My Dutch friend were telling me that in Dutch there are technically two ways of using "the" in Dutch (het), but that there are no grammatical rules for this.

I don't think that is quite the case.

In my own language, Danish, we have "En" and "Et". In English this would be "a" and "an". In English the reasoning for these two are simple to explain. Vowel or non-vowel sound on the noun.

In Danish however, I could tell you that any Danish person knows when to use either but that they can't explain the rule at all. They "just know when to use it". The rule have to do with gender of the word (I later discovered), but we never apply the rule consciously because we know subconsciously that what we say is right.

I believe it's the same in Dutch with "Het". I am sure there is a grammatical rule for the use of this. So if anyone knew I'd love to hear it as I haven't been able to find a definitive answer for this.

closed as off-topic by P Elliott, hippietrail, Otavio Macedo Feb 5 '14 at 12:08

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  • Dutch has "de" and "het", both meaning "the". So it has two "the"s if this is what you mean by two "het"s. – hippietrail Feb 4 '14 at 11:59
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    If you're interested, there's a Dutch Language proposal at Area 51. – rabota Apr 29 '15 at 19:04

Dutch does have two het's. One is the neuter singular definite article, the other is the neuter third-person singular pronoun.

Ik heb het huis gezien 'I have seen the house'

Ik heb het gezien 'I have seen it'

  • A little extra question then, if you can answer it: Are there rules to determine the gender? – OmniOwl Feb 4 '14 at 13:01
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    Based on a word's meaning, you mean? No, not really. There's a rule that all diminutives are neuter, but other than that it's pretty random, as is usually the case in languages with gender. – TKR Feb 4 '14 at 18:24
  • I thought there might be a rule like in German, where there are actually rules for when a word is male, female or neuter. – OmniOwl Feb 5 '14 at 4:31
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    @Vipar: That's not really true for German at all. In some languages like Italian, Russian, and Spanish you can identify the majority of feminine nouns ending in -a but there are too many exceptions for it to be reliable. Any rules in German determine the gender in a much smaller number of nouns. – hippietrail Feb 5 '14 at 4:42
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    The rules for gender in German are mostly just statistical correlations. E.g. fruits are usually feminine, but with some important exceptions such as der Apfel. Of course, like in practically all languages that have gender, there are special noun-building endings that always come with a specific gender, such as diminutives being always neuter, or abstract words ending in -ung, -heit, -keit being always feminine. Similarly but more generally, in a compound word the second part determines the gender: der Hund, das Schwein, der Schweinehund, das Hundeschwein. – Hans Adler Nov 29 '15 at 20:15

The Wikipedia article on Dutch grammatical genders shows that Dutch has 3 genders, masculine, feminine and neuter, with the masculine and feminine definite article being "de", and the neuter one being "het".

  • I KNEW there was something with gender! Is that really all there is to it?? – OmniOwl Feb 4 '14 at 1:31
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    That's all there is to it. 'de' corresponds to Danish '-en' and 'het' corresponds to Danish '-et'. – dainichi Feb 4 '14 at 5:42
  • By now, masculine and feminine are well on their way to combining into a "common" gender. – Wilson Apr 10 at 7:36

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