Inti qieghed hawn: Grammar > Pronouns > Small amounts

Small amounts
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In Dutch, there are several ways to say 'a few'.

On one of the previous pages, you read about sommige? or 'some' in English. The Dutch make a distinction between some in the sense of 'certain' and some referring to a small quantity. On this page, we will deal with 'quantitive some'.

The most common ways to say 'a few' are wat and een paar:

Dutch Application English
wat singular
some, a few
een paar plural some, a few

We can also use enkele(n) or enige(n) but this is a bit formal.

Dutch Application English
enkele(n) plural some, any
enige(n) singular

Wat and een paar

Wat and een paar both mean 'a few'. Wat also means 'what' and een paar literally means 'a pair' but we can use them both as a translation for 'a few'.

  • Wat and een paar can refer to things as well as to persons;
  • We use wat and een paar before plural nouns. Wat can also be used before uncountable singular nouns (meaning 'a bit');
  • Wat is considered colloquial.

Before plural nouns, we can use both een paar and wat:

Ik heb een paar mensen uitgenodigd.
Ik heb wat mensen uitgenodigd.
I invited a few people.
Mag ik u een paar vragen stellen?
Mag ik u wat vragen stellen?
May I ask you a few questions?

Before singular nouns, we can only use wat.

Heb je nog wat geld over? Do you have any money left?
Er was wat onduidelijkheid over de taakverdeling. There was some unclarity about the division of tasks.

Instead of wat, you can also say enig(e), which is more formal: "Heb je nog enig geld over?", or: "Er was enige onduidelijkheid over de taakverdeling."


Enkele means 'a few'. As an adjective, it means 'single'.

  • Enkele can refer to things as well as to persons;
  • We use enkele before plural nouns;
  • Enkele is a bit formal. Een paar or wat are more common.
Hij is al voor enkele tentamens geslaagd. He already passed a few tests.
Ze heeft het al aan enkele mensen verteld. She already told it to a few people.

Enkele can also be independent (not preceding a noun). If it refers to things, we write enkele, for persons we write enkelen.

In die boekhandel verkopen ze antieke boeken'.
Enkele zijn zeer kostbaar.

In that bookshop, they sell antique books.
A few (of them) are very valuable.

De studenten hadden hard voor het tentamen geleerd.
Enkelen hadden de hele nacht doorgehaald.
The students had studied hard for the test.
A few (of them) had stayed up all night.

Note that enkel can also function as an adjective (meaning 'single'). While the pronoun enkele(n) can only refer to plural nouns, the adjective enkel(e) can also refer to single nouns.


As mentioned above, enige can be used as a more formal form of wat:

  • Enige can refer to things as well as to persons;
  • We use enige before singular and plural nouns;
[de taakverdeling]
Er was enige onduidelijkheid over de taakverdeling.
[the division of tasks]
There was some unclarity about the division of tasks.
[het enthousiasme]
Het plan werd met enig enthousiasme ontvangen.
[the enthusiasm]
The idea was received with some enthusiasm

Enige is most common in questions, where it can be compared with English 'any'.

[het idee]
Heb jij enig idee hoe laat het is?
[the idea]
Do you have any idea what time it is?
[de overeenkomst]
Zie jij enige overeenkomst?
[the similarity]
Do you see any similarity?
[de kaarten]
Zijn er nog enige kaarten over?
[the tickets]
Are there any tickets left?

In the rare case that we use it independently (not preceding a noun), this pronoun behaves the same as enkele. When referring to things, we write enige, for persons, we write enigen.

Enkele and enige as adjectives

The indefinite numbers enkele and enige can also be used as adjectives. In this case, enkele means 'single' and enige means 'only'.

Ik kan geen enkele oplossing bedenken. I cannot think of a single solution.
Was dat de enige keer? Was that the only time?

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L-ahhar aggornament June 28, 2008 ::