the use of 'er' or 'het'

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A pronoun replaces a noun or another pronoun. E.g. 'he', 'which', or 'her'. There are different types of pronouns: personal, possessive, indefinite, relative... You can post your questions about Dutch pronouns here.
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asia
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the use of 'er' or 'het'

Post by asia » Sat May 12, 2007 12:57 pm

hey there,
got really problems with it :)
ok, things are clear if I have numerals (er), substitution for here or there (er) , adjective (het), singular form of the verb (het), weather (het) but...
as a rule the teacher gave us that with onbepaald subject we use het but then said also er ;)
and now on the upcoming test I bet will be an excercise to insert 'er' or 'het'
how do I see the difference which to use like ie in a sentence:
do I just always check with english translation for 'it' or 'here/there'? ;)

groetjes,
asia

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Re: the use of 'er' or 'het'

Post by Quetzal » Sat May 12, 2007 1:35 pm

asia wrote:hey there,
got really problems with it :)
ok, things are clear if I have numerals (er), substitution for here or there (er) , adjective (het), singular form of the verb (het), weather (het) but...
as a rule the teacher gave us that with onbepaald subject we use het but then said also er ;)
and now on the upcoming test I bet will be an excercise to insert 'er' or 'het'
how do I see the difference which to use like ie in a sentence:
do I just always check with english translation for 'it' or 'here/there'? ;)

groetjes,
asia
I don't entirely get what the problem is... can you give a few examples of cases where you wouldn't know which of the two to use?

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Post by Bieneke » Sat May 12, 2007 4:46 pm

[post deleted] - see my next post ;-)
Bieneke

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Post by Bieneke » Sat May 12, 2007 8:38 pm

Hoi Ania,

I deleted the text in my previous post (where I was giving you the links to 'er' and 'het') because I am currently adjusting the text and besides, the urls will change soon (the links were only temporary).  If you could give us an example of what you need to learn (a case where you doubt between 'er' and 'het'), we could help you further.
Bieneke

asia
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Post by asia » Sun May 13, 2007 11:52 am

thx for your replies :)
I could swear I put some sentences in my post, mea culpa ;)

bv.

Weet je of er iemand dit boek al gelezen heeft? - what's the meaning of 'er' in this sentence?

Het gebuert allemaal gewoon in het park.
Er gebuert een ongeval op de Grote Ring.

I don't really understand the difference in use 'er' or 'het' with the verb gebueren, in both cases I would use 'er'.

groetjes,
asia


oh and one more thing;
what does 'elkaar' mean in the sentence:
Wil je de borden op elkaar zetten?

thx :)

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Post by Bieneke » Sun May 13, 2007 1:12 pm

Thank you for the example sentences. The question is now clear. ;-)

If a sentence has no subject, we use 'er' or 'het' as a subject. Active sentences generally get 'het', passive sentences 'er'.
Asia wrote:Het gebuert allemaal gewoon in het park.
Your second sentence, "Het gebeurt allemaal gewoon in het park", is an active sentence without a subject so we use 'het' as a subject (do not mistake 'allemaal' for a subject as this pronoun never functions independently and thus, could never be a subject).
asia wrote:Er gebuert een ongeval op de Grote Ring.
Your third sentence, "Er gebeurt een ongeval op de Grote Ring", is also an active sentence but this one does have a subject ('een ongeval').

You can also write: "Een ongeval gebeurt op de Grote Ring". However, we often add an extra (provisional) 'er' at the beginning of a sentence if the subject is undefined. An undefined subject begins with:
- an indefinite article
- a cardinal number (een, twee, drie, etc.).
- the indefinite pronouns 'enkele', 'enige', 'iets', 'iemand', and a few more.
asia wrote:Weet je of er iemand dit boek al gelezen heeft? - what's the meaning of 'er' in this sentence?
In your first sentence, "Weet je of er iemand dit boek al gelezen heeft?", the subject is undefined ('iemand') so we can add 'er'. Whether this is compulsory is not clear and something not even experts agree on. I prefer the sentence with 'er' but I would not say it is wrong without it.

More examples:
Er komt een man binnen.  
A man enters.
Er waren twee mensen vrolijk aan het praten.
Two people were cheerfully talking.
Er kwamen enkele mensen te laat.  
A few people arrived late.  

The problem is that we cannot always add this provisional 'er', even if the subject begins with an indefinite article/pronoun or cardinal number.

We cannot add 'er' if the subject is:
- a generic noun or category
- is part of a general statement or rule
- specific (yet undefined)

Subject is generic noun or category:
Een republiek heeft een president, een koninkrijk een vorst.  
A republic has a president, a kingdom a monarch.
Fruit bevat veel vitaminen en mineralen.  
Fruit contains a lot of vitamins and minerals.  

A general statement or rule
Eén zwaluw maakt nog geen zomer.  (a Dutch proverb)
(lit) One swallow does not make summer yet.  
Blauw en geel vormen samen groen.  
Together, blue and yellow make green.  

The subject is undefined but specific
This means that the subject is known to the speaker. The speaker is just not telling us who or what the subject is.

Iemand heeft me geholpen.
Someone has helped me.

I know who helped me (it was someone specific) but I am not saying who it was (it remains undefined).

Een loodgieter heeft mijn kraan gerepareerd.  
A plumber has repaired my water tap.
asia wrote:oh and one more thing;
what does 'elkaar' mean in the sentence:
Wil je de borden op elkaar zetten?
Elkaar is the reciprocal pronoun 'each other'

"Could you put the plates on top of each other?"

Using elkaar here may sound a bit strange to you as one does not put the plates on top of each other but rather one on top of another (practically, it cannot be reciprocal :D).
Bieneke

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Post by asia » Sun May 13, 2007 1:23 pm

thank you Bieneke, so sooo soo much :)
not everything yet is perfectly clear but I guess I gotta give it time to digest ;)
helped a lot, thx

asia
Last edited by asia on Sun May 13, 2007 3:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Bieneke » Sun May 13, 2007 1:36 pm

Hoi Asia,

If there is anything you don't understand, just ask us again. It really is a very hard topic so it is only normal that you do not get everything immediately.

Groetjes,
Bieneke
Bieneke

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