Verb tenses - when to use which tense?

Regular verbs, irregular verbs, auxiliary verbs, compound verbs... When do we use which tense? What about those strange constructions the Dutch use to make a continuous? "Staat" my book on the shelf or "ligt" it? Ask all about Dutch verbs here.
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Verb tenses - when to use which tense?

Post by Bieneke » Fri Aug 12, 2005 4:44 pm

I wanna ask about Dutch continues tenses, like I have been working, I had been working etc..
For the conjugation of the continuous, I refer to other conjugations, for the conjugations in all eight tenses to regular verbs

When to use which tense?

Simple present: ik eet (I eat)

You use this to refer to an event that is taking place right now. There are two possible situations:

1. The event is taking place at this specific moment, as in "I am doing the dishes". You were not doing them yesterday or tomorrow, but exactly NOW.

2. The event is a general situation, which is the case right now. E.g. "I study in Bandung". This does not mean that you are actually engaged in the activity of studying right NOW, but rather that, in general, you are more or less regularly engaged in this activity (but may be you haven't touched your books for a week already). Another example is "I write a book". When you tell this to someone in a pub, it is not likely that you are actually writing it at that very moment.

Simple past

The same as the simple present, but the event took place at a specific point in the past, or during a period in the past. You can say "ik studeerde vorig jaar in Bandung" when you talk about that particular evening last year that you took your study books to Bandung and decided to study there that night. Or, more likely, it could mean that you were studying in Bandung during the entire period.

Present perfect

When an event has taken place and has been finished ('perfected'), we use the present perfect. "Ik heb de afwas gedaan" (I have done the dishes) means that you did the dishes, and that you have finished that activity by now. The difference with the simple past is that there, the event or activity is not necessarily finished.

Past perfect

The same as the present perfect, the only difference being the point of time. You say "ik had de afwas gedaan" (I had done the dishes) when you refer to a moment in the past that you had already finished doing the dishes. E.g. "Ik had de afwas gedaan voordat ik op vakantie ging" (I had done the dishes before I went on vacation".

Present continuous (or progressive)

We use this tense to stress that something is going on right now (or was going on right then, in the case of the past continuous). The difference with the simple present (or past) is that here, we can only refer to something which takes place at this very moment, not to a general situation.

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