Future tense and the use of 'zullen'

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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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Post by EetSmakelijk » Mon Oct 03, 2005 3:20 pm

Hallo everybody.
I decided to take a break from that huge list of strong verbs and try the future tense instead. This verb zullen is interesting. :)
Ik zal morgen een tafeltje kopen.
I will buy a little table tomorrow.
Jullie zullen morgen geen tafels kopen.
You (plural) will not buy any tables tomorrow.
Je zult morgen aardappelen kopen.
You (singular) will buy potatoes tomorrow.
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Post by Wim » Tue Oct 04, 2005 7:50 am

Hallo EetSmakelijk,

The verb zullen is very interesting, especially due to the fact that we don't use it. That is, we don't use it to simply express a future. Maybe with the exception of our queen... :lol:

If we want to express a future fact we use the simple present tense. So:

Morgen ga ik naar Amsterdam.
I'll go to Amsterdam tomorrow.

Vrijdag eten we zuurkool.
On Friday we'll have sauerkraut [for dinner].

Only in kind of special cases we use zullen, for instance to express a promise or a proposal:

Ik zal je morgen voor tien uur opbellen.
I will call you tomorrow before ten o'clock [i.e. I promise to do so].

Zullen we naar huis gaan?
Shall we go home?

Zullen + wel expresses a probability, at least from the speaker's point of view:

'Het is al half tien en Peter is er nog steeds niet.'
'Dan zal hij wel ziek zijn.'


'It's half past nine already and still Peter hasn't arrived.'
'I guess he's ill / I suppose he's ill.'

Ze zullen wel thuis zijn, want hun auto staat voor de deur.
I guess they're home, for their car is parked in front of the house.

Most important thing to remember: use a simple present tense to express the future! Using zullen in such a case will cause a peculiar kind of Dutch. So ignore the flashing red light in your head telling you to use zullen when you are about to say something about the future. :D

Groetjes,
Wim

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Post by EetSmakelijk » Tue Oct 04, 2005 2:07 pm

Hallo, Wim.
Now I am very confused. :lol:
All that stuff about zullen was on http://www.dutchgrammar.com in the future tense section of verbs...
Do you mean that if I use zullen for future I will sound like the queen? :grin: :lol: :o
...goes off muttering about how confusing this language is... :)
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Don't use zullen?

Post by Tom » Tue Oct 04, 2005 7:53 pm

Whoa...

Let’s slow down a little.

There are too many books on learning Dutch and other references (including http://www.dutchgrammar.com, http://www.verbix.com the book 201 Dutch verbs by Stern) that refer to the future tense as using the modal verb “zullen” to imply that it is wrong. Maybe that is not what you meant, but that is how it reads.

I think, what you are trying to say is that there is “lighter” and “more commonly used” way to refer general future events as opposed to the “promise or assurance” that “by God” xyz will happen.

Morgen, ga ik naar Amsterdam.
can be, Tommorrow, I go to Amsterdam.
or Tommorrow, I am going to Amsterdam.

This second meaning, implies that the action continues on into the future. I will call it
“future light” or “the casual future”.

Morgen, zal ik naar Amsterdam gaan.
Has a heavier tone, as if to say, “As God is my witness, I want to profess to the world, that tomorrow, I will most certainly go to Amsterdam.”

While, technically this is the “future tense”, its is a bit over the top. You would not want to say it that way when you really mean something like, “Oh, by the way, tomorrow, I’ll be going to Amsterdam, just in case anyone cares about that.”

I really exaggerated the examples to get my concept of “future light” and “future stressed” across.

So, in conclusion, I think what your saying is that using “zullen” has a connotation in Dutch that using “will” in English doesn’t have.

I may be all wrong or partially wrong. Can you suggest some references illustrating the distinction that you are trying to make.

By the way, I searched through an e-book that I have for sentences with “zal” and they seem to follow the rules (guidelines) that you mention. I don’t think that is purely by chance. There is surely something behind what you are saying. I just want to make sure that I understand the subtlety clearly.

Met vriendelijk groeten,
Tom

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Post by EetSmakelijk » Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:35 pm

I asked one of my Dutch friends about this and she said people really don't use zullen much.
I am still a bit confused but I guess that is to be expected when learning a new language. :)
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Post by Bieneke » Tue Oct 04, 2005 10:54 pm

It is true that 'zullen' is not used the same way as 'will' in English. The reason why it is mentioned in all Dutch grammar textbooks is that at school we are taught that 'zullen' renders a phrase in the 'toekomende tijd' (future tense). Sticking to the textbook will make you speak textbook Dutch, which is probably not what you want.

After this interesting discussion, I decided to adjust the page about the future tense http://www.dutchgrammar.com/en/verbs/regv_6.html. Because I cannot beat Wim's clear explanation, I simply refer to this topic on the page where it concerns the use of 'zullen'.

I already mentioned a (very) commonly used alternative for the future tense ('gaan') but now I also added the simple present as an alternative.

For more information about the use of 'zullen', read this Dutch text on the website of the e-ANS (elektronische Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst: official Dutch grammar).
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Post by EetSmakelijk » Wed Oct 05, 2005 4:10 am

Dank je wel for clearing up the confusion, Bieneke!
I do not think textbook grammar is always a bad thing. :wink: It is useful to know "good grammar" and the way people normally speak.
Does the use of zullen differ in written vs. spoken Dutch?
Ah, the joy of learning... :razz:
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Post by Bieneke » Thu Oct 06, 2005 9:26 pm

EetSmakelijk wrote:Hallo everybody.
I decided to take a break from that huge list of strong verbs and try the future tense instead. This verb zullen is interesting. :)
Ik zal morgen een tafeltje kopen.
I will buy a little table tomorrow.
Jullie zullen morgen geen tafels kopen.
You (plural) will not buy any tables tomorrow.
Je zult morgen aardappelen kopen.
You (singular) will buy potatoes tomorrow.
Groetjes,
We zijn totaal vergeten jou feedback (yes, we do use that word in Dutch) te geven op je Nederlandse zinnen. Het is heel eenvoudig: ze zijn perfect! Geen enkele fout.
We completely forgot to give you some feedback on your Dutch phrases. It is very simply: They are perfect! Not a single mistake.
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Post by EetSmakelijk » Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:13 pm

Dank je wel Bieneke. I had forgotten about those phrases. :lol:
I think I will try some more; maybe I can get more right. :o
Ik ga morgen chocolade kopen.
I am going to buy chocolate tomorrow.
We gaan morgen tafels voor onze slaapkamers kopen.
We are going to buy tables for our bedrooms tomorrow.
Seems weird saying "we" for we. Funny when English and Dutch cross paths. :grin:
I start wondering if I got the words wrong. lol
The same thing happened to me with is and was. lol
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Post by Tom » Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:37 pm

Hallo Bieneke,

I saw your changes to the dutchgrammar site regarding the future tense and had an epiphany.

Wij zullen pannenkoeken bakken. –Occurs in the future.
Wij zullen morgen pannenkoeken bakken. – Occurs in the future.

Thus, with or without the “TIME” part of the sentence (in this case, “morgen”) being there, they both occur in the future.

Then I looked at your examples of how Dutch speakers normally use the present tense for the future.

Ik bak vanavond pannenkoeken.
Dit jaar doen we nog veel leuke dingen.
Ze zingt morgen een lied voor ons.
Wij doen het de volgende keer samen.

They all use the “TIME” part of the sentence, which has the power to modify or shift the “presentness” of the action into the future. In other words, even thought the verb is conjugated in the present tense, it is temporally morphed into the future.
If you remove the “TIME” part of the sentence, we are clearly back into the present, period (punt uit).

I think what is confusing for “native English speakers” is that, in English, the “TIME” part of the sentence CANNOT modify the tense. If the “TIME” part is in the future, the speaker must ensure that the tense of the verb uses the future tense or else the sentence as a whole is flawed. “Tomorrow, I bake cookies.” is incorrect! We MUST say, “Tomorrow, I will bake cookies.”.
Sometimes, we (in this case, English speakers) tend to think that what we cannot do in our language must be some kind of universal rule and thus of course it cannot be done in any other language. This provides some kind of mental block, which leads to confusion.

Now, I know what Wim meant when he said to Eet Smaakelijk “ignore the flashing red light in your head telling you to use zullen when you are about to say something in the future”. In effect, the point was, “Don’t use the rules for speaking English that have been etched deep in you brain for years and years, when speaking Dutch, because Dutch is not English”. The words are different, the word order is different, and some of the basic CONCEPTS or rules are different too! In this case, how a “TIME” element, in effect, can alter the verb's tense.

I think, I finally understand it myself now. I cannot believe how many years have gone by where I didn’t realize this difference in language concept (I had the mental block)! While a bit embarrassed, I am also very happy now and grateful to Wim for setting my wheels in motion and in the right direction. I wonder how many more years I would not have understood this, if it were not for this forum and the help we get from each other here!

By the way, It was the new examples on you web site that finally snapped the last piece into place for me, so thanks to you and the main dutchgrammar site as well!

Bedankt voor alles,
Tom

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Post by Wim » Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:58 pm

Graag gedaan, Tom. You really got the point!

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Post by EetSmakelijk » Thu Oct 06, 2005 11:07 pm

Dank jullie wel Tom en Wim. :)
I think I am starting to understand. Maybe I will understand this some time in the future. :grin: :lol: :o
Seriously, I think you have a very good point that the rules of one language do not always apply to another language.
Tom I love your example of "tomorrow I bake cookies". I think an example of something incorrect is very helpful.
I am a lot less confused now, thank you all again!
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Erg interessant

Post by iandominicp77 » Tue Nov 29, 2005 11:21 am

:lol: Goed gedaan mensen!!

I have this friend, Morrocan by birth, and now a Nederlander after 5 years in Holland. He speaks and understands dutch grammar better than his native dutch vrouw.

Now, back to the subject matter being discussed.. Am I right in saying that IN GENERAL, DUTCH LANGUAGE USES ONLY 3 CONJUGATIONS (or 3 TENSES). The Present Tense (Present Indefinitive), Past Tense (Past Indefinitive) and The Present Perfect Tense.

Ian
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Post by Bieneke » Wed Nov 30, 2005 12:19 am

The present & past simple and the present & past perfect are all (four) very common. The other four tenses (all using the verb 'zullen') are a bit less common but still used frequently enough. That is, enough to study all eight tenses. :P

Contrary to non-native speakers, native speakers do not have to bother themselves with tedious grammar rules to speak the language fluently (although a tiny bit of interest in one's own language would not hurt). As a result, foreigners sometimes write better Dutch than native Dutch speakers. :wink:
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Post by user222 » Sun Jun 11, 2006 4:02 pm

Is "zullen" similar to the English "shall"? So saying "Morgen, zal ik naar Amsterdam gaan." is like saying "Tomorrow, I shall go to Amsterdam." in English?

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