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Plural ending: -s or -en?
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So which nouns get -en in their plural and which ones get -s?

Let us assume that all nouns are in principle -en nouns. Below, the characteristics of nouns that take -s in the plural are outlined. Generally speaking, all other nouns are -en nouns. It may a bit overwhelming, all these little rules. Most people do not learn them by heart, they just start using the right plural forms when they grow into the phonetics of the Dutch language. On the next page, you can read a clear overview of all these rules.

We add -s to the following nouns:

  1. Nouns that end in a single vowel
  2. Nouns that end in an unstressed vowel combination
  3. Nouns that end in the unstressed endings -el, -em, -en, -er, -erd, -aar, -aard, or -um
  4. Nouns that end in the stressed endings -eur and -foon
  5. Person's titles or professions that end in -oor or -ier
  6. Foreign words that also take the plural -s in their original language
  7. Names of letters and acronyms

1. Nouns that end in a single vowel (see long vowels)

Add an apostrophe ('s) to nouns ending in single a, i, o, u, or y . They need an apostrophe to keep their vowels long.

de oma de oma's the grandmas
de ski de ski's the skis
de radio de radio's the radios
het menu de menu's the menus
de baby de baby's the babies

Some nouns that end in 'u' can take both -en and -s: individuen/individu's, residuen/residu's.

Do not add an apostrophe to nouns ending in a single -e, as this is a mute e.

de breedte de breedtes the widths
de boete de boetes the fines
de ziekte de ziektes the diseases

Exception: adjective-based nouns that refer to people get -n in their plural form:

de bekende de bekenden the known people
de gepensioneerde de gepensioneerden the retirees
de werkende de werkenden the working people

Sometimes, nouns ending in a mute e are given an -en ending. However, this cannot be done to all nouns so if you want to play it safe you better use the -s ending.

2. Nouns that end in an unstressed vowel combination.

The most common unstressed vowel combination you find at the end of a singular noun is ie. Other unstressed vowel combinations at the end of a noun are quite rare. In the table, the stressed syllables are underlined.

de repetitie de repetities the rehearsals
de visie de visies the visions
de bamboe de bamboes the bamboos

Exceptions: bacterie - bacteriën and chemicalie - chemicaliën [1]

3. Nouns that end in the unstressed endings -el, -em, -en, -er, -erd, -aar, -aard, or -um

In the table, the stressed syllables are underlined.

de lepel de lepels the spoons
de bezem de bezems the brooms
de keuken de keukens the kitchens
de wekker de wekkers the alarm clocks
de engerd de engerds the creeps
de gierigaard de gierigaards the scroogy persons
de wandelaar de wandelaars[2] the (recreational) walkers
de geranium de geraniums [3] the geraniums

4. Nouns that end in the stressed endings -eur and -foon

In the table, the stressed syllables are underlined.

de monteur de monteurs the technicians
de carburateur de carburateurs the carburetter
de telefoon de telefoons the phones
de microfoon de microfoons the microphones

5. Person's titles or professions that end in -oor or -ier

de majoor de majoors the majors
de pastoor de pastoors the pastors
de bankier de bankiers the bankers
de kruidenier de kruideniers the grocers

6. Foreign words that also take the plural -s in their original language

The Dutch language has borrowed many words from English and French, where the plural is formed by adding -s.

de elektricien de elektriciens the electricians
het depot de depots the depots
de tram de trams the trams
het duel de duels the duels

7. Names of letters and acronyms

Add an apostrophe between the letter/acronym and the -s ending.

de BV de BV's the ltd's
de cd de cd's the cd's
a a's a's
b b's b's

Exception: acronyms and letters that already end in an -s sound get -en (note the apostrophe!).

de x de x'en the x'es
de s de s'en the s'es
de HTS de HTS'en the technical colleges
de vwx de vwx'en non-existent acronym

Notes:
[1] Note that we do not add -en, but only -n. The reason for this is that the last syllable is unstressed. Had it been stressed, as in genie (genius), we would have added -en: genieŽn.
[2] In Dutch as it is spoken in Holland, many -but not all- words that end in -aar get the ending -en instead of -s. They do this for words like eigenaren (owners), leraren (teachers), and ambtenaren (civil servants). The Flemmish are more consistent in using the -s ending.
[3] Several Latin -um nouns can also take -a as the plural ending.


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Last updated on January 30, 2010 ::