1. crooked, not level, slanting/sloping Iconspeaker_3

Scheef "Scheef" is the opposite of "straight" and you can use it for anything crooked, slanting or not level. It is also used in the meaning of "wrong", see the second translation below.

– "Pas op, je houdt je beker scheef!" 
("Watch out, you are not holding your mug straight!")

– "Je schilderij hangt scheef volgens mij."  - "Nou en, het gaat toch om het schilderij zelf!" 
("I think your painting is crooked." – "So what, it's about the painting itself, isn't it?!")

– "In Amsterdam zijn er veel oude huizen met scheve gevels. Een verklaring is dat goederen op die manier makkelijker naar boven getakeld konden worden."
("In Amsterdam there are many old houses with leaning façades. One explanation for this is that it was easier to pull up goods that way.")

– "De vloer loopt een beetje scheef, maar dat is geen probleem, dat kunnen we compenseren." 
("The floor is slanting a bit, but that's no problem, we can compensate for that.")

– "Schots en scheef": messy, unorganized, cluttered.

– "Ik werk alleen nog maar met computers; het resultaat daarvan is dat mijn handschrift schots en scheef geworden is!"
("I only work with computers nowadays; the result is that my handwriting has become all spidery!").

– "Iemand scheef aankijken": to look askance at someone.
– "(dat geeft) Scheve gezichten/ogen": lit. "(that causes) crooked/bent faces/eyes", you can say this when something will make other people jealous.

Related words:
– Scheve hoek: oblique angle [noun] [de hoek, de hoeken].
– Waterpas: level [adjective].

– "Mijn wasmachine hobbelt heel erg!" – "Staat hij wel waterpas?"
("My washing machine really bounces up and down!" – "Are you sure it is level?")

– Recht: straight [adjective].

2. wrong, distorted, false Iconspeaker_3

"Scheef" is typically used in case of distorted relationships or when you feel something is not fair.

– "De verhouding tussen geven en nemen is helemaal scheef in zijn relatie." 
("The ratio between giving and taking is completely off in his relationship.")

– "Deze ontwikkeling zorgt voor scheve verhoudingen in de maatschappij." 
("This development causes distorted relationships in our society.")

– "Volgens mij gaat het scheef lopen als we op deze manier doorgaan."
("I think that things will go wrong if we continue this way.")

Related words:
– Fout: wrong, incorrect [adjective/adverb].

6 thoughts on “Scheef

  1. A friend of mine who was doing extensive building work on his house was advised by his Dutch neighbour that “een huis staat langer scheef dan rechts” (at least, I think that was what it was). It seems to me that that must be the motto of all Dutch builders and building insurers!

  2. Thanks for that phrase Alastair.
    I’m going to use it when the “Huisbaas” returns from shopping and nags me to fix the garage door again…

  3. I’ll do that Amy.
    In fact I was referring to Mrs.Chris who, although not a Huisbaas in the literal Dutch sense, does still seem to be the baas of my huis 🙂
    Just shows that you don’t have to rent your accommodation to have a huisbaas!

  4. @Amy – thanks for highlighting ‘scheefwonen’; an interesting word and an illustration of the second translation ‘wrong’.
    ‘Scheefwonen’ happens when people keep living in a “social housing” house/flat while their income has in fact become too high to be eligble for social housing.
    ‘Scheefwonen’ happens for example in Amsterdam, where you either have to have a very low income to be eligble for social housing, or a very high income to be able to buy a house. The majority resides in the middle with ‘scheefwonen’ as a result.

  5. @Sander – I think buitenlanders would translate ‘scheefwonen’ into something very different if they were not aware of the social housing issue. ‘Crooked living’ (in the English sense of ‘sin’) and Amsterdam are unfortunately stereotypically linked in many a hopeful tourist’s mind. 🙂

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