Het or De?

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Here you can ask anything about Dutch articles ('de', 'het', 'een'), how to make plural nouns, how to make nouns small (diminutives), compound nouns, and everything else related to nouns and articles.
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Het or De?

Post by Phil » Sun Jun 12, 2011 2:57 pm

I am sure this question has been asked many times but what are the guidelines or rules for using the prepositions het or de?

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Re: Het or De?

Post by Quetzal » Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:59 pm

Phil wrote:I am sure this question has been asked many times but what are the guidelines or rules for using the prepositions het or de?
They're articles, not prepositions, so I'll move your thread to the right forum...

Anyway, I'm afraid that for the most part, the answer is "you have to know by heart which word requires which".

Still, there are a few rules that will save you at least some work:

- As you may already have noticed, it's only for singular words that there is any doubt. Plural words require "de", no exceptions.

- "De" refers to masculine and feminine nouns, "het" to neutral ones. Unfortunately, unlike in English, Dutch objects can take all three genders, so this rule does not help as much as you might expect. Still, it does mean that for nouns describing a person and most (not all) animals, the article is generally "de". There are some exceptions, in part because of the following rule:

- Diminutives always require "het". A "diminutive" is a word with a special ending which indicates something small. For instance, "huis" (house) can become "huisje" (little house), which always requires "het". In the case of "huis", it had to be "het" either way, but even for words that normally use "de", the diminutive requires "het".

Now in the case of diminutives referring to a person, this rule still applies. This is most notably the case for "het meisje". "Meisje" is technically a diminutive (you can tell by the typical -je ending), but in practice it's used as the normal word for "girl", having lost its original nuance of "small girl". To those who know German, they have something very similar there with "Mädchen".

- And then there are some suffixes which always use the one or the other. Words ending on "-ing" and "-heid" are always with "de", words ending on "-schap" can use both but there is a certain logic to which ones use which.

For more details, see our grammar pages here and here.

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Re: Het or De?

Post by Ivaro-NL » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:33 pm

You will have to learn, there aren't rules to explain
But when it's a very small object, like
The little house,
It's: Het huisje
And the house is also:het huis
Another example with table
The little table:
Is: het tafeltje
But table is
de tafel.
So you actually have to learn it, wen you aren't sure about a particulair word, just message me!

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