How to speak Dutch in seven words or less

Do you want to learn how to speak Dutch but can’t get your head around the scratchy Gs and weird word order?

Sometimes keeping it short can make a world of difference when speaking a new language, so here are some easy sentences to get you going.

If you immigrated to the Netherlands, learning the language is great for work, groceries, or feeling more connected. But for some, Dutch can be a little tricky โ€” I’ve been there!

So now, allow me to teach you the seven words you can use to drop into a conversation and put a smile on some Dutch faces.

Lekker โ€” nice, sweet, tasty, good etc.

You can use this word for almost anything. Pretty much anything good is lekker. When applied to food, it means that the food was tasty.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Hoe zijn de worsten? Heel lekker.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: How are the sausages? Very nice.

You can also apply it to people. A good looking person is referred to as a lekkerding, which translates literally to a “sweet thing”.

I have learned that there seem to be no limits to this word. The most common Dutch saying goodnight is slaap lekker, which translates to “sleep well”.

Leuk โ€” nice, fun.

This word means more or less the same thing as lekker, but it refers more to things you do โ€”anything from having a new book to holidays or a pleasant cycle.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Ik heb een nieuwe boek, leuk man.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: I have a new book, nice, man.

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Mijn vakantie was echt leuk.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: My vacation was really fun.

Something doesn’t necessarily need to be incredible to be leuk; you could describe something as mundane as taking a bath as leuk.

So, the term can be applied to everything from the mundane and normal to the incredible.

Obviously, though, you should not use it for bad events and occurrences. It would be poor form to reply with leuk man after someone tells you they had to go to a funeral on the weekend.

Zeker โ€” certainly, certain, definitely.

You can use this word to respond to pretty much any question.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Was het leuk? Zeker man.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: Was it fun? Definitely, man.

After someone has made a statement, you can also use this to express the other person agreeing.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Het was echt leuk. Zeker man.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: 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. When checking whether someone is sure about something, the word can also be used as a question.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Zeker, man?
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: Are you sure, man?

Zo โ€” so, Enzo โ€” and so on.

You can add this word to the end of almost any sentence. It is like the salt of the Dutch language. It is not necessarily needed at any time, but you can use it with anything.

Zo or enzo means something along the lines of “and so on”.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Het is echt mooi en echt lekker enzo.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: It is really beautiful and really nice and so on.

It is the equivalent of ‘etc.’ in English.

Mooi โ€” pretty, beautiful, sweet, good.

Basically, anything in Dutch is mooi, or “pretty”. The direct 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 also be mooi.

Example

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Zij is heel mooi.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: She is really beautiful.

It does not just apply to girls, though, a guy can also 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 most things with mooi zo, which translates as “beautifully so”.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Ik heb een nieuwe laptop. Mooi zo.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: 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.

Echt โ€” really, really?

This word is translated simply as “really”. It can be used as an adverb.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Het is echt lekker.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: It is really nice.

It can also be used as an exclamation, to express surprise or to ask a question, much like saying โ€œreally?โ€ in English.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Ja, het was heel mooi. Echt?
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: Yeah, it was really beautiful. Really?!

It may have a simple meaning, but it is used in Dutch conversations.

Hoor โ€” sure

This word doesn’t really translate into English. You could say it translates as “surely” or “sure”. It works similarly to echt, functioning as an adverb. It is mostly used to emphasise something, for example, when saying something confidently.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: Wil je wijn? Ja hoor.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: Do you want wine? Yeah, sure.

You can also use it to disagree with something.

Example:

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ: We komen te laat. Nee, hoor.
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: We are going to be late? Nah, surely not.

HOWEVER, be careful how you pronounce it. It is pronounced like the word ‘whore’ in English.

I didn’t feel comfortable saying this, because I was worried I might be misunderstood. To make it easier, I emphasised the double O sound. I got a few dirty looks when I first said this in conversations with a few Dutch women.

I was pronouncing it like the Dutch word hoer, which means “whore” in English. So yeah, be careful about that; otherwise, you will sound like Frank Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

Bonus points โ€” Man

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

Example conversations:

I wish I could say it is an exaggeration, but this is 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.)


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.

Good luck! Succes!

Did you learn any new Dutch in this article? Practice it in the comments below!

Editorโ€™s Note: This article was originally published in August 2016, and was updated in June 2022 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Pixabay
Henry Stokes
Henry Stokes
Henry is a writer of fiction novels, and is passionate about issues of inequality and women'sโ€™ rights. He completed a Bachelor of Economics at the University of Sydney, graduated with First Class honours in Human Resource Managemen. Information on his novels can be found at the Henry Stokes facebook page.

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54 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like you don’t get Dutch or English ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

      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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Hi, nice article, but some things are not entirely true or complete ๐Ÿ™‚

    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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

  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. Hรฉ man, leuk artikel! Lekker geschreven ๐Ÿ˜‰

    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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

  8. Really like the article, man! Though confined to certain age groups, I am missing the ยดweet je welยด (ยดlike.. you knowยด) ๐Ÿ˜‰

  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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

    (to which your ideal answer should be “zo?” ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

  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. ;–)