The similarities and differences of the Dutch Tenses and English Tenses





Here is my little 101 on the resemblances and differences between the English and Dutch tenses. There are more differences than similarities but when you look at the differences one could argue that it makes Dutch a lot easier! After working through the tenses over the last 4 days I am getting a handle of it but it does take time and it will involve mistakes. For me now I think word order is the biggest issue I have. Each tense makes sense and there are many shortcuts (as highlighted below) which result in very little extra work from a translation point-of-view.



1. The Dutch Simple Present tense is often applied exactly the same as the English. The translation is literal and correct.

Ik ben Maria -I am Maria

I am Maria

De pen is zwart

The pen is black


2. In novels literal translation is often correct.

Ik kwam thuis. Ik had andere stoelen gekocht. Ik zette ze in de keuken

I came home. I had brought some other chairs. I put them in the kitchen.




1. Simple Present is used instead of Continuous present

Ik loop door het part

I am walking in the park / I walk in the park


2. Simple Present is used instead of Future tense

De trein komt on dree uur 

The train will arrive at 3 o’clock

De trein komt over vijf minuten

The train will arrive in 5 minutes.

Ik bel je morgen

I will call you tomorrow. ( You can also use “Ik zal je morgen bellen”)


3. Present Perfect instead of Simple Past

Ik heb een uur gezwommen – 

I swam for an hour

Wie heeft het gedaan? – 

Who did it?


4. Past Perfect as Conditional. You can use this when you would have done something differently.

Ik had langer gewacht – 

I would have waited longer.


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