De Het - Rules for Articles in Dutch


 

Introduction

There are two articles in Dutch language: de for nouns with masculine and feminine gender and het for neutral nouns. Dutch native speakers know mostly intuitively what the article of each noun is. However, non-native speakers need to memorize the articles. There are several rules and guidelines determining the articles of some categories of nouns. But beware exceptions.

 
 

Article 'De'

The following categories of nouns have mainly article de:

  • Trees, plants and fruits: beuk, roos, struik, banaan;
  • Names of rivers and mountains: Rijn, Mont Blanc;
  • Numbers and characters: zes, z;
  • Nouns designating a person: agent, bankier, chauffeuse;
    but beware: het Kamerlid and het afdelingshoofd.

Furthermore, nouns with the suffixes below have article de:

  • -heid, -nis: beleefheid, begravenis;
  • -de, -te: aarde, schaamte;
    however collective nouns with the prefix ge- are neutral: het gebergte;
  • -ij, -erij, -arij, -enij, -ernij: partij, boerderij, huichelarij, artsenij, lekkernij;
    however: het schilderij;
  • -ing, -st (after the root of a verb): verzekering, komst;
  • -ie, -tie, -sie, -logie, -sofie, -agogie: premie, ambitie, conclusie, analogie, filosofie, pedagogie;
  • -iek, -ica: fabriek, mechanica;
    however, neutral are: het antiek, het elastiek and het publiek;
    both de and het are possible for: diptiek, koliek, mozaïek, portiek, reliek, triptiek;
  • -theek, -teit, -iteit: discotheek, majesteit, universiteit;
  • -tuur, -suur: cultuur, dressuur;
    however: het bestuur, het creatuur and de or het montuur;
  • -ade, -ide, -ode, -ude: salade, astroïde, barcode, fraude;
    however: noncount nouns with the suffix -ide are neutral, for example kaliumjodide and oxideperoxide.
  • -ine, -se, -age: lawine, hypothese, chantage;
    however: het percentage and de or het personage and voltage;
  • -sis, -tis, -xis: scepsis, hepatitis, syntaxis;
    however: het chassis.
 
 

Article 'Het'

The following categories of nouns have mainly article het:

  • Diminutives: boompje, tafelje, glaasje;
  • Names of languages: Duits, Chinees;
  • Names of countries and places: het multiculturele Nederland, het Irak van voor de oorlog;
  • Metals: aluminium, goud;
  • Compas direcitons: zuiden, noordoosten;
  • Sports and games: voetbal, poker, biljart;
  • Nouns with two syllables having prefixes be-, ge-, ver- and ont-: beslag, gebit, verslag and ontzag;
  • Nouns with suffixes -isme, -ment, -sel and -um: kapitalisme, abonnement, stelsel and aquarium;
    however: de or het mengsel, de cement.

Beware: this is applicable only to nouns in singular. All nouns in plural have the article de.

 
 

Nouns with both articles

There are also several words, which might have both de and het article. In some cases, the article determines the meaning of the word:

  • de bos (bundle), het bos (forest);
  • de golf (wave), het golf (sport);
  • de pad (toad), het pad (path).

Sometimes, both articles are possible: folie, kilo, matras.

 
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