ADJECTIVES

ADJECTIVES

adjectives – bijvoeglijke naamwoorden

INTRODUCTION

Adjectives are words that qualify nouns. They express a particular quality of the noun, such as colour (geel, rood, zwart) or dimensions (groot, lang, klein). Adjectives can also express more abstract qualities. For example: gezellig, interessant or aardig.

predicative adjectives

Predicative adjectives are adjectives used separately from the noun they qualify, as in the sentences below:

De universiteit van Hull is klein.

The University of Hull is small. 

Alan is aardig.

Alan is nice. 

Alans kamer is gezellig.

Alan’s room is nice/cosy. 

Sara vindt het boek mooi.

Sara thinks the book is beautiful. 

Note that predicative adjectives never change form.

attributive adjectives

When adjectives immediately precede the noun they qualify, we talk of attributive adjectives. Examples of attributive adjectives are:

Hull heeft een kleine universiteit.

Hull has a small university. 

Alan is een aardige jongen.    

Alan is a nice guy. 

Alan heeft een gezellige kamer.     

Alan has a cosy room. 

Sara krijgt een mooi boek.

Sara receives a beautiful book. 

The rest of this section will deal with attributive adjectives, because they are the type of adjective that can decline (change form).

USE

Attributive adjectives (adjectives that precede the noun they qualify) decline in most cases: i.e. they have the ending -e. Whether or not an attributive adjective declines, depends on:

  • the gender of the noun it qualifies; and
  • whether the noun it qualifies is definite or indefinite.

A definite noun is preceded by a definite article (de or het) or a demonstrative pronoun (deze, dit, die or dat), possessive pronoun (mijn, jouw etc.), or the question word welk(e).

Indefinite nouns are preceded by the indefinite article (een) or by no article at all (for example in the plural). Geen (as in Ik heb geen auto = ‘I have no car’) also acts as an indefinite article.

 

An attributive adjective has the ending –e unless

  • the noun it qualifies is a neuter gender noun (het-word)  

         AND

  • that noun is indefinite

Form

definite 

Indefinite 

singular de-word

*plural de-word

de gezellige kamer

die gezellige kamer

de gezellige kamers

een gezellige kamer

geen gezellige kamer

gezellige kamers

singular het-word

*plural het-word

het mooie boek

dat mooie boek

de mooie boeken

een mooi boek

geen mooi boek

mooie boeken

 

*Note that as all plurals are de-words, adjectives preceding them always have the ending –e.

This is a schematic representation of the rule for adjectival endings:

Gender

definite 

indefinite 

common (de-word)

-e

-e

neuter (het-word)

-e

 


 

EXCEPTION: ADJECTIVE ENDING IN -EN

Adjectives that end in –en do not decline at all and are therefore an exception to the general rule.

Most of these are adjectives describing materials. For example:

de tafel is van hout ® een houten tafel

the table is (made) of wood ® a wooden table

 
 

mijn ring is van goud ® een gouden ring

my ring is (made) of gold ® a golden ring

There are some other adjectives naturally ending in –en that behave in the same way:

de open deur

the open door

 

 

 

 
 

ADJECTIVE + S

When the word iets precedes an adjective used on its own, the adjective always has the ending -s:

iets lekkers

something tasty

 
 

iets makkelijks

something easy

 
 

iets leuks

something nice

Note that if an adjective already ends with an -s, only one /s/-sound is heard and only one letter <s> is written (see spelling).

iets fris

“something fresh” = a soft drink