Sambal erbij?

“Bonnetje erbij?”, “tasje erbij?” or “koekje erbij?” So far you may have gathered from context what is asked, but what does ‘erbij’ really mean? ‘Erbij’ is an adverb that means something like ‘(to go) with it/that’. It becomes clearer when we write the full intended sentence, e.g. “Wilt u er een bonnetje bij?” – “Would you like a receipt (with that)?”
The object that is referred to by ‘er’ is derived from context. The use of ‘er’ (in a way a temporary placeholder for an object or location) can be difficult to master. For example the short version “Bonnetje erbij?” is derived from the also allowed version “Wilt u een bonnetje erbij?”

Chinese take-away restaurants in the Netherlands are known for always asking the same question when handing over the order: “Sambal erbij?” – “Would you like sambal (hot sauce) (to go) with that?” It’s often jokingly imitated (“Sambal bij??”), and restaurant Ah-Lung is ‘owning it’ at the corner of Van Woustraat and Hemonylaan in Amsterdam.

Chinese muurschildering met de tekst 'Sambal erbij?'

Photo taken on Hemonylaan – Amsterdam

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Welkom in de buurt

My new neighbour still has some work to do before moving in, but he already received his ‘Welcome to the neighbourhood’ package (filled with potentially useful or useless local promotions).
In Dutch one says ‘Welkom in de buurt’ and this explains the common mistake Dutch people make when translating to English (and welcoming you “in” their home).
The company behind this package is ‘Buurtkadoos’: neighbourhood presents. Note that the correct spelling of ‘present’ is not ‘kado’ but ‘cadeau’ (from French) however in this case it is ‘pun intended’: doos also means ‘box’ and one speaks of ‘de Buurtka-doos‘.

Welkom in de buurt met Buurtkadoos


Photo taken in Sander’s stairwell – Amsterdam

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Hier is gevestigt

The first official publication on Dutch spelling dates from 1804. In the 17th century different forms of spelling of the same word were still allowed. For example, taking the past participle of the verb ‘vestigen’ (to establish), one could write ‘gevestigt’ or ‘gevestigd’. Although both are identical in pronunciation, the latter form became the standard because it aligns with the spelling (and pronunciation) of the adjective ‘gevestigde’.

Spelling a past participle correctly in Dutch is a challenge to some Dutch people, especially when it sounds the same as the ‘first person present tense finite verb’, e.g. “Het is gebeurd” or “Het gebeurt”. Here one frequently encounters both the incorrect “Het is gebeurt” and “Het gebeurd”.

Overkapping met teks 'Hier is gevestigt'

Photo taken on Rusland – Amsterdam

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Meer dan en net zo veel als

For reasons unknown to me, the DWOTD Facebook page received a few hundred likes over the past 2 months. Not bad for an inactive page 😉 However, over 3000 likes is something to celebrate. Bedankt iedereen! And here is a Dutch lesson on two common mistakes Dutch people make. I will explain things with two example sentences.

1. De Facebookpagina van DWOTD heeft meer dan 3000 likes! Hoera!
(The DWOTD Facebook page has more than 3000 likes! Yay!!)

Dutch nouns
Dutch nouns are always written as one single word, even if the noun is a compound. Therefore it is not ‘Facebook pagina’ but ‘Facebookpagina’. Separating nouns in Dutch seems to occur due to influence of the English language on the Dutch language. So don’t forget: all nouns are written as one word in Dutch. When this leads to a word that may be difficult to read or pronounce, you can insert a hyphen where it may be helpful.

Meer dan
You will often hear ‘meer als’ instead of ‘meer dan’. Or ‘groter als’ instead of ‘groter dan’ (‘bigger than’). When a comparative adjective is used and you are comparing one thing with another, in Dutch the comparative adjective is followed by ‘dan’ and not ‘als’. This as opposed to German, where one would use ‘als’.
We do use ‘als’, but then in the following construct:

2. Deze boom is twee keer zo groot als die boom.
(This tree is twice as big as that tree.)

… zo … als
When you use a comparison of the form ‘… as … as’ in Dutch the form becomes ‘… zo … als‘.

Funny thing is that some people have become overcautious to not make mistakes with als and dan, and this then leads to hypercorrection. The other day I found an example in the NRC newspaper, one of the leading newspapers in the Netherlands. See the photo. Can you find the mistake?

Fragment uit NRC met gebruik van 'dan' in plaats van 'als'

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