Dutch is an odd language.

Dutch is an odd language. While learning it I found out about vocabulary, conjugation, forming questions and so on. Naturally, when I arrived in the Netherlands I couldn’t understand anything. I figured it was just me, being new to a country and not knowing much about the language. When I started to learn what words meant, I realised what people were saying in most conversations. It was like finding out something about a person that makes them lose all their mystery. Like finding out that George Clooney isn’t that smart, or that Jennifer Lawrence has a boyfriend. All I knew is that I didn’t know how to speak Dutch.

Quick shout-out to the great Bart de Pau before we get into the nitty-gritty. If you’d like to learn Dutch for realsies – and not just in seven words or less – then check out his website or hit up his Youtube channel for more tips on Dutch vocab for beginners. 

When I first started learning Dutch…

I am unsure whether it is a generational thing, but at most points conversation can run purely on slang terms. If you translated a conversation word for word, it would sound like a conversation between a bunch of ‘Valley Girls’ (e.g. Alicia Silverstone in Clueless). The worst is conversations you can hear on public transport between Dutch girls under the age of 21; it gives a perfect case study into the mindlessness of the ‘yolo/swag’ generation.

Yolo / Swag "fashion"
Yolo / Swag “fashion”

Now, without further ado, allow me to teach you the seven words which you can use to have a full conversation in Dutch, and also their meanings.

(Since we know that ya’ll are too lazy to read sometimes – and we really liked the concept – we also did this one in a video-format. Enjoy!)

How to speak Dutch: Lekker; nice, sweet, tasty, good etc

This word can be used for almost anything. Pretty much anything good is ‘lekker’. When applied to food it means that the food was tasty (eg ‘Hoe zijn de worsten?’ ‘Heel lekker’ -> ‘How are the sausages?’ ‘Very nice’). It can also be applied to people. A good looking person is referred to as a ‘lekkerding’, which translates literally to a ‘sweet thing’. From what I have learnt, there seem to be no limits to this word. The most common Dutch way of saying goodnight is ‘slaap lekker’, which translates to ‘sleep nice’. I haven’t done any research, but from what I have seen this could literally be the most commonly used word in Dutch.

If you’d like to hear the word so you can practice your pronunciation skills right away (yes, go on, don’t be embarrassed – shout it proudly at your computer screen), here’s a handy video on ‘Lekker’…

How to speak Dutch: Leuk; nice, fun.

Ad

This word means more or less the same thing as ‘lekker’, but it refers more to things that you do. Anything from having a new book (‘ik heb een nieuwe boek’ ‘leuk man’ -> ‘I have a new book’ ‘Nice, man’) through to holidays (‘mijn vakantie was echt leuk’ -> ‘my vacation was really fun’). When someone is talking about things they have done, for example a weekend or seeing a movie, the most common response in Dutch is ‘leuk man’ (‘nice, man’) or ‘wat leuk’ (means something along the lines of ‘how nice’). Something doesn’t necessarily need to be amazing or incredible to be described as ‘leuk’; something as mundane as taking a bath could be described as ‘leuk’.

As a result, the term can be applied to everything from the mundane and normal through to the amazing and incredible. Obviously though, it should not be used for things that are bad events. It would be poor form to reply with ‘leuk man’ after someone tells you they had to go to a funeral on the weekend.

How to speak Dutch: Zeker; certainly, certain, definitely.

This word can be used to respond to pretty much any question. For example; ‘Was het leuk?’ ‘Zeker man’ -> ‘Was it fun?’ ‘Definitely, man’. This can also be used after someone has made a statement, to express the other person agreeing, e.g. ‘Het was echt leuk’ ‘Zeker man’ -. ‘It was really fun’ ‘Certainly, man’. The equivalent in English would be more along the lines of ‘True true’ to agree with what the other person said, although perhaps this is just my Australian slang. The word can also be used as a question, when checking whether someone is sure about something. For example, ‘Zeker man?’ –> ‘Are you sure, man?’.

“Dat is te kek”?

How to speak Dutch: Zo; so. “enzo” means “and so on”.

This can be added to the end of almost any sentence. It is like the salt of Dutch language. It is not needed at any time but it can be used with anything. ‘Zo’ or ‘enzo’ means something along the lines of ‘and so on’. For example: ‘Het is echt mooi en echt lekker enzo’ -> ‘It is really beautiful and really nice and so on’. It is the equivalent of ‘etc’ in English.

(Liking this article? Be sure to follow DutchReview on Facebook so you don’t miss out on any other good stuff!)

How to speak Dutch: Mooi – Pretty, beautiful, sweet, good.

Basically anything in Dutch is ‘mooi’, or ‘pretty’. The actual English translation is something like ‘pretty’, but it means more along the lines of ‘beautiful’. A town or a city can be ‘mooi‘. A person can be ‘mooi’; e.g. ‘Zij is heel mooi’ -> ‘She is really beautiful’. It does not just apply to girls though; a guy can be referred to as ‘mooi’. The first time my girlfriend said I was ‘mooi’ I wasn’t sure whether she was teasing me, because in English if you say a guy is ‘pretty’ then it is usually because you are teasing them. It’s like saying a guy is a ‘pretty boy’.

You can also reply to pretty much anything with ‘mooi zo’, which translates as something like ‘beautifully so’. For example; ‘Ik heb een nieuwe laptop’ ‘Mooi zo’ -> ‘I have a new laptop’ ‘Beautiful so’ (In this case ‘mooi zo’ means more like ‘good for you’). It sounds strange, but it is essentially saying that you think what they are saying is ‘beautiful’ or ‘sweet’.

Do you like a Dutch person? Want to compliment them and use flattering words like ‘mooi’? Watch this Learn Dutch video on “How to Love in Dutch”, which is essentially a compilation of interviews with people who are learning the language for someone they love. Thank you, Bart!!

How to speak Dutch: Echt; Really, Really?

This is translated simply as ‘really’. It can be used as an adverb; for example ‘Het is echt lekker’ -> ‘It is really nice’. It can also be used as an exclamation, to express surprise, or to ask a question. Much like saying “Really?” in English. For example; ‘Ja, het was heel mooi’ ‘Echt?’ -> ‘Yeah, it was really beautiful’ ‘Really?!’. It may have a simple meaning, but it is used all the time in Dutch conversations.

If you’re enjoying this, why not follow us on Instagram for more weird Dutch stuff? 😉 

Hot day! Time for some #herring flavoured icecream! #dutchheatwave #summer #fishy #dutchfood #gelataria #yuck

Een foto die is geplaatst door DutchReview (@dutchreview) op

How to speak Dutch: Hoor; ???

This word doesn’t really translate into English. I guess you could say it translates as ‘Surely’ or ‘sure’. It works in a similar way to ‘echt’, functioning as an adverb. It is mostly used to emphasise something, for example when saying something confidently. For example; ‘Wil je wijn?’ ‘Ja hoor’ -> ‘Do you want wine?’ ‘Yeah, sure’. It can also be used to disagree with something. For example; ‘We komen te laat’ ‘Nee, hoor’ -> ‘We are going to be late?’ ‘Nah, surely not’. HOWEVER; be really careful how you pronounce it. It is pronounced like the word ‘whore’ in English.

I didn’t feel comfortable saying this at first, because I was worried I might be misunderstood. To make it easier, I emphasised the ‘double O’ sound. When I first said this in conversations with a few Dutch women, I got a few dirty looks. This is because I was pronouncing it like the Dutch word ‘hoer’, which actually means ‘whore’ in English. So yeah, be careful about that otherwise you will end up sounding like Frank Reynolds from ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia‘.

How to speak Dutch: Bonus points – Man

Same as English. This simply means ‘man’, as in the way we use ‘dude’. It’s added at the end of every sentence. Kinda like the way Jesse Pinkman from ‘Breaking Bad’ ends every sentence with ‘bitch’.

How to speak Dutch
Aaron Paul, aka Jesse Pinkman, giving a seminar on how to end every sentence with the word ‘bitch’.

Example conversations:

To give you an idea of how this works in a conversation, I have written an example conversation below. I wish I could say it is an exaggeration, but this is pretty much a word for word transcript of an actual conversation I overheard.

Hoe was Leiden man?   ->   How was Leiden, man?
Echt leuk man! Het was echt leuk, echt mooi en ook lekker rustig enzo.   ->   Really fun, man! It was really fun, really beautiful and also nice and quiet.
Echt man?   ->   Really, man?
Zeker man.   ->   Definitely, man.
Lekker man.   ->   Nice, man.
Mooi zo, man.   ->   Beautifully so, man.
Het is echt mooi enzo man.   ->   That is really beautiful and so, man.
Ja hoor, man.   ->   Yeah sure, man.

Good luck speaking Dutch! Remember these seven basic words and you should be able to blend into any Dutch conversation. Just make sure to say ‘man’ at the end of every sentence, and most importantly learn how to pronounce ‘hoor’ correctly.

We’ve also 7 MORE words of Dutch on our Youtube channel! Better subscribe to that one, hoor man! 

Thanks for staying with us throughout the whole article – you must be super committed to learning Dutch! (or you were just waiting for the word Gezellig 😉 Don’t worry – we saved it for our next article) Now you’ve learnt the basics, give us a follow on twitter if you want to stay updated on more ways you can learn Dutch. 

Speaking of – here is a video we made together with our friend Bart De Pau from Learn Dutch (whose youtube channel has almost 90K subscribers) all about dating in the Netherlands. This might be useful if you find you’ve found yourself struggling to flirt and overusing the word ‘mooi’…

Good luck! / Succes! 

52 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like you don’t get Dutch or English 🙂 Lekker for people is the same as “hot”, not going to bother with all the other beetje wrong translations because that wouldn’t be very gezellig. I guess the question is: are you translating to English, American, Ozzie or what Dutch people think is English?!? And yes, where is Gezellig?

    • Not in all cases; lekker is only being referred to hot when it is a person. Gezellig has been made popular by Obama but he was wrong 😉

      Ohja; en ik ben een kaaskop dus ik kan het weten, hoor! Grappig dat (ik ga er even vanuit dat je amerikaans bent) buitenlanders het beter denken te weten xD

  2. Very nice article!
    I tried explaining the meaning of ‘hoor’ to an exchangestudent the other day and she was very frustrated I couldn’t give her a translation!
    The ‘man’thing is kind of regional though, I have hardly heard it in my region (Nijmegen).
    Other than that you did a great job trying to explain it; but; agreeing on the other comments;
    I’m looking forward to your definition of ‘gezellig’!

    • Thanks so much for your comments! Haha totally agree. Have struggled to both explain ‘hoor’ to people and have ‘hoor’ explained to me. It’s a funny word.
      Totally agree that the ‘man’ thing might be regional. Have noticed it in some groups and not in others.
      Haha yeah seems definitely right, seems like ‘gezellig’ should have been in there. I wanted to put ‘toch’ in as well, but wanted to keep the article short and sweet 😉

  3. Hi, nice article, but some things are not entirely true or complete 🙂

    I would’nt ‘man’ too much, it very much depends on the slang of the group of people you’re in. It could sound very 80’s or just very childish.

    ‘Lekker’ does mean ‘tasty’ literaly, but can be used to anything that has to do with sensibility. You sense your food as tasting good, you sense a massage as being good and say its’s lekker, you say somebody is ‘lekker’, because you’re imagining some next steps

    You can also say something like ‘lekker shoppen’ which indicates that you found it really relaxing for instance.
    This is why you wouldn’t say taking a bath is ‘leuk’ very soon, but would say ‘lekker’ probably.

    Leuk is a very weak word. It just means nice. Only way to make make something enthousiastic out of it is by adding word like echt leuk, heel leuk, etc.

    Mooi really translates as ‘beautiful’ but is indeed used for a wide range of thinga. I think pretty would translate more as ‘knap’.

    ‘Hoor’ is a difficult one. It is used as a way to make the word before it stronger, but not very strong. ‘Ja,hoor’ is weaker than ‘ja,natuurlijk’, allthough when said in the same tone of voice it can be quite the same.

    Good luck with the dutch! And using this 7 words does sound as a smart thing to do!

    • Thanks so much for a great comment! Some really great information in there. The ‘man’ thing I can totally agree is most likely dependent on the group and the region, age of the people 😉 Lekker is a funny word then! Thanks so much for explaining it further. That is interesting to think of it being in relation to the senses.
      Thanks so much for the comments! Haha yeah the intention with limiting it to ‘7 words’ was to give a foreigner’s observations on the language and the many subtleties of the words 🙂

    • Ive always thought of hoor as like an exclamation mark in english. So ja translates as yes and ja, hoor translates as yes!

      • I was gonna guess along the lines of “of course”. Ja hoor ~ yes of course. Nee hoor ~ no of course not

        Could be wrong I really haven’t been studying much but it seemed like the most direct relation.

        • I as a Dutchie I would say that ‘Ja hoor’ is a mild way of agreeing. ‘Yes of course’ is stronger/more convinced. You would say ‘Ja hoor’ if you agree to something you are not so passionate about: its just ok/more relaxed way of agreeing or disagreeing ‘nee, hoor’.

    • Zeg Alies; ben je wel helemaal *lekker* bij je hoofd!? xD

      Maaruh eeey tata je vergeet de straattaal; lekkere babelooba’s chick ;-P

  4. “lekker meisje” is the same as in German “lecker Maedsche” (Cologne dialect). Easy to understand (for me) without knowing to much of the Dutch language 😉

  5. emphasis the “R” at the end of hoor. You won’t get in trouble with it. I actually like how the Dutch strictly end their words with the r,t,d. And it took me half a year, everymorning going to school to practice the R tho.

  6. My advise if you are not talking to 21-year old girls: Do not EVER use the word ‘man’ in a sentence. It is as annoying as americans using ‘dude’ in every sentence.

    • Vrouw! Dat kan prima. Als ik met mijn buurMAN praat over de buurMAN van zijn buurvrouw gaat het gesprek toch snel over de MAN van de zus van zijn vriend.

  7. Hé man, leuk artikel! Lekker geschreven 😉

    I always explain you can use ‘lekker’ if it can give you a physical sensation. Almost the same as Alies says. It has to do with senses. Lekker naar de sauna geweest. Lekker op het strand gewandeld.

    Een lekker ding = just a funny saying for a good looking person, male or female.

    Leuk can be used for things or activities. Mooi has more to do with being aesthetic. So a new dress can be ‘leuk’ or ‘ mooi’. Leuke jurk, mooie jurk.

    The slang you describe is used by teenagers. Not for grown ups (or educated people 😉

    Of course you use ‘man’ occasionally. Hé man, kijk eens uit! / He man, watch out!

  8. Really like the article, man! Though confined to certain age groups, I am missing the ´weet je wel´ (´like.. you know´) 😉

  9. Well, I certainly appreciate your attempt to analyse the meaning of the words, but don’t overdo the ‘man’ add on. And please be aware of intonation in Dutch, as it can completely turn the meaning of a word upside down.
    E.g. ‘Lekker dan!’ Most certainly means that something is NOT lekker/nice at all. When someone says: ‘I had a puncture’, you could reply ‘lekker dan’, out of sympathy. It would not be considered sarcastic, which it litterally is.
    Mooi and lekker are often used in combination with weather (weer in Dutch), leuk never.
    Some more e.g.s:
    -Leuk hoor, depending on intonation (I could not over emphasize its importance!), means either that it really is not nice at all, e.g. when you spill st over so’s new dress. Yet, before spilling, when she showed you her new dress, ‘leuk hoor’ would be sort of neutral compliment.
    -Mooi is dat – you don’t find it mooi at all. E.g. When so promissed to do st and it turns out he didn’t, ‘mooi is dat’ will show your dissatisfaction.
    -Nou – often when so answers it will start with ‘nou’, equivalent of ‘well’
    -helemaal + mooi, lekker or leuk you hear a lot now. E.g. The kids went to a party, and they made some art project. Reaction: helemaal leuk. Personally, I get jeuk (itches) from this type of leuk
    I could go on for ever, but it has to stay gezellig, anders is het mooi niet leuk meer, hoor!

  10. Nice piece but you missed the point, as I did when first learning Dutch, that so much of the language consists of idiom. It took a prof of philology at the UVA to pint out that, although I spoke fluent Dutch with an Amsterdam accent, I didn’t speak Dutch at all because I used no idiom!

    I bought a book full of idioms and the rest is history.

    Ik wilde alleen maar een hart onder je riem steken, man 😉

    (to which your ideal answer should be “zo?” 😉 )

  11. Most stupid article I have ever read. Sorry but this is so low that you make a hole research based on low people on the train (that talk that way). A language is not based on people under 21 years only. Try to have a conversation with elderly you will find a hole new vocabulary. If you are trying to make Dutch look ridiculous, then don’t learn it and leave it alone…

  12. As a native speaker, I get the impression that “mooi zo” is short for “dat is mooi zo”, implying more or less “it’s good that way, it doesn’t have to be changed.” Which by the way can be applied to anything from paintings that hang straight to bullies that get put in their place.

  13. Enjoyed your article. As an Afrikaans speaker I find the Dutch language leuk. Leuk is the only word on your list South African’s don’t use, but not everyone talk that way. I understand and read Dutch very well, but I really struggle speaking it. I learned to speak other European languages much easier, but I look like a fish on dry land when I think how to respond in Dutch.

  14. Funny that your bio says you are passionate about women’s rights but in your article you criticize the way you have seen a demographic of women dress and speak.
    For the record, I’ve been at a Dutch university for a couple months, and haven’t observed the same behaviour you described. Regardless, belittling the way people choose to dress/speak is not supportive

  15. It is kinda funny that Dutch is so hard to get for the English speaking, considering they’re both West Germanic Languages, and that next after Frisian (which is spoken in the northern part of The Netherlands), Dutch is the closest relative to Englisch in the ‘family-tree’ of this language:

  16. No lekker can go to hot, as in a hot girl, but it is also used for food: nice food.
    Lekker eten en een lekker wijf. Deze twee gaan trouwens geod samen, maar dat terzijde. ;–)

  17. Nice article! As a dutchie I disagree with you however on the interpretation of the word ‘hoor’. It’s not used to emphasize things or to add more confidence. It is used in two ways:
    1. ‘Soothing’. When someone asks you ‘am I bothering you?’ Or ‘are we going to be late?’ You can answer ‘nee hoor’ as some sort of ‘no, don’t worry’. Or when you try to indicate that something is not really a problem: ‘can I borrow your bike?’ ‘Ja hoor’, meaning ‘yeah that’s fine’, NOT meaning a super happy ‘yeah definitely!’
    2. Decreasing the value of yes or no. When you ask someone: ‘was your holiday nice?’ And they say ‘ja hoor’, they mean it like ‘yes it was okay’, so they actually don’t say fully yes, or they just say it like they don’t care.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.