you guys like to sing along? Ze mogen wel oppassen click to hear [They sure may pay attention] - They'd better be careful We kunnen niet zo doorgaan click to hear 2 3 We can't go on like this Ik had willen doorgaan click to hear 2 3 4 I [had] wanted to go on, continue Ik zag je voorbijkomen click to hear 2 3 4 I saw you pass by 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 Wat hebben we al niet willen opknappen! click to hear 2 We had big plans to fix things - Nescio 't Heeft me doen inzien click to hear 2 3 it has made me understand, it gave me the insight 't Heeft me doen nadenken click to hear 2 3 It has made me think (about ...)

Ik vind het heel erg als ik eten weg moet gooien click to hear 2 3 4 I feel bad, I hate it when I have to throw out food I could as well have said:
Ik vind het heel erg als ik eten moet weggooien

So far unexplained:
zonder click to hear without
Automatisch, zonder erover na te denken click to hear 2 3 4 automatically, without thinking [it over] zonder iets aan te raken click to hear 2 3 4
zonder ergens aan te komen click to hear 2 3 4 without touching anything zonder iets achter te laten click to hear 2 3 4 without leaving anything behind, not leaving anything behind zonder ergens op te letten click to hear 2 3 4 without paying attention to anything zonder ergens aan te denken click to hear 2 3 4 without thinking of anything - iets/ergens

English 'Split'
'n fractie van 'n seconde click to hear 2 'a fraction of a second' - a split second - a very short time

Dutch has the verbs splitsen click to hear 2 3 ('to divide, split, split up')
(de) splitsing click to hear ('splitting-up, usually in a road: fork')
spliterwten click to hear ('split peas')
(de) kernsplitsing click to hear ('nuclear fission')

splijten click to hear 2 ('to split')
like in English a strong verb:

splijten
to split
- spleet
split
- gespleten
split
click to hear
wij spleten click to hear 2 ('we were splitting, we did split')
(de) splijtstof click to hear 2 fissionable material, 'nuclear fuel'

scheiden click to hear 2 ('to separate // to divorce')
(de) scheikunde click to hear ('chemistry') - more
(de) scheikundige click to hear 2 3 ('chemist,' scientist working in chemistry) also: chemicus click to hear 2 (de) scheiding click to hear 2 ('divorce // separation')
(de) scheidsrechter click to hear 2 ('referee')

more Grammar

Smartphone Verbs Home
More Good Dutch Smartphone Pages

email - Copyright © Marco Schuffelen 2020.
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'