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I am puzzled by the Dutch "Ik ben het beu" phrase.

The main question: what is the syntactic structure of it?

Is this indeed a direct object with a copula? Or is it an ellipsis of a larger, more usual structure? If yes, which one? If not, how did they come up naturally with such a saying?

UPD: A relevant detail is that are there any other sayings (productive or not anymore) that use the same approach? Ik/jij/etc ben/bent het XXX

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    Although this is limited to Dutch, I'd be okay with this staying open since it's linguistic in scope, and there is no more appropriate Dutch Stack Exchange. May 21, 2019 at 14:46
  • What does this translate to, if you don't mind me asking? I thought it reminds of "dieser boy" that has recently been hip to the point that "diese" (this) become somewhat of a meme. And I thought het is the definite article, not 3rd person singular.
    – vectory
    May 21, 2019 at 20:05
  • "dieser" is also the form of the genitive feminine 3rd p. And I noted tbat Ger. "Es"can appear, if you will, as uninflected case of the 3rd p. n. sg., cp. "Uns wurde gesagt", "Es wurde gesagt". Only neuter has no inflected form, and "es" is as variable as En. "it", with indefinite pronoun usage. Probably not related "hat" 3rd p. sg to have
    – vectory
    May 21, 2019 at 20:35
  • @vectory "Ik ben het beu" translates to "I'm sick/tired of it".
    – DSC
    Jun 8, 2019 at 17:07

3 Answers 3

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This construction is reminiscent of a Dutch "verb of innocence", such as Ik ben het vergeten (lit. I1 am2 it3 forgotten4, "I forgot (it)." ), where the grammatical subject is specifically marked as not being the actor.

Beu isn't a past participle, of course, but the construction with an adjective seems quite similar.

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This is indeed an object with a copula but not a direct object (leidend voorwerp). If it were a direct object you should be able to turn it passive, which is not possible. This type of object is called an oorzakelijke voorwerp in Dutch (causal object), even though in many/most cases there is not causal relation.

Note that it doesn't have to be "het": you could say "Ik ben jou beu" (I am sick of you), or "Ik ben het werk beu" (I'm sick of the work).

There are several similar expressions:

  • Ik ben het kwijt. (I lost it.)
  • Ik ben je vier euro schuldig. (I owe you four euro.)
  • Ik ben iets van plan. (I am scheming/I am planning to do something. (not a perfect translation))
  • Ik ben het met je eens. (I agree with you)
  • Dat huis is het waard. (That house is worth it.)

This last example is the same structure as in English, so there should be a corresponding English term, but I don't seem to find it on Google.

Concerning how something like this might evolve, is seems like (see here) the phrase also existed as "Ik ben beu van ..." (which, incidentally, is the same structure as the English translation "I am sick/tired of...").

This website suggests that many such oorzakelijke voorwerpen used to be genitiefobjecten (genitival objects) in Middle Dutch but evolved into voorzetselvoorwerpen (objects of preposition) with the preposition "van" (of). The example given is "sijt des seker" in Middle Dutch becoming "wees daar zeker van" (be sure of it) in modern Dutch. But some did not, and the phrase "ik ben het beu" seems to also have gone in that direction, but then the evolution stopped and the old form continued, be it without a genitive form.

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Perhaps this thread can be of help:

In het Middelnederlands bestond er al een uitdrukking 'Het heeft mi boy'. Waarschijnlijk was 'boy' een uitroep à la bah.

Middle Dutch had an expression 'het heeft mi boy'. Probably 'boy' was an interjection like 'bah'.

And:

In Gent zegt men nog altijd de constructie 't ès mij bui'. Dus 'het is mij beu', niet 'ik ben het beu'.

In Ghent one still uses the construction 't ès mij bui'. So 'het is mij beu', not 'ik ben het beu'.

If these are indeed related to "ik ben het beu" one needs to explain how the subject switch occurred. I'm no expert and couldn't find information about this, but it could perhaps have been on analogy of similar expressions like "ik ben er klaar mee".

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  • This is nice theory. But with "Ok ben er klaar mee" everything is, well, klaar :) It has a preposition and "klaar" is a part of a predicate. Do you suggest that after "... het beu" it is also assumed a droped preposition? Which one then? May 21, 2019 at 11:27
  • Since switching of subject is usually done by passive voice, maybe it's "door"? May 21, 2019 at 11:36
  • @NikolayRys I'm merely saying that the meanings are similar but that in "ik ben er klaar mee" the experiencer is the subject while in "het is mij beu" it is an indirect object. You can obtain "ik ben het beu" through blending ("contaminatie") of these two expressions, and this blending may be triggered by the semantic similarity of the expressions.
    – Keelan
    May 21, 2019 at 11:48

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