KB » » The usage of conjuctions in Dutch languague (e.g. wanneer, toen, als)

The usage of conjuctions in Dutch languague


What are conjunctions?

Conjuctions are a part of speech (usually a word) that connect 2 sentences, phrases, clauses, or words. Conjuctions are a subcategory of linking words.

The Dutch name is voegwoord. Voegen more or less means join together, although it is often used in connection with a preposition. Examples are toevoegen (add to) and samenvoegen (join together, connect together).

Conjunctions and grammatical function

Conjunctions can be coordinating or subordinating.

Coordinating conjunctions

These are conjunctions that connect 2 sentence parts of equal syntactic importance.

In Dutch this is called nevenschikkend. Neven means 'next to' (interpretation: 'equal to'), and (rang)schikken means 'to arrange'.

Examples of these conjuctions are en, maar, want and dus.

E.g.: Ik eet een salade, en ik kijk TV (I eat a salad, and (at the same time) I watch TV).

Subordinating conjunctions

These are conjuctions that connect 2 sentence parts of which 1 is of less syntactic importance than the other (is subordinate to the other). So they connect an independent clause with a dependent clause, in Dutch: een hoofdzin (main sentence) with a bijzin (complementary sentence).

In Dutch this is called onderschikkend. Onder means 'below' (interpretation: 'less than'), and (rang)schikken means 'to arrange'.

Examples of these conjuctions are terwijl and omdat.

E.g.: Ik ga met de fiets, omdat het mooi weer is (I'm going to ride the bike, because the weather is nice).

See this page in English for more information (I got my information from other sources).

How to tell the difference?

The example just above uses a subordinating conjuction (omdat ), but the meaning of this sentence is virtually the same:
Ik ga met de fiets, want het is mooi weer

This sentence uses a coordinating conjunction. The difference is, that the part after the conjunction can be used as a sentence in itself in case of coordinating (het is mooi weer is a perfect Dutch sentence), but the part after a subordinating conjuction (het mooi weer is) is not a correct Dutch sentence. So it depends on the previous part.

Conjunctions categorized according to meaning

The following categories are mentioned on the Wikipedia page:

Wanneer, toen, als

The information in this section is mostly from this web page (in Dutch).

These 3 words are subordinating conjunctions. They all indicate that the actions in the main sentence and those in the subordinate sentence occur (more or less) at the same time.


Toen refers to a specific time or period in the past: 'that time when', 'at the moment that', 'in the period when'. Therefore it is always used with the past tense.



Als is used when a situation occurs multiple times. It is possible to put the word telkens (every time) in front of als.



Wanneer is a synonym for als.

It's more often used in written language.

Special case for 'als'

Als, in combination with a verb in some past tense, can also be used to express a requirement or presumption in the past.

Example: Als ik op tijd betaald had, had ik geen boete gekregen (If I had paid in time, I wouldn't have gotten a fine).

English Wikipedia page
It misses some features of the Dutch Wikipedia page.
Dutch Wikipedia page
Dutch conjuctions are very similar to, but not exactly the same as English conjunctions.
List of (almost) all Dutch conjuctions.
Part of the Dutch Wikipedia page.
Subordinating conjunctions
A page in English about subordinating conjunctions, since there don't seem to be many coordinating conjuctions in Dutch.


© Henk Dalmolen
Reageer via E-mail (dalmolen@xs4all.nl)

Deze pagina is voor het laatst gewijzigd op: 20-08-17 21:27:17