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Modal particles in Dutch




Toch (often) is a kind of modal particle.

It can be used in a huge number of situations. For now, I will discuss 2 of its usages: to indicate one expects confirmation and to express shock, amazement, impatience.

To indicate one expects confirmation

I'll take an example from a story about Jip and Janneke, Pum and Poem.

Jip gives his (teddy)bear to Pum and Poem, to take with them for a week. Afterwards he asks his mother: Ze zullen Beer toch niet houden, he? (They won't keep Bear, will they?).

Another example: Je gaat me toch niet vertellen... (You're not telling me / You can't be serious about this).

To express shock, amazement, impatience

Again an example from Jip and Janneke. Jip says that he will call the police if his former guests Pum and Poem don't bring back his teddybear. Mother: Jongen, toch!

It's hard to give a translation in words here (perhaps something like "My dear boy!"). Mother expresses that she is shocked by the drastic measures Jip is going to take if Pum and Poem don't return the bear.

Another example: Waar was je toch? (Where on earth where you?)

This sentence expresses impatience, and perhaps also a little amazement.


The word 'maar' can be a conjuction, like in this sentence:
Ik hou van thee, maar niet van koffie (I like tea, but I don't like coffee)

This section however, is about the role of 'maar' as modal particle. It is then only used in imperative sentences, in 2 different situations.

To give somebody support, courage, trust

Below are some examples.

Maak je maar geen zorgen (Don't worry).
Zorgen maken means to worry (make worries).

Kom maar bij mij (Come to me (and I will console you)).
This type of sentence is used in a lot of Dutch (love) songs, e.g. when 1 lover sees that her/his partner is sad, and wants to comfort him/her. But it could also be used by a parent to 1 of their children.

From a story of Jip and Janneke (Gietertje), when the children have given the plants too much water, and it's all over the floor:
Ga maar een doek halen en veeg het op (Go get a cleaning cloth, and wipe it (from the floor) (,and then everything will be OK)).

To express a lack of care

Below some examples.

Je doet maar (Do whatever you want (I don't care)).

Laat maar, nou doe ik het zelf wel (Don't bother, now I will do it myself).
You could say this when you asked somebody a favor (e.g. putting outside the garbage), and he/she doesn't do it in time (according to your view). You decide to just do it yourself.

A forum post with a huge amount of examples (mostly in English and Dutch) of all the uses of 'toch'.
Modale partikels: even, eens, nou, maar, misschien, ...
Clear article (in Dutch) about in what kind of sentences you can use the modal particles (normal, question, imperative), and a number of examples.
Wikibooks - Dutch/Lesson 15
Very good and extensive explanation of modal particles in Dutch (in English)


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

Deze pagina is voor het laatst gewijzigd op: 20-08-17 21:20:38