Dutch Courses »
Advanced Course »
Pronunciation » Syllables
Splitting a word into syllables can help you to find the right pronunciation.
The pronunciation of the vowels aa, ee, ie, oo, uu, au, ou, ei, eu, ieu, ij, oe, and ui does not depend on syllables.
the oe in boeken (books) and in
boek (book) are pronounced the same.
The pronunciation of vowels that have only one letter (a, e, i, o, and u) is not
always the same. This chapter is written especially for these vowels. We are trying to determine when these vowels are pronounced as
aa, ee, ie, oo or uu - in open syllables
a, e, i, o, or u - in closed syllables
the a in baken (beacon) and in
bak (tray, reservoir) are pronounced differently.
the a in bakken (trays, reservoirs) and in
bak (tray, reservoir) are pronounced the same, because the syllables are both closed here.
Note: the pronunciation of vowel e is often like u in the
English word “hurtle”, even in open syllables. Examples are de (the), ze (she or they), einde (end), and praatte (talked). Even the word een (which means a or an) is pronounced dull, although it has an ee in it.
Always: When the last letter of a syllable is a vowel, the syllable is open.
Very often: If a syllable is open, a is pronounced like aa,
e like ee, i like ie, o like oo, and
u like uu. We call this pronunciation clear.
The first syllable of water (meaning: water) is wa. This is an open syllable. The letter a is pronounced
as aa. The pronunciation is clear.
Always: If a syllable is closed, the pronunciation of the vowels we just talked about (a, e, i, o, u) is different.
The first syllable of takken (meaning: branches) is tak. This is a closed syllable. The letter a is pronounced as a in the English word part. This pronunciation is dull.
The first syllable of messen (meaning: knives) is mes. This is a closed syllable. The letter e is pronounced as e in the English word mess. This pronunciation is short and sharp.
And not like ee.
A double consonant is pronounced as one consonant. The double consonant is only needed
to change the pronunciation of a vowel. Double
consonants that occur are: bb, dd, ff, gg, kk, ll, mm, nn, pp, rr, ss, and tt.
Always: Every syllable has one vowel in it.
Vowels are: a, e, i, o, u, aa, ae, au, ou, ee, ei, eu, ie, ieu, ij, oe, oo, ui, uu. The letter y is a vowel sometimes.
They are never split. Examples are:
ou in hout (wood) cannot be separated: hout
oo in voor (before, for, in front of) cannot be separated: voor
ee in deel (part) cannot be separated: deel
The word voordeel (advantage) is split this way: voor-deel
Always: Other combinations of vowels, like the following, are split.
ua in situatie (situation) is split: si-tu-a-tie
uee in actueel (recent) is split: ac-tu-eel
ue in evacueren (to evacuate) is split: e-va-cu-e-ren
iu in jodium (iodine) is split: jo-di-um
Always: When two consonants are the same, the last one always joins the second syllable.
vissen (fish, to fish): vis-sen
Often: A consonant between two vowels joins the second vowel. In English, it is the other way round.
water (water): wa-ter
broden (loaves): bro-den
gedaan (done): ge-daan
veroorzaken (to cause): ver-oor-za-ken (possible reason: ver is a prefix)
More than half of the time: When two consonants follow each other, the first one joins the first syllable.
kranten (newspapers): kran-ten
banden (tyres): ban-den
gestoofd (stewed): ge-stoofd (possible reason: ge is a prefix)
beslagen (steamed): be-sla-gen (possible reason: be is a prefix)
lachen (to laugh): la-chen (reason: ch is seen as one sound. But a is dull here anyway.)
Always: A compound word is made by joining two or more words. The boundaries between
these words are boundaries of syllables also. First split the compound word in
words. After that, split these words into syllables. Not earlier.
beurs (stock exchange) and optie (option) are the words.
beursoptie (stock exchange option): beurs-op-tie
Always: When a diaeresis is placed on a vowel, this vowel must be the first letter of a syllable.
Example: geïn must be
split, while gein (an informal word for fun) should not.
We zijn geïnformeerd. (We are informed): We zijn ge-in-for-meerd.
Example: eeë must be split. ee belongs to the first, and
ë to the second syllable.
sleeën (to sleigh, sleighs): slee-en
The diaeresis can be omitted if it is clear where the boundary between two
syllables is. For example when the second syllable of sleeën is on the next line:
We wandelen in het park en we zien kinderen slee-
en. Ze spelen op de heuvel.
Translation: “We walk in the park and we see
children that are sleighing. They play on the hill.”
Note: a foreign vowel may look like a vowel with a diaeresis:
föhn - blowdryer
Large example: evaluatiecommissie (evaluation committee): e-va-lu-a-tie-com-mis-sie
|v, between e and a, joins a. ||step 1: e-valuatiecommissie.
|l, between a and u, joins u. ||step 2: e-va-luatiecommissie.
|ua is not in the Pronunciation list and is split. ||step 3: e-va-lu-atiecommissie.
|t, between a and ie, joins ie. ||step 4: e-va-lu-a-tiecommissie.
|ie is in the Pronunciation list and is not split. ||step 5: e-va-lu-a-tiecommissie.
|evaluatie and commissie are two existing words. ||step 6: e-va-lu-a-tie-commissie.
|mm is split. ||step 7: e-va-lu-a-tie-com-missie.
|ss is split. ||step 8: e-va-lu-a-tie-com-mis-sie.
|ie, in the Pronunciation list, is not split. ||step 9: e-va-lu-a-tie-com-mis-sie.
End result: e-va-lu-a-tie-com-mis-sie.
The conclusion is that all syllables are pronounced clear, except com and mis.
The pronunciation is the same as the non-existing word: ee-vaa-luu-aa-tie-com-mis-sie.
|water (water): ||wa-ter ||the first syllable is open (a as aa)
|taken (tasks): ||ta-ken ||the first syllable is open (a as aa)
|taak (tasks): ||taak||aa is one vowel, and is not split
|takken (branches): ||tak-ken||all syllables are closed, kk is split (a is dull)
|reis (journey): ||reis||ei is one vowel, and is not split
|voordeel (advantage): ||voor-deel ||oo is never at the end of a syllable
|verwarming (heater): ||ver-war-ming ||m joins the last syllable (e as in less is regular)
|verandering (change): ||ver-an-de-ring ||ver is a prefix (first e as in less)
|sleeën (sleighs): ||slee-en ||a diaeresis starts a syllable
|slepen (to drag): ||sle-pen ||e like the Dutch ee (as in the English word hay)
|lettergrepen (syllables): ||let-ter-gre-pen||only the third syllable is open
|vrachtauto (truck): ||vracht-au-to||compound word, t joins the first syllable
|vracht (freight): ||vracht||one vowel means we have one syllable
|auto (car, automobile): ||au-to ||au is one vowel, and is not split
|Ik maakte (I made): ||Ik maak-te ||aa is one vowel, and is not split
|Ik voelde (I felt): ||Ik voel-de ||oe is one vowel, and is not split
|het veroorzaakt (it causes): ||het ver-oor-zaakt ||ver is a prefix (e as in less is regular)
|is beslagen (is steamed): ||is be-sla-gen ||be is a prefix (e almost as u in bus)
|geven (to give): ||ge-ven ||First e as ee. Second e almost as u in bus (both regular).
|tegengoal (opponent’s goal): ||te-gen-goal ||reason: oa is one English sound.
Words that are treated about the same share a row.
|wa-ter||a-vond (evening), ho-tel (hotel), le-ven (to live, life), te-gen (against),
lo-pen (to walk), ne-men (to take), vlie-gen (to fly, flies), gla-zen (drinking glasses)
|tak-ken||fles-sen (bottles), vis-sen (fish, plural), rol-len (roles), drup-pels (drops)
|taak||heet (hot), hier (here), boor (drill), muur (wall), boek (book), reis (journey), zout (salt), saus (sauce)
|kran-ten|| ban-den (tyres, tapes), woor-den (words)
|ver-oor-zaakt||ver-an-dert (changes), ver-an-de-ren (to change), ver-a-de-ming (relief)
|be-sla-gen||ge-groeid (grown), ge-dra-gen (worn, behaved, carried)
compound words and phrases
|halogeenverlichting (halogen lighting) ||ha-lo-geen-ver-lich-ting
|tegemoetkomend verkeer (oncoming traffic) ||te-ge-moet-ko-mend ver-keer
|turbocompressor (turbo compressor) ||tur-bo-com-pres-sor
|transportonderneming (transportation corporation) ||trans-port-on-der-ne-ming
back to top