to exceed one’s expectations (in a positive way) Click to listen
[mee-val-len, viel mee, i. mee-ge-val-len]

“Meevallen” is composed of “mee” and “vallen”, which respectively translate to “along/with” and “to fall. Hence literally, “meevallen” translates to “to fall along”, but this makes absolutely no sense at all of course 🙂

“Meevallen” is used when your expectations about something are exceeded in a positive way. The opposite of “meevallen” is “tegenvallen”. Related noun is “meevaller” (or its diminutive “meevallertje”): a situation or occurrence in which your expectations are positively exceeded, see also Related words.

– “De bank wordt binnen twee weken bezorgd.” – “Dat valt mee, normaal is het ten minste acht weken.” 
(“The couch will be delivered within two weeks.” – “That’s all right, normally it’s at least eight weeks.”)

– “Frank heeft heel rustig gereden.” – “Dat valt mee, normaal houdt hij erg van bumperkleven.” 
(“Frank drove real quietly.” – “That’s not bad, normally he’s really into tailgating.”)

– “Het is niet makkelijk om Nederlands te leren…” – “Dat valt wel mee, Xavier.” 
(“It’s not easy to learn Dutch…” – “It’s not so bad as it seems, Xavier.”)

– “Een storm in een glas water”: a storm in a teacup, much ado about nothing.
– “Van een mug
een olifant maken”: to make a mountain (out) of a molehill, to
exaggerate. Lit.: “to make an elephant out of a mosquito”.

– “Frank heeft weer eens van een mug een olifant gemaakt…de schade aan zijn auto viel reuze mee…”
(“Frank has made a mountain out of a molehill again…the damage to his car wasn’t really all that much…” Note that “reuze” literally translates to “gigantically”: really much…)

Related words:
– Meevaller: piece of good luck, pleasant surprise, stroke of unexpected luck [noun] [de meevaller, de meevallers].

– “Ik heb gisteren vijftienhonderd euro gewonnen bij de loterij!!” – “Dat is te gek! Wat een financiële meevaller!”
(“I won fifteen hundred euros yesterday at the lottery!!” -“That’s great! What an unexpected financial surprise!”)

– Tegenvallen: to not meet one’s expectations, to exceed one’s expectations in a negative way [verb] [tegenvallen, viel tegen, i. tegengevallen].
– Vallen: to fall [verb] [vallen, viel, gevallen].

11 thoughts on “Meevallen

  1. I can’t believe that you’ve got to number 764 before you mention this word. I find this one of the most important expressions in Dutch “Het valt (best) wel mee, hoor.” I wouldn’t like to guess how many times a day I hear or say this!
    Tegenvallen doesn’t seem to be used anything like as much, except when talking about the weather on holiday!
    By the way, could you help me with a good translation for ‘een pittige tante’? Is this a ‘tough old maid’ (slightly positive) or an ‘old battleaxe’ (negative)? Thanks!

  2. I totally agree with Simon that I hear this expression at least 10 times a day from my husband. But I actually want to thank Marc by making it very clear because although I know what it means I never bothered to ask my husband what it really is. Now I do!! Thanks!! 🙂
    Oh, by the way, I am very happy that I found this website by accident…

  3. Is it correct to say: “Je geeft me altijd een meevaller.” for someone who always exceeds expectations?

  4. Hi Barbara,
    You can’t use ‘meevaller’ in that way, but what you could say is:
    “Je valt me altijd mee”.
    However, that is a bit weird, and is most likely to be interpreted as ‘I am always inclined to expect less of you’.
    Exceeding expectations is ‘verwachtingen overstijgen’ in Dutch, so to someone who is always exceeding expectations you could say something like:
    “Je overstijgt altijd alle verwachtingen”.
    Or in colloquial Dutch: “Je bent goed bezig!” 😉
    Hope this helps,

  5. – Deze dingen [velomobielen] blijven echt te gek, ik wil ook eens 2de hands voor zo’n ding kijken. Alleen in de stad met zo’n ding rijden lijkt mij niet echt prettig rijden.
    – Het rijden in de stad valt op zich mee. Net als op de normale fiets moet je altijd uitkijken.
    (Reactie van Wilfred Ketelaar op opmerkingen over z’n filmpje ‘How to velomobile’ op YouTube.)

    Ik begrijp niet echt zo goed de grammatica in die zin met “op zich.” Wat betekent “op zich” in die zin? Betekent dat gewoon “op hem, ” “op de fiets”?

    Mijn vertaling:
    – These things are really, really nice. I’m gonna look for a used one. But riding one of these in the city doesn’t really seem all that great.
    – City riding is better than you might think. (But) just like on a regular bike, you always have to watch out and be careful.

    • Hello Bruce,

      Your translations are quite good. “Te gek” is colloquial and is more like “brilliant/awesome/really cool”. In the sentence on “going to look for a used one” the word “eens” is used. This is translated best here as “sometime”: “I would like to go and also look for a used one sometime”.
      “Op zich” is the Dutch translation of “in itself”. Now, we all know that “in itself” does not mean much in itself 😉 So when riding the velomobiel “op zich meevalt” it means that there’s nothing special about the mere act of riding it (taking no other factors into account).

  6. Thanks, Sander.

    “These things are too cool, I wanna go look for a used one sometime.” Great explanation about ‘eens’ and ‘te gek’. Ik snap het!

    But sorry, I’m still confused about “valt op zich mee.” So when he says, “Het rijden in de stad valt op zich mee,” he’s not saying that city riding “is better than expected” (valt mee), but the opposite? Basically agreeing with the commenter, who says it doesn’t seem like it would be all that great riding in the city? “City riding in itself is nothing extraordinary”?
    Is this an ironic use of the expression? That seems to better explain why he says, “Just like on a regular bike, you always have to be on the alert.”
    I’m trying to find more examples to better understand this expression. Like:
    – Was het moeilijk om op te groeien met twee verschillende nationaliteiten?
    – Nee dat valt op zich mee. Ik ben beide culturen gewend.

  7. I think (maybe) it’s starting to sink in.
    Even if something “in itself” is nothing out of the ordinary (dat valt op zich mee), that’s still better than something not really being that great (niet echt prettig) or being difficult (moeilijk). So it still “exceeds expectations” in that it’s better than how it’s being described in a negative way by the other person.
    It seems like that maybe could apply to your third example, or am I way off?
    – Het is niet makkelijk om Nederlands te leren.
    – Nee, dat valt op zich mee, Xavier.

  8. Hi Bruce,
    I’m afraid I can’t explain it better really. ‘Op zich’ is used the same way as ‘in itself’ in English. It’s not tied to the use of ‘meevallen’. I meant with my explanation of ‘het valt op zich mee’ is that when it comes to riding the velomobiel there is not anything significant that makes the mere act of riding it more difficult than riding a regular bike.
    Note that another translation of ‘meevallen’ is: ‘to not be as bad as expected’, ‘to be better than you may think’. The ‘op zich’ is about the ‘mere act of …’.
    So ‘dat valt op zich mee’ is best translated as: it is not as bad as you may think. And then there comes a ‘however’:… indicating some special thing about it. So usually people start with ‘op zich’, and then they give some additional special reasons that add to the contrary. So I don’t think your example with Xavier works. Better would be:
    – Het is niet makkelijk om Nederlands te leren, of wel Xavier?
    – Nou, dat valt op zich mee. Maar ik heb er wel moeite mee als mensen heel snel praten.

    So: learning Dutch in itself (the language, vocabulary, grammar) is not that difficult (not as bad as you may think, better than expected etc.), however, it is difficult for Xavier when people speak fast.

    Also you example with the two nationalities doesn’t work, because the extra sentence should say something that does make it difficult. E.g.:
    – Was het moeilijk om op te groeien met twee verschillende nationaliteiten?
    – Nee, op zich niet ( or: ‘dat valt op zich mee’). Maar het werd juist lastig op latere leeftijd.

    So: no, not as difficult as you may think. (However) it became difficult at a later age.

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