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Dutch: Grammar > Plural

Knowing some of the Dutch grammar will help you understand how the language is build up, and it will also help you to understand the basic phrases better. The Dutch grammar guide presented at LanguageTrav.com should in no way be considered as complete, and if you would like to acquire an in-depth understanding we recomment you to purchase books or DVDs for further learning.

The good news is that especially when you are traveling to The Netherlands, virtually everyone will speak English as a second language. However, it is a polite gesture to ask first.

Important is to determine whether the noun ends in a consonant or in a vowel, since this determines largely how the plural is built.

Nouns ending in consonants:
In case a nouns ends in a consonant, the usual suffix which builds the plural is -en. This suffix is attached directly at the end of the noun. For example:

Singular Plural
vrouw (woman) vrouwen (women)
hond (dog) honden (dogs)
boek (book) boeken (books)

However, when the noun ends in a short vowel followed by a single consonant, the final consonant is doubbled in order to keep the vowel short. For example:

Singular Plural
man (man) mannen (men)
bed (bed) bedden (beds)
bril (one pair of glasses) brillen (more than one pair of glasses)

When a noun ends in a double written long vowel (e.g. aa, ee, oo, uu) followed by a single consonant, one of the vowels is dropped. For example:

Singular Plural
boot (boat) boten (boats)
teen (toe) tenen (toes)
muur (wall) muren (walls)

In case a noun ends in -s or -f in singular, in addition to the rules above they change to z and v respectively. For example:

Singular Plural
huis (house) huizen (houses)
dief (thieve) dieven (thieves)
duif (pigeon) duiven (pigeons)

Last, nouns ending in -el, -em, -en, -er, or -y take the ending -s. For example:

Singular Plural
baby (baby) babys (babys)
appel (apple) appels (apples)
duivel (devil) duivels (devils)

Nouns ending in vowels:

Nouns which end in -a, -i, -o, or -u take the suffix -'s. For example:

Singular Plural
auto (car) auto's (cars)
menu (menu) menu's (menus)

Nouns ending in -e or é take the suffix -s. For example:

Singular Plural
dame (lady) dames (ladys)
café (cafe) cafés (cafes)

Some words of Latin origin still obtain their Latin plural form. However, increasingly a Dutch alternative is used too. For example:

Singular Plural Alternative
museum (museum / gallery) musea (museums / galleries) museums (museums / galleries)
collega (colleague) collegae (colleagues) collega's (colleagues)

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