Differences between Afrikaans and Dutch

Differences between Afrikaans and Dutch
Dutch and Afrikaans

Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch[1][2][3][4][5] and —unlike Belgian Dutch and Surinamese Dutch— a separate standard language rather than a national variety.[6][7][8] As an estimated 90 to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is ultimately of Dutch origin,[9][10][11] there are few lexical differences between the two languages;[12] however, Afrikaans has a considerably more regular morphology,[8] grammar, and spelling.[13] There is a degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages,[8][14][15] particularly in written form.[7][13][16]

Afrikaans acquired some lexical and syntactical borrowings from other languages such as Malay, Khoisan languages, Portuguese,[17] and of the Bantu languages,[18] and to a lesser extent, French. Afrikaans has also been significantly influenced by South African English.[19] Nevertheless, Dutch-speakers are confronted with fewer non-cognates when listening to Afrikaans than the other way round.[16] Mutual intelligibility thus tends to be asymmetrical, as it is easier for Dutch-speakers to understand Afrikaans than for Afrikaans-speakers to understand Dutch.[16] In general, research suggests that mutual intelligibility between Dutch and Afrikaans is better than between Dutch and Frisian[20] or between Danish and Swedish.[16]


General differences

Orthographic differences

Orthographic differences between Dutch and Afrikaans are mainly due to phonetic evolutions and spelling simplifications in Afrikaans, and the more conservative character of and recent changes to modern Dutch orthography.

Afrikaans simplifications

  • The Dutch digraph <ij> was converted to <y> in Afrikaans, although pronunciation remained [ɛi]. An example is "prijs" (price), which is spelt "prys" in Afrikaans. Dutch words ending in <lijk>, however, end in <lik> in Afrikaans, not <lyk>, for example "lelijk" (ugly) in Dutch becomes "lelik" in Afrikaans. In both languages, this suffix is pronounced [lək], with a schwa.
  • Afrikaans uses <k> for the Dutch hard <c>, both pronounced [k]. Compare Dutch "cultuur" (culture) with Afrikaans "kultuur". Before the 1990s major spelling reform, the latter spelling was also accepted in Dutch.
  • Afrikaans merged Dutch trigraphs <tie> and <cie> to a single spelling <sie>. Apart from <tie> which is pronounced [tsi] in the Netherlands, there is no difference in pronunciation. Compare Dutch words "provincie" (province) and "politie" (police) with "provinsie" and "polisie" in Afrikaans.
  • The Dutch cluster <tion> became <sion> in Afrikaans. Compare "nationaal" (national) with "nasionaal". Pronunciations differ from region to region, and include [tsiɔn], [siɔn], and [ʃon].
  • Afrikaans merged Dutch digraphs and trigraphs <ou>, <ouw>, <au>, and <auw> - all pronounced identically in Dutch - to a single spelling <ou>. Compare Dutch "vrouw" (woman) and "dauw" (dew) with Afrikaans "vrou" and "dou" respectively.
  • At the end of words, Afrikaans often dropped the <n> in the Dutch cluster <en> (pronounced as a schwa, [ə]), mainly present in single nouns and plurals, to become <e>. Compare Dutch "leven" (life) and "mensen" (people) to Afrikaans "lewe" and "mense".

Phonetically induced spelling differences

Afrikaans frequently has simplified consonant clusters in final position that are still present in Dutch.

  • Afrikaans merged Dutch consonants <z> and <s> to a single sound [s], spelt <s>. A similar phonetic evolution can be found in the Northern Netherlands. Dutch "zorg" (care) became "sorg" in Afrikaans.
  • In the middle of words, Afrikaans merged Dutch <v> and <w> to a single sound [v] and consequently to a single spelling, <w>. Compare Dutch "haven" (port) with Afrikaans "hawe", both pronounced [ɦaːvə]. A similar near-assimilation of <w> to <v> can also be found in the Northern Netherlands.
  • Afrikaans merged Dutch fricatives <ch> and <g> to a single sound [χ], spelt <g>, unless it is preceded by <s> in which case <sk> is used. A similar phonetic evolution can be heard in the Northern Netherlands, where the sounds have also been merged to [χ] or [x], although the spelling difference has been retained. In Belgium and Suriname, however, the phonetic distinction between <ch> and <g> has been preserved.[21]
  • Syllable-initially, Afrikaans spells <sk> (pronounced [sk]) where Dutch uses <sch> (pronounced [sx] or [sç]): compare Dutch "school" (school) with Afrikaans "skool". In some Dutch dialects, notably Southern West Flemish, <sk> can also be heard.
  • At the end of words, Dutch clusters <cht> and <st> were reduced to <g> and <s>, respectively, in Afrikaans. Compare Dutch "lucht" (air, pronounced [lʏxt]) and "dienst" (service, pronounced [dinst]) with Afrikaans "lug" ([ləχ]) and "diens" ([dins]).
  • Between two vowels, the Dutch <g> and <v> are omitted in Afrikaans. Compare Dutch "hoger" (higher) and "regen" (rain) with Afrikaans "hoër" and "reën", where the second vowel requires a trema to avoid confusion with the digraphs <oe> and <ee>.
  • At the end of words, Dutch <g> is sometimes omitted in Afrikaans, which opens up the preceding vowels, now written with a circumflex. For example, the Dutch verb form "zeg" (say, pronounced [zɛɣ]) became "" (pronounced [seː]) in Afrikaans.
  • Afrikaans <ê>, <ô>, <û> contrast with Dutch, where the use of the circumflex is essentially limited to French borrowings. A circumflex is used with single vowel letters in open syllables, indicating the long monophthongal pronunciations /eː/ or /ɛː/, /ɔː/ and /œː/, as opposed to the vowel letters without a circumflex, pronounced as /eə/, /oə/ and /y/, respectively. Examples include "wêreld" (world, Dutch "wereld"), "môre" (morning, Dutch "morgen"), and "brûe" (bridges, Dutch "bruggen").
  • In diminutive forms, Afrikaans uses <tjie> (pronounced [ki]) where Standard Dutch uses <tje> (pronounced [cə]). In Belgium and the Southern Netherlands, the diminutive is often realised as [kə] in the spoken language.

Phonetic differences

See Wikipedia:IPA for Dutch and Afrikaans. Afrikaans pronunciation tends to be closest to the dialects of the province South Holland, in particular of Zoetermeer.[5]

  • At the start of words, Afrikaans often merged Dutch voiced [v] with voiceless [f], as in "ver" (far), pronounced [fɛr] in Afrikaans and [vɛr] in Standard Dutch.
  • Afrikaans merged Dutch voiced [w] with voiced [v], as in "werk" (work), pronounced [vɛrk] in Afrikaans and [wɛrk] in Belgium and Suriname or [ʋɛrk] in the Netherlands.

Grammar differences

Grammar differences are arguably the most considerable difference between Dutch and Afrikaans.

  • Afrikaans, unlike Dutch, has no grammatical gender. Therefore, Afrikaans only has one form of the definite article die, while Standard Dutch has two (de and het) and spoken South-Dutch has three (den, de and het).
  • In Afrikaans verbs, the same form is generally used for both the infinitive and the present tense (with a couple of notable exceptions), and there is no inflection for person. Afrikaans has dropped the imperfect tense for all but 8 verbs, using instead the perfect or the present tense, depending on context. Afrikaans has also lost the pluperfect. Afrikaans also lacks the distinction between the subject and object form for plural personal pronouns.
  • Afrikaans dropped the distinction between verbs that use zijn (to be) and verbs that use hebben (to have) in the present perfect.
  • The past tense of the passive voice uses is instead of werd.
  • Afrikaans has a double negative, which is absent in Dutch.[22] For example, Dutch Ik spreek geen Engels (I do not speak English) in Afrikaans becomes Ek praat nie Engels nie or Ek praat geen Engels nie. Similar constructions can be found in French (Je ne parle pas anglais) but also in West Flemish (Ek 'n praten geen Engels) as well as in other dialects in the southern part of Holland (Ik praat geen Engels nie)
  • Like Dutch, adjectives are generally inflected (with a number of exceptions) in the attributive position (when preceding the noun) and not in the predicative. Unlike Dutch, this inflection depends only on position, not grammatical gender.

Influences from other languages


Due to the early settlement of a Cape Malay community in Cape Town, who are now known as coloureds, numerous Malay words were brought into Afrikaans. These include:[23]

  • Piesang, which means banana. This is very different from the Dutch name banaan. The word pisang is, however, also used in Dutch.
  • Baie, which means 'very'/'much'/'many' (from 'banyak') is a very commonly used Afrikaans word, different from its Dutch equivalent veel.
  • Baadjie, Afrikaans for jacket, where Dutch would use jas or vest. The word baadje in Dutch is now considered archaic and only used in written, literary texts.


Some words originally came from Portuguese such as Kraal (pen/cattle enclosure) from the Portuguese curral and Mielie (corn, from milho). These words have become very well used in South Africa to an extent of being used in many other South African languages. Their influence is due to the Portuguese presence in South Africa.[23]

Khoisan languages

The word gogga, meaning insect, comes from the Khoisan word of the same meaning, xo-xo. Various other words which are used in Afrikaans also come from the Khoisan languages, such as assegaai (spear), karos (blanket of animal hides), and dagga (marijuana).[23]

Bantu languages

The following words are some of the many Bantu words which have been adapted for use in both Afrikaans and South African English.[23]

  • Chana, from the Zulu word umtshana. Used to refer to a friend.
  • Fundi, from the Zulu word umfundisa. Meaning someone who is an expert on a certain subject, i.e. He is a language fundi.
  • Tjaila / tjailatyd, an adaption of the word Chaila, meaning 'to go home'

Comparisons of various words and phrases in Dutch and Afrikaans

Afrikaans Dutch English
Verstaan jy my? Versta je mij? Do you understand me?
Ek verstaan dit Ik begrijp het
Less common: Ik versta het
I understand it
Wat is jou naam? Hoe heet jij?
Less common: Wat is jouw naam?
What is your name?
Wat maak jy? Wat ben je aan het doen? What are you doing?
Ek is lief vir jou (more platonic)
Ek het jou lief (more romantic)
Ik hou van je/jou.
Less common: Ik heb je lief.
I love you
Is jy honger? Heb je honger? Are you hungry?
Dié boek is vir jou Dit boek is voor jou This book is for you
Ek het al geëet Ik heb al gegeten I have already eaten
Stem jy saam? Ben je het daarmee eens?
Less common: Stem jij daarmee in?
Do you agree [with it]?
Stem jy [daartoe] in? Ga je daarmee akkoord? Do you agree [to it]?
Oop vanaand Open vanavond Open tonight
Hulle woon hier Ze wonen hier They live here
Kan ons die middestad besoek? Kunnen we de binnenstad bezoeken? Can we visit the city centre?
piesang banaan banana
baadjie jasje, vest jacket
Ek is halfpad daar Ik ben halverwege I am halfway there
Hierdie vrug smaak sleg Deze vrucht smaakt slecht This fruit tastes bad
Het jy dit gesê? Heb jij dat gezegd? Did you say that?
Hy het op die lughawe aangekom Hij is op de luchthaven aangekomen He has arrived at the airport
As dit reën, sal dié sambreel jou beskerm Als het regent, zal deze paraplu je beschermen If it rains, this umbrella will protect you

Comparison of sample text

Below is a comparison of the Afrikaans words of Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (formerly the national anthem of South Africa) with the Dutch translation.

Afrikaans Dutch English translation (literal)
Uit die blou van onse hemel, Uit het blauw van onze hemel From the blue of our sky
Uit die diepte van ons see, Uit de diepte van onze zee, From the depths of our sea,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes Over onze eeuwige gebergtes, Over our eternal mountains
Waar die kranse antwoord gee. Waar de rotsen antwoord geven. Where the cliffs give answer
Deur ons vêr verlate vlaktes Door onze ver verlaten vlaktes Through our far-deserted plains
Met die kreun van ossewa. Met het gekreun van ossenwagens With the groan of ox-wagon
Ruis die stem van ons geliefde, Ruist de stem van ons geliefde, Rouses the voice of our beloved,
Van ons land Suid-Afrika. Van ons land Zuid-Afrika. Of our country South Africa
Ons sal antwoord op jou roepstem, We zullen antwoorden op je roepen We will answer to your calling,
Ons sal offer wat jy vra: We zullen offeren wat jij vraagt We will sacrifice what you ask
Ons sal lewe, ons sal sterwe, We zullen leven, we zullen sterven We will live, we will die
Ons vir jou, Suid-Afrika. Wij voor jou, Zuid-Afrika. We for Thee, South Africa.


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