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Q & A / Vrae & Antwoorde:

Q 01: How many tenses are there in Afrikaans?
A: Present, Past, Future. The English Perfect Tenses are accomplished by adding the word AL, or ALKLAAR, or ALREEDS, or REEDS, or KLAAR to the sentence. E.g. Ek het alreeds die water gedrink. (I had drunk the water). The progressive tense in English to indicate something in progress.

Q 02: What is easy about Afrikaans grammar?
A: No gender for nouns. No verb conjugation (except a past tense and future for for two verbs). Very few irregularities or exceptions.

Q 03: What is difficult about the grammar?
A: The movement of verbs. The verb is second in a regular sentence (that is easy), but then there are two movement types possible.
(i) The subject and verb trade places, or said differently, the verb moves from the second to the first position. This happens when you make a statement a question. (E.g. He stands on the lawn. > Stands he on the lawn?) This happens if you start the sentence with the clause, e.g. "Before I could react, did he jump." Another example is when you do not start with the subject, but you put the time word in the front, e.g. Today must I finish my work.  
(ii) The other verb movement is when the verb moves to the end of the sentence or clause. This happens when:
(a) a helping verb is added, like making the sentence future or past. For future the SAL goes in the second position, and the verb goes to the end. For past the HET goes in the second position, and the verb goes to the end. If a regular verb, it gets a GE- prefix on the main verb.
(b) When a clause starts with a third group conjunction, all the verbs and helping verbs are moved to the end of the clause.

Q 04: For English speakers, how do you say, "Do you understand?"
A: Firstly, Afrikaans does not use the DO YOU structure to make questions. To make a question, the verb and subject trade places. Do you understand? would become Verstaan jy?

Q 05: How do you say, "I am coming?"
A: Ek kom. Afrikaans does not have the +ing suffixes added to verbs. That means in Afrikaans you have to make another plan and not translate it directly. Thus, "Ek kom." If you want to show that you were busy with something when something else happened, you would do as follows: I was walking when she drove by. > Ek het geloop toe sy verby gery het. OR Ek was besig om te loop, toe sy verby gery het. The last sentence means I was busy to walk, when ...

Q 06: How come THEN translates to DAN and TOE? Why not only use DAN?
A: Afrikaans has a unique oddity with THEN. If you talk in the past, then TOE is the word. If you talk in the present, use DAN. TOE and DAN are so strongly marked, that if you use TOE, the sentence could be in the present, it still is past.

Q 07How come WHEN translates to WANNEER and TOE?
A: Just like with DAN and TOE, WHEN has the same issue in indicating past or present and future. Examples: I was there when he woke up. > Ek was daar toe hy wakker geword het. I am there when he looks for me. > Ek is daar wanneer hy my soek. I will be there when he comes. > Ek sal daar wees wanneer hy kom.

Q 08: Making a sentence as a negative question, the first NIE goes after the first verb (including with helping verbs like sal, het, or kan). Example: She rubs her legs. > Sy vryf haar bene. > Vryf sy haar bene? > ...but "Vryf nie sy haar bene nie?" is wrong, and "Vryf sy nie haar bene nie?" is correct. Why?

A:Very observant! Your question shows a good probing and logic. Here is the issue to consider. When we say the first NIE comes directly after the first verb, that is true -- for statements. The structure of a question is imposed upon the regular sentence structure. It is not part of it. Think of a photographer taking a formal family picture. You stand where you think you belong, and then he/she comes and places you where you do not really want to be. A question flips the subject and (first) verb alone. If there is a NIE, the NIE is not invited to join the verb. So, if you take a question, and you make it regular, you would only flip the verb in the front and the subject. Let's do two negative sentences:
Sing Jan NIE in die koor NIE? > Jan sing NIE in die koor NIE.
Werk al die studente NIE by die universiteit NIE? > Al die studente werk NIE by die universiteit NIE?

Q 09: The sentence is: I am like you. I write: Ek is soos jou. Answer key gives: Ek is soos jy. Why 'jy' rather than 'jou'?

A: The reason for the JY and not JOU goes back far. The original structure is: I can swim like he can swim. or I am like he is. (I avoid 'you' in my example because the subject and object are the same word, but with HE and HIM, you can tell what is going on. ) This becomes: I can swim like he. (...can swim) I am like he. (is)
Ek is soos hy.
Ek kan soos hy swem.

Rule for comparisons:
EVEN: I am as strong as he is, or
UNEVEN: I am stronger than he is > I am stronger than he. Afrikaans always compares subject pronouns. Think of it, there is no subject doing something to an object.

Q 10I will not be able to help you today = Ek sal nie jou vandag kan help nie. Why is  nie not after first verb (sal)?
A: Please visit the section in the grammar "third position" and take a look at each of the three sub pages. Simply worded. you have three contenders fighting for that third position (object pronouns, negation and timewords.) If any of them are there by themselves, then they take that spot after the 1st verb. If any two of them show up, or if all three show up, they have an order in which they go (OPron, Neg, Time)

Ek eet die brood. Ek sal die brood eet.
Ek eet nie die brood nie. Ek sal nie die brood eet nie.

Ek eet dit. Ek sal dit eet.
Ek eet dit nie. Ek sal dit nie eet nie.
.

Q 11: He is not coming because his sister is not here.
Hy kom nie omdat sy suster nie hier is nie.
Hy kom nie want sy suster is nie hier nie.


--Could you please clarify why there are 3 "nie"'s?

A: This is a fun one. His sister is not here. > Sy suster is NIE hier NIE. (So, for a single negative in English, we have two in Afrikaans - the in-sentence negation and the end-of-sentence negation). The other sentence, 'Hy kom nie' has only one negation because the in-sentence negation is in the same place as the end-of-sentence negation. So, if you put two negative sentences together, you will have one negative from the first sentence and two from the second sentence, thus three negatives. In fact, with minor tweaking, you could have 4 negatives. If you add 'vandag' (today) to the first sentence, then it would like like this:

Hy kom NIE vandag NIE want sy suster is NIE hier NIE.

Q 12:What is 'been' in Afrikaans?
A: I will have to explain two things.
Firstly: The verb TO BE in Afrikaans is one of only two verbs that conjugate (a little) in Afrikaans
be = wees  (am/is/are = is) (was/were = was) (will be = sal wees) (can be = kan wees) (want to be = wil wees) (have to be/must be = moet wees)

Secondly: Tenses: Present, Past, and Future (that is easy), but for any tense, there is a Perfect Tense (in English) to show the action is done, it was done or it will be done. In Afrikaans we throw in the word 'already' and use the plain past, present, or future. Now the word already in Afrikaans can be any of the following: al, alklaar, klaar, alreeds, reeds

Now for same sample present, past and future sentences:

Ek is hier. (I am here)
Ek was hier OR Ek was hier gewees. (I was here).
Ek sal hier wees.(I will be here)

Perfect Past, Present and Future
Ek is al hier. ( I have been here.)
Ek was al hier gewees. ( I have been here.)
Ek sal al hier wees. ( I have been here.)
been e.g. I have been here. (This is a tense indicator) We just use the plain past tense.

Q 13: Is dit, "Omdat skool is baie moeilik." of "Omdat skool baie moeilik is." ? Ek weet nie.
A: Omdat is like DAT, SODAT, VOORDAT or DEURDAT. They are all third group conjunctions, i.e. they are the first words to the "verb-to-the-end-clauses".

In your sentence it would mean IS goes to the end of the clause.

More Q's?: If so, click on the feedback link at the bottom of the page.
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Q & A Questions

01: How many tenses are there in Afrikaans?
02: What is easy about Afrikaans grammar?
03: What is difficult about the grammar?
04: For English speakers, how do you say, "Do you understand?"
05: How do you say, "I am coming?"
06: How come THEN translates to DAN and TOE? Why not only use DAN?
07: How come WHEN translates to WANNEER and TOE?
08: Making a sentence as a negative question, the first NIE goes after the first verb (including with helping verbs like sal, het, or kan). Example: She rubs her legs. > Sy vryf haar bene. > Vryf sy haar bene? > ...but "Vryf nie sy haar bene nie?" is wrong, and "Vryf sy nie haar bene nie?" is correct. Why?
09: The sentence is: I am like you. I write: Ek is soos jou. Answer key gives: Ek is soos jy. Why 'jy' rather than 'jou'?
10: I will not be able to help you today = Ek sal nie jou vandag kan help nie. Why is  'nie' not after first verb (sal)?
11: He is not coming because his sister is not here. > Hy kom nie omdat sy suster nie hier is nie. OR Hy kom nie want sy suster is nie hier nie. Could you please clarify why there are 3 "nie"'s?
12: What is 'been' in Afrikaans?
13 Is it "Omdat skool is baie moeilik." or "Omdat skool baie moeilik is." ?