When we connect to nouns to each other, we usually have to place -en between them.
In spoken Dutch, we usually do not (or hardly) pronounce the letter 'n', which makes it hard to determine whether you have to write -e or -en. On this page, you will find a few guidelines to distinguish between the connectors -e and -en.
We write -e if the first word of the compound noun:
- is a person or object of which there is obviously only one
- is not a noun (but an adjective, adverb, verb, etc.)
- forms a fossilized combination with the second part
There are so many exceptions to the above rules, that it is always wise to check the spelling in a dictionary or at www.woordenlijst.org.
1. The first word is a person or an object of which there is obviously only one:
|de koningin + de dag
|de zon + de straal
||the sun beam
|de maan + de schijn
2. The first word is not a noun:
|spinnen + het wiel
|wiegen + het lied
|rood + de kool
||the red cabbage
Note that most compound words that start with a verb or adjective get no connector? at all. Thig guideline simply tells you that if we do use a connector, it must be -e.
3. The compound is fossilized, i.e. the meaning of the compound word is not the sum of the meanings of its separate components
|de bak + de baard
||the side burn
|de bruid + de gom
||the bride groom
|de el + de boog
The last guideline must be really hard for non-native speakers!
In general, we connect words by -en, unless they fall under one of the three categories above.
Apart from the distinction between -e and -en, we must be able to establish when to use -en or -s. The latter is another common connector, which we will discuss in detail on the next page.
We use the connector -en if the first word exclusively takes -en as a plural ending. Since this is the case for the majority of Dutch words, -en is the most common connector.
|het paard + de stal
||the horse stable
|het gebaar + de taal
||the sign language
|het bed + het goed
||the bed linen
|de toets + het bord
|de punt + de slijper
||the pencil ('point') sharpener
|de waar + het huis