(IN)DEFINITE ARTICLES: Dutch people are polyamorous?!

Nout putting his hands together in a heart shape; on the left side "mijn vriendin?!" (my girlfriend?!") and painted hearts on the right side

To close off our series on definite and indefinite articles and when to use which, it’s necessary to talk about the various usages and meanings of the word “vriend” (male friend/boyfriend) and “vriendin” (female friend/girlfriend). The fact that the meaning of these words changes radically depending on the context, doesn’t imply that the Dutch & Flemish are more whimsical when it comes to defining love and friendships, it rather means that you should know how to use the definite and indefinite articles correctly.

INTRODUCING SOMEONE…

You’re at a party and you want to introduce someone: there you can either choose between “een vriend/in” (friend) or “mijn vriend/in” (boyfriend/girlfriend).

  • “Dit is Anna, zij is een vriendin (van mij).” or “Dit is John, hij is een vriend (van mij.)”
  • “Dit is Anna, mijn vriendin.” or “Dit is John, mijn vriend.”

INTRODUCING SOMEONE ELSE’S PARTNER OR FRIEND …

The party continues, it’s getting later and you’re basically the only sober person remaining. There’s a latecommer arriving and you feel that it’s now up to you to introduce everyone. You go around the room and finally, you want to introduce someone else’s friend or partner: there you can either choose between “een vriend/in van…” (friend of) or “de vriend/in van …” (boyfriend/girlfriend of).

  • “Dit is Anna, zij is een vriendin van John.” or “Dit is John, hij is een vriend (van Anna.)”
  • “Dit is Maria, zij is de vriendin van Rachel.” or “Dit is Mario, hij is de vriend van Jan.”

WHAT’S YOUR STATUS?

The party’s still very much on and we’re getting into the wee small hours of the morning. You’re talking to someone very attractive and it’s time to see what’s what. When defining your marital/relationship status, you would always use, confusingly the indefinite article “een”. Here are your options. (*)

Questions:

  • Heb jij een vriend/in? (Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?)
  • Ben jij getrouwd? (Are you married?)

Answers:

  • Ik heb een vriend/in / partner. (I have a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner)
  • Ik ben vrijgezel. (I’m single)
  • Ik ben getrouwd. (I’m married)

(*) This does not count as dating advice. Please play the game according to your own goodwill, the social rules of your society and basic human decency. Thank you.

Finally, I’ve made an overview for you, to avoid ambiguities and general offense or confusion with regards to the usage of definite and indefinite articles in Dutch. Good luck!

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