Afrikaans - Grammar

Grammar

In Afrikaans grammar, there is no distinction between the infinitive and present forms of verbs, with the exception of the verbs 'to be' and 'to have':

infinitive form present indicative form Dutch English German
wees is zijn / wezen be sein
het hebben have haben

In addition, verbs do not conjugate differently depending on the subject. For example,

Afrikaans Dutch English German
ek is ik ben I am ich bin
jy/u is jij/u bent you are (sing.) du bist (informal sing.)
hy/sy/dit is hij/zij/het is he/she/it is er/sie/es ist
ons is wij zijn we are wir sind
julle is jullie zijn you are (plur.) ihr seid (informal pl.)
hulle is zij zijn they are Sie (formal sing. & pl.)/sie sind

The preterite looks exactly like the present but is indicated by adverbs like toe (when), the exceptions being 'to be', 'to be able to', 'to have to', 'to want to', and the modal verb 'shall'.

Afrikaans Dutch English German
ek was (present: is) ik was I was ich war
ek kon (present: kan) ik kon I could ich konnte
ek moes (present: moet) ik moest I must have ich musste
ek wou (present: wil) ik wilde/wou I wanted to ich wollte
ek sou (present: sal) ik zou I would ich sollte

The perfect is sometimes preferred over the preterite in literature where the preterite would be used in Dutch or English, for example, in the case of the verb to drink:

Afrikaans Dutch English German
ek het gedrink. ik dronk. I drank. ich trank.

Note: In German, especially those spoken in the south of the German-speaking area, the opposite phenomenon prevails. The perfect is preferred in speech, whereas the preterite is mostly used in narrative texts.

In other respects, the perfect in Afrikaans follows Dutch and English.

Afrikaans Dutch English German
ek het gedrink ik heb gedronken. I have drunk. ich habe getrunken.

A particular feature of Afrikaans is its use of the double negative, something that is absent from the other West Germanic standard languages. For example,

Afrikaans: Hy kan nie Afrikaans praat nie. (lit. He can not Afrikaans speak not.)
Dutch: Hij kan geen Afrikaans spreken.
English: He cannot speak Afrikaans.
German: Er kann kein Afrikaans sprechen.

Both French and San origins have been suggested for double negation in Afrikaans. While double negation is still found in Low Franconian dialects in West-Flanders and in some "isolated" villages in the center of the Netherlands (i.e. Garderen), it takes a different form, which is not found in Afrikaans. The following is an example:

Afrikaans Dutch English
Ek wil dit nie doen nie.* (lit. I want this not do not.) Ik wil dit niet doen. This, I do not want to do.

* Compare with "Ek wil nie dit doen nie", which changes the meaning to "I want not to do this." Whereas "Ek wil dit nie doen nie" emphasizes the unwillingness to act, "Ek wil nie dit doen nie" emphasizes the unwillingness to do the specified action.

The -ne was the Old Franconian way to negate but it has been suggested that since -ne became highly non-voiced, nie or niet was needed to complement the -ne. With time the -ne disappeared in most Low Franconian Dutch dialects.

The double negative construction has been fully grammaticalized in standard Afrikaans and its proper use follows a set of fairly complex rules as the examples below show:

Afrikaans Dutch English
Ek het nie geweet dat hy sou kom nie. Ik heb niet geweten dat hij zou komen.1 I did not know that he would be coming.
Ek het geweet dat hy nie sou kom nie. Ik heb geweten dat hij niet zou komen I knew that he would not come.
Ek het nie geweet dat hy nie sou kom nie. Ik heb niet geweten dat hij niet zou komen.³ I did not know that he would not come.
Hy sal nie kom nie, want hy is siek. Hij zal niet komen, want hij is ziek.4 He will not be coming because he is sick.
Dis (Dit is) nie so moeilik om Afrikaans te leer nie. Het is niet moeilijk om Afrikaans te leren. It is not so difficult to learn Afrikaans.

The word het in Dutch does not correspond to het in Afrikaans. The het in Dutch means it in English. The Dutch word that corresponds to het in Afrikaans (in these cases) is heb.

Note that in these cases, most Dutch speakers would say instead:

No. Dutch English
1
Ik wist niet dat hij zou komen. I knew not that he would come.
2
Ik wist dat hij niet zou komen. I knew that he would not come.
3
Ik wist niet dat hij niet zou komen. I knew not that he would not come.
4
Hij komt niet, want hij is ziek. (or more commonly Hij komt niet omdat hij ziek is.) He does not come because he is sick.

A notable exception to this is the use of the negating grammar form that coincides with negating the English present participle. In this case there is only a single negation.

Afrikaans English
Hy is in die hospitaal, maar hy eet nie. (lit. …he eats not.) He is in hospital, but he isn't eating.

Certain words in Afrikaans arise due to grammar. For example, moet nie, which literally means "must not", usually becomes moenie; although one does not have to write or say it like this, virtually all Afrikaans speakers will change the two words to moenie in the same way as do not shifts to don't in English.

Read more about this topic:  Afrikaans

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