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All About Verb Conjugation in Afrikaans – Your Best Guide!

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So, you know all about verbs in Afrikaans, but you’re still unsure about conjugations. No problem! Let’s learn about Afrikaans verb conjugation together.

In Afrikaans, it’s pretty simple, as verbs conjugate (vervoeg) in only a few instances. In other words, with most Afrikaans tenses, there are some changes to sentence structure and words, but not to the verb. The only exceptions are in the case of past tenses and the present participle. 

Fantastically easy, right? Yes! With AfrikaansPod101, this is definitely the case.

Let’s unpack this grammar rule in more detail, starting with some definitions.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Afrikaans Table of Contents
  1. Inflection vs. Conjugation
  2. Afrikaans Verb Inflections and Conjugations
  3. Quiz – Which Ones are Conjugations?
  4. How AfrikaansPod101 Can Help You Master Your Conjugations!

1. Inflection vs. Conjugation

Top Verbs

These two terms are often confused, which is understandable. They’re very closely related. Fortunately, they’re not difficult to distinguish and can, in many instances, be used interchangeably. 

“Inflections” (verbuigings) is a general term that refers to form changes that can occur to sentences, verbs, nouns, etc., based on a number of variables. 

“Conjugations” (vervoegings) is a subset of inflections that applies only to verbs. Its counterpart for nouns is called “declensions.” So, all conjugations are inflections, but not all inflections are conjugations. Also, strictly speaking, calling them “Afrikaans verb conjugations” is a tautology, meaning that the use of “verb” is redundant. This is because, by definition, only verbs can be conjugated! (Think: “The frozen ice is cold!”)

Afrikaans verbs are conjugated for time only, as previously stated. They don’t inflect (change), for instance, for nouns and pronouns, meaning the verb stays the same no matter which noun or pronoun you use. This differs from English and some other Germanic languages, where the verb does change or inflect according to the noun or pronoun.

To illustrate this unique facet of Afrikaans conjugation, take a look at the English and Afrikaans tables below:

ENGLISH

Singular Nouns and Pronouns – Present TensePlural Nouns and Pronouns + “I” – Present Tense
he sits; she sits; it sits; the child sitsI sit; you sit; they sit; we sit; the children sit
he eats; she eats; it eats; the koala bear eatsI eat; you eat; they eat; we eat; the koala bears eat
Singular Nouns and Pronouns – Past TensePlural Nouns and Pronouns + “I” – Past Tense
he sat; she sat; it sat; the child satI sat; you sat; they sat; we sat; the children sat
he ate; she ate; it ate; the koala bear ateI ate; you ate; they ate; we ate; the koala bears ate

From the table above, you should notice that the verbs “sit” and “eat” inflect with an “-s” at the end for singular nouns and pronouns. For plural nouns and pronouns, only the base forms of the verbs are used, meaning the “-s” is omitted. All these changes take place when you’re using the present tense. For past tense use, they inflect again…can you spot the differences? Let us know in the comments! 

Afrikaans, in contrast, is totally easy:

AFRIKAANS

Singular and Plural Nouns and Pronouns – Present Tense
ek sit; sy sit; hy sit; hulle sit; ons sit; die kind sit; die kinders sit
ek eet; sy eet; hy eet; hulle eet; ons eet; die koalabeer eet; die koalabere eet

Here, it’s clear that the verbs (“sit” and “eat”) don’t inflect at all for any of the pronouns and nouns. Super easy! 

KOALA BEAR

With past tenses, as well as the present participle, conjugation in Afrikaans is a different story.

2. Afrikaans Verb Inflections and Conjugations

For the sake of good understanding, let’s take a look at when and how conjugations and verb inflections happen in different types of Afrikaans sentences.

Important Note for Table I: Just a reminder that “inflection” refers to changes that were made to the sentence and any words other than verbs. “Conjugation” refers to changes to verbs only.

Table I

Type of SentenceExamples of Verb Inflections (incl. Conjugations)
Imperative (orders and commands)1. Verb: Kniel / “Bow”
Example: Kniel! / “Bow (down)!”

2. Verb: Praat / “Talk”
Example: Praat sagter! / Lit: “Talk softer!”

Rule: 
  • There is no conjugation. 
  • Sag is inflected with the suffix -er

QUIET WOMAN IN MOVIE THEATER
Infinitive (ongoing action)Present
1. Verbs: Sukkel and Loop / “Battles” and “Walk”
Example: Die man sukkel om te loop. / “The man battles to walk.”

2. Verbs: Hou (daar)van and Lag / “Likes” and “Laugh”
Example: Ek hou daarvan om te lag. / Lit: “I enjoy it to laugh.”
 
Rule: 
  • Change in sentence – Always precede the second verb with om te. No conjugation.

Past:
1. Verbs: Sukkel and Loop / “Battles” and “Walk”
Example: Die man het gesukkel om te loop. / “The man battled to walk.”

2. Verbs: Hou (daar)van and Lag / “Likes” and “Laugh”
Example: Ek het daarvan gehou om te lag. / Lit: “I enjoyed it to laugh.”

Rule: 
  • Change in sentence – Precede the first verb with the time word het, and the second one with om te
  • Conjugation – Add the prefix ge- to the first verb.
Future: 
1. Verbs: Sukkel and Loop / “Battles” and “Walk”
Example: Die man sal sukkel om te loop. / “The man will battle to walk.”

2. Verbs: Hou (daar)van and Lag / “Likes (to)” and “Laugh”
Example: Ek gaan hou daarvan om te lag. / Lit: “I am going to like it to laugh.”

Rule: 
  • Change in sentence – Precede the first verb with the time word gaan / sal / wil, and the second one with om te
  • No conjugation.
Conditional Past, Present, and FuturePast
1. Verb: Wen / “Win” and Be-verbs
Example: Hy sou gewen het as hy fikser was. / “He would’ve won if he had been/was fitter.” 

2. Verb: Werk / “Work”
Example: Hulle sou gewerk het as dit nodig was. / “They would’ve worked if it had been/was necessary.”

Rule: 
  • Change in sentence – Always precede the first verb with sou and follow it with het as + conditional clause + appropriate be-verb (in this case, was). 
  • Conjugation – Add the prefix ge- to the verb.
Present: 
1. Verb: Eet / “Eat” and Be-verbs
Example: Die hond sou eet as daar kos was. / “The dog would eat if there were food.”

2. Verb: Dans / “Dance”
Example: Die vrou sou dans as daar musiek was. / “The woman would dance if there were music.”

Rule: 
  • Change in sentence – Always precede the first verb with sou, and follow it with as + conditional clause + appropriate be-verb (was, in this case). 
  • No conjugation.
Future: 
1. Verb: Slaap / “Sleep” 
Example: Die baba sal slaap as die kamer donker genoeg is. / “The baby will sleep if the room is dark enough.”

2. Verb: Vertrek / “Leave”
Example: Ons sal vanaand vertrek as die motor reg is. / “We’ll leave tonight if the car is ready.”

Rule: 
  • Change in sentence – Always precede the first verb with a time word like sal / gaan / wil and follow it with as + conditional clause + appropriate be-verb (in this case, is). 
  • No conjugation.
Present1. Verb: Val / “Falls”
Example: Die reën val saggies. / “The rain falls quietly.”

2. Verb: Hardloop / “Run”
Example: Hulle hardloop weg. / “They run away.”

Rule: 
  • No conjugation.
Present Participle (forms perfect and passive tenses)1. Verb: Vra / “Ask”
Example: Hy kyk vraend na die vrou. / Lit: “He looks inquiringly (lit. askingly) at the woman.”

2. Verb: Hardloop / “Run”
Example: Die hardlopende bok beweeg na links. / “The running antelope moves to the left.”

Rule: 
  • Conjugation – In the first example, the suffix -end is added to the second verb, which changes its word function to that of an adverb.
  • The second example shows a conjugation with the suffix -ende on the first verb that, in this case, changes its function to that of an adjective. It’s also an example of an irregular conjugation that changes the spelling of the word.
 
Here are other examples of irregular conjugations that change the verb into an adjective or adverb:
  • verloor to verlore / “lost”
  • aankom to aankomende / “coming”
  • vertrek to vertrekkende / “leaving” or “going”
  • beloof to belowende / “promising”
  • skryf to skrywende / “writing”
  • lag to laggende / “laughing”
    loop to lopende / “walking”
    sit to sittende / “sitting”
  • vlieg to vlieënde / “flying”
BOY HOLDING A TOY AIRPLANE
Past1. Verb: Vlieg / “Fly”
Example: Ons het gevlieg. / “We flew.”

2. Verb: Kook / “Cook”
Example: Die kok het vir ons gekook. / “The chef cooked for us.”

Rule: 
  • Change in sentence – Add the time word het before the verb. 
  • Conjugation – Add the prefix ge- to the verb.
Past Participle (forms perfect and passive tenses)1. Verb: Vra / “Ask”
Example: Hy het vraend na die vrou gekyk. / “He looked inquiringly at the woman.” (First verb changes function to an adverb.)

2. Verb: Hardloop / “Run”
Example: Die hardlopende bok het na links beweeg. / “The running antelope moved to the left.” (The first verb changes function to an adjective.)

Rule: 
  • Change in sentence – Add the time word het before the second verb. 
  • Conjugation – Add end orende to the first verb, changing its function to adverb or adjective. If the first verb changes to an adverb, add the prefix ge- to the second verb. As explained above, the second example shows an irregular conjugation.
Future1. Verb: Slaap / “Sleep”
Example: Sy sal slaap. / “She will sleep.” 

2. Verb: Blaf / “Bark”
Example: Die hond gaan blaf. / “The dog will bark.”

Rule: 
  • Change in sentence – Add the time words sal / gaan / wil before the first verb. 
  • No conjugation.

A bit confused?

WOMAN SHRUGGING HER SHOULDERS WITH PALMS FACING UP

That’s totally okay!

Let’s quickly test your knowledge with an easy quiz…

3. Quiz – Which Ones are Conjugations?

More Essential Verbs

Identify the inflected verb (conjugation) in the following sentences and let us know your answers in the comment section!

1. Die man het geëet. / “The man ate.”

2. Ons sal weer lag. / “We will laugh again.”

3. ‘n Perd het kouend gestaan by die dammetjie. / “A horse stood chewing by the pond.”

4. Die mooi vrou praat sag. / “The pretty woman speaks softly.”

5. Die motor het vinnig gery. / “The car drove fast.”

6. Al die blomme is geurig. / “All the flowers smell good.”

In any language, grammar usually takes some time to master. For this reason, it’s best if you team up with…well, the best teachers you possibly can!

4. How AfrikaansPod101 Can Help You Master Your Conjugations!

We hope you enjoyed learning about Afrikaans verbs and their conjugations with us. Are you ready to start practicing, or do you still have questions? Let us know in the comments!

Again, AfrikaansPod101 takes the lead with many excellent Afrikaans learning tools to help you master conjugations, inflections, and so much more—easily and almost effortlessly! While you’re learning about verb conjugations in Afrikaans, lessons like these are helpful, but we have so many more learning options for you, too! 

These tools include:

1. An extensive vocabulary list, updated regularly.

2. A new Afrikaans word to learn everyday. Master these words easily with our recordings and flashcards!

3. Access to numerous recordings, such as this Afrikaans Vocab Builder.

4. A free Afrikaans online dictionary.

5. An excellent 100 Core Afrikaans Words list!

Learn much faster with the help of a personal tutor, who will first let you take an assessment test to personalize your training.

They’re very helpful when you bump into challenges during your studies. Your very own friendly, Afrikaans-speaking teacher will be only a text away on a special app, anywhere, anytime. Using a guided learning system, which was developed by experts in language and online education, they’ll be giving you personal feedback and constant support so you can learn and improve quickly. You’ll also be tasked with weekly assignments in reading, writing, and speaking, to really hone your Afrikaans language skills. 

Don’t hesitate—enroll with AfrikaansPod101 now!

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