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The Complete Guide to Dutch Personal Pronouns

Dutch Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are words such as I, me, your and it, words which are used to refer to a specific person or actor without having to mention them explicitly. Pronominal forms are a key element of all languages and must be learned early in one’s linguistic journey to communicate effectively. This article discusses Dutch personal pronouns and provides an overview of all key information.

Dutch subject personal pronouns

There are two types of personal pronouns: those that function as the subject of the sentence, and those that function as the object.

Subject personal pronouns can refer to both people and things. We often use them to refer to people or things that were mentioned before, to avoid repeating ourselves.

Examples:

  • Tom woont in Amsterdam. Hij woont op een boot. (Tom lives in Amsterdam. He lives on a boat.)
  • Wat kosten de bloemen? Ze kosten vijf euro. (How much are the flowers? They are five euros.)

The below table shows the different forms of the subject personal pronouns.

Singular

1st person

ik

I

2nd person

je/jij ; u (formal)

you

3rd person

hij (masculine) ; ze/zij (feminine) ; het (neutral)

he; she ; it

Plural

1st person

we/wij

we

2nd person

jullie; u (formal)

you

3rd person

ze/zij

they

Mostly, Dutch personal pronouns follow a similar pattern to English. There are some differences, which we’ll discuss below.

Putting the emphasis

Jij/je

You

Zij/ze

She/they

Wij/we

We

We use the first form (jij/zij/wij) if we want to emphasize the subject in the sentence.

Examples:

  • Ik woon in Amsterdam. Waar woon jij? (I live in Amsterdam. Where do you live?)
  • Onze vrienden gaan op vakantie naar Spanje, maar wij gaan liever skiën. (Our friends are going on holidays in Spain, but we prefer to go skiing.)

The distinction between u, je/jij en jullie

In Dutch, when addressing people in the second person (singular or plural), we use a different personal pronoun when we speak to someone in a more formal way. Examples of this could be when speaking to your boss, elderly people, people of authority or people you don’t know yet.

Although it is becoming increasingly normal to address people in a more informal way, it’s important to know how and when to use this form.

Note that “u” can be used to address one or more people, but the verb conjugation will remain in the singular form.

Examples:

  • Excuseer, weet u waar het station is? (Pardon me, do you know where the station is?)
  • Meneer en mevrouw Jansens, gaat u naar huis? (Mr and Ms Jansens, are you going home?)

Referring to things

When referring to things, we use only the personal pronouns in the 3rd person (singular and plural). We use “het” to refer to nouns in the singular form which are neuter (meaning they have “het” as their definite article).

To refer to nouns in the singular form that are de-words, we usually use the personal pronoun hij. For nouns in the plural form, we use ze/zij.

Note that in Dutch, we typically don’t consider things as masculine or feminine. Occasionally, you might also hear someone referring to an object or organization with ze/zij.

Examples:

  • Waar is het boek? Het zit in mijn tas.
  • Is de vis duur? Nee, hij is niet duur.

Unstressed forms

There are also unstressed forms of ik (‘k), hij (-ie) en het (‘t). These are colloquial forms, that you will mostly hear in speech.

Examples:

  • ‘k Heb al gegeten (= Ik heb al gegeten; I already ate)
  • Komt-ie? (=Komt hij?; Is he coming?)
  • ‘t is een saai boek. (=Het is een saai boek; It’s a boring book.)

Dutch object personal pronouns

Just like subject personal pronouns, object personal pronouns can refer to people and things. We use them to refer to the direct or indirect object of the verb or sentence.

Examples:

  • Waar is Tom? Ik zie hem niet. (Where is Tom? I don’t see him.)
  • De fiets is vies. Ik moet hem wassen. (The bicycle is dirty. I have to wash it.)

Subject personal pronoun

Object personal pronoun

ik

mij/me

jij/je;u

jou/je;u

hij:zij/ze;het

hem;haar;het

wij/we

ons

jullie

jullie; u

zij/ze

ze;hun;hen

The object personal pronouns follow the same rules as the subject personal pronouns. This time, we have an emphasized (mij) en a non-emphasized form (me) to refer to the first-person singular.

Referring to things

When referring to things in the singular form, we use het for het-words, and hem for de-words. Occasionally, also haar can be used to refer to de-words. In the plural form, we use ze.

Ze, hun or hen?

We have three forms for the 3rd person plural. But how do you know which one to use? There are some rules, but in reality Dutch speakers don’t really distinguish between hun and hen anymore.

  • The form ze is most common. It can be used to refer to people and things.
  • Hen refers to a person as a direct object.
  • Hun refers to a person as a direct object.

Examples:

  • Wat doe je met oude boeken? Ik doneer ze. (What do you do with old books? I donate them.)
  • Ik heb hen gisteren geholpen. (I helped them yesterday.)
  • Waar zijn je vrienden? Ik wil hun een geschenk geven. (Where are your friends? I want to give them a present.)

Dutch Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns are used to indicate to whom an object belongs. They work mostly in the same ways as in English. There are some more forms, though, and we’ll explain them in more detail below.

The table below shows the possessive pronoun system of Dutch:

Personal pronoun

Possessive pronoun

ik

mijn

My

jij/je

jouw/je

Your (singular)

u

uw

Your (formal, singular)

hij;zij/ze;het

zijn;haar

His;her

wij/we

ons/onze

Our

jullie

jullie/je

Your (plural)

u

uw

Your (formal, plural)

zij/ze

hun

Their

Ons of onze?

The first-person plural possessive pronoun has two forms: ons and onze. Ons is used for het-words in the singular. Onze is used for de-words in the singular, and all plurals.

Examples:

  • Dat is ons huis. (That’s our house.) (het huis)
  • Dat zijn onze huizen (Those are our houses.)
  • Wij eten graag onze eigen groenten. (We like to eat our own vegetables.)

Putting the emphasis

For the second-person singular, we usually use je. We only use jouw, when we want to put the emphasis.

Examples:

  • Waar is je boek? (Where is your book?)
  • Dit is mijn boek. Waar is jouw boek? (This is my book. Where is your book?)

Jullie or je?

In the second-person singular, we need to choose between jullie or je. Je is used when we are addressing multiple people, but jullie already appears in the sentence as a subject form.

Examples:

  • Tom en Katie, jullie soep is klaar. (Tom and Katie, your soup is ready.)
  • Tom en Katie, nemen jullie je soep mee? (Tom and Katie, are you taking your soup with you?)

Unstressed forms

Mijn, zijn and haar also have unstressed forms (m’n, z’n, d’r). These are typically used in colloquial speech.

Independent possessive pronouns

Personal pronouns typically go together with a noun. There also exists a type of personal pronouns that exists independently of a noun. Not surprisingly, these are called independent possessive pronouns. These independent possessive pronouns function mostly the same as in English. Note that they always require an article. There is no independent possessive for its and yours in the plural form.

mine

de/het mijne

yours

de/het jouwe

yours (formal)

de/het uwe

his

de/het zijne

hers

de/het hare

ours

de/het onze

theirs

de/het hune

Examples:

  • Is dat jouw jas? Ja, dat is de mijne. (Is that your jacket? Yes, it’s mine.)
  • Zijn dat zijn boeken? Ja dat zijn de zijne. (Are those his books? Yes, those are his.)
  • Is dat haar boek? Ja, dat is het hare. (Is that her book? Yes, that’s hers.)
Dutch Pronouns Challenge

This article has outlined the basic pronominal distinctions in Dutch. Now that you know the basics, why not give the Dutch Pronouns Grammar Challenge a try?

Practice using Dutch pronouns in actual sentences with Clozemaster!

6 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Dutch Personal Pronouns”

  1. Wonderlik. Ek is Afrikaans en begin nou Nederlands leer.
    Baie dankie dit gaan sommer al baie help.

    Beste Groete
    Elizabeth van Suid Afrika

    1. Wonderlijk ! Ik ben Afrikaans en begin nu Nederlands te leren. !!
      I understand Afrikaans without even taking a single lesson.

      Groetjes,

      Peter

  2. Please note that in the example of mijne huizen (plural possessive), the ‘e’ at the end of mijne should be dropped to read: mijn huizen. If I am wrong, please let me know. You can say though: ‘Dit huis is het mijne’ or ‘van mij’. Deze woning is de mijne.

  3. It is enjoyable to look at this part of the Dutch grammar. Please permit me to point out that ‘ons auto’ should read ‘onze auto’. Auto is masculine not neuter.

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