to look for, to find, to search (for), to seek [verb] [zocht, gezocht]

Inspired by the search function that we have added, today’s word is "zoeken". It translates to quite a few different verbs in English, that are in a way all related, but we are only covering the most common ones. Quite often Dutch people use the incorrect translation of the verb "zoeken" since they are used to having only one such verb. Quite often "zoeken" is used in combination with "naar" ("for"), see ‘Examples’.

– "Mijn neef zoekt een nieuwe baan, weet jij iets?"
("My cousin is looking for a new job, do you have a suggestion?" Lit.: "…, do you know something?" In Dutch "neef" is used for both "cousin" and "nephew". )

– "Ik zoek al maanden naar dit boek, maar ik heb het nog steeds niet gevonden."
("I have been looking for this book for months, but I still have not found it.")

– "<winkelpersoneel:> Zoekt u iets speciaals?"
("<shop assistant>: Are you looking for something special?")

– "Het is traditie om met Pasen eieren te zoeken."
("It is tradion to gather eggs with Easter." Lit.: "…to search for eggs…")

– "Een vriendin van mij zoekt een 3-kamer appartement met balkon."
("A friend of mine is looking for a 3-room appartment with a balcony." Here "vriendin" is a female friend.)

– "Ik kan mijn sleutels niet vinden!" – "Heb je wel goed gezocht?"
("I can’t find my keys!" – "Have you looked properly?")

– "Wegwezen! Jij hebt hier niets te zoeken!"
("Get out! You don’t have any business here!" Lit.:" You have nothing to find here!")

– "We moeten een oplossing zoeken voor dit probleem."
("We have to find a solution for this problem.")

– "De politie zoekt naar een voortvluchtige."
("The police are searching for a fugitive.")

– "Waarom ben jij hier?" – "Ik zoek naar de zin van het leven, jij ook?"
("Why are you here?" – "I’m seeking the meaning of life, you too?")

– "Op zoek zijn naar": looking for.

– "Ik ben op zoek naar een spijkerbroek met wijde pijpen."
("I’m looking for a pair of bootcut jeans." Lit.: "…with wide legs.")

– "Het avontuur zoeken": being out for adventure.

– "Iets ergens achter zoeken": to be suspicous, not trusting something.

– "Jouw moeder zoekt altijd ergens iets achter!"
("Your mother is always suspicious!")

Related words:
– "Doorzoeken": searching/going through.

– "Ik heb al mijn zakken doorzocht maar kan het geld niet meer vinden."
("I have gone through all my pockets, but can’t find the money anymore.")

– "Zoektocht": search [noun].

– "De zoektocht naar de vermiste personen is gestopt."
("The search for the missing persons has stopped.")

– "Zoekmachine": search engine.
– "Zoekfunctie": search function.

– "De DWOTD web log heeft nu ook een zoekfunctie."
("The DWOTD web log now also has a search function.")

2 thoughts on “Zoeken

  1. Are there rules about when ‘naar’ is needed after zoeken, and when not…?
    e.g. Mijn neef zoekt een nieuwe baan (without naar)
    But: Ik zoek al maanden naar dit boek (with naar)
    is it because in the second sentence there are words between the verb and its object?

  2. A very good observation. Indeed it is the case that the second sentence can be changed such that ‘naar’ is not necessary:
    “Ik zoek dit boek al maanden.”
    “Zoeken naar” also translates to “to look for” or “to search for”. If you want to use the infinitive without a subject, the “naar” is mandatory, for example in the book title “Zoeken naar Eileen” (by Leon de Winter, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_de_Winter ).
    In general my hypothesis is that one uses “naar” in the case of a dedicated search, or a dedicated activity of “looking for”. Then in the general case of for example being in the state of “looking for a job”, it is less common to use “naar”, but nevertheless grammatically allowed 🙂 The latter however with the exception of the word order that you rightfully point out.
    So to answer your question: other than the word order issue, I do not think that there is a specific ‘rule’.
    Of course I invite others to shine their light on the matter 🙂

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