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The 30 Best Afrikaans Love Phrases for All Occasions!


L’amour, die Liebe, die liefde, любовь (lyubov’)…all of these mean “love.” 

Love is a universal language spoken mostly with the heart, but what a wonderful thing to express in any language!

Therefore, it makes sense that when people study to acquire a new language, one of the first things they learn (not long after hello and goodbye) is “I love you.” For some, being able to communicate with someone they love is their reason for learning the language in the first place! 

If you’re wondering how to say “I love you,” in Afrikaans, then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve compiled for you a collection of Afrikaans love phrases you can use to express your feelings in no uncertain terms. Better still? It’s all framed in the context of a short, romantic story. Enjoy!

But before we continue—what is “love” in your native language? Tell us in the comments, please!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans Table of Contents
  1. Pick-up Lines and the First Flush of Love
  2. Love Phrases for Long-Term Relationships
  3. Must-Know Love Quotes and Phrases
  4. Learn Afrikaans Phrases to Charm the Love of Your Life at AfrikaansPod101!

Two Hands Shaped in a Heart, Held against the Sun

Liefde verander alles! / “Love changes everything!”

1. Pick-up Lines and the First Flush of Love

The hero of our story is named Jeffrey, and when Jeffrey moved to South Africa he was quite lonely at first. Therefore, he asked his Afrikaans friend Willem to take him to a good social venue where he might meet some nice single ladies.

But…he wondered how he would approach these local Afrikaans ladies to begin with. Online, he’d tried searching for things like ‘Afrikaans love phrases,’ but there were a lot of options and they didn’t really look like good pick-up lines. He was glad that Willem would be coming along to act as his ‘wingman.’

A. Keeping it Simple

The two of them were sitting at the bar when Jeffrey noticed a very attractive Afrikaans woman chatting with her friends. She shyly glanced his way every now and then, and he thought she looked approachable, but he still wondered what he should say to her. What would be a good Afrikaans pick-up line? He knew these could sometimes be cheesy and annoying, no matter which language you speak! Also, he wasn’t sure if there was a specific way to address an Afrikaans woman or not.

Young Woman in a Red Dress Holding a Drink with a Young Man in the Background Looking at Her

Wat sal ‘n goeie “pick-up line” in Afrikaans wees? / “What would be a good Afrikaans pick-up line?”

Eventually, he asked Willem for advice, saying, “I checked online but I didn’t know which line to choose. Can you help?”

Willem explained with a smile that there were many colorful (albeit rather lewd) Afrikaans pick-up lines online, and it was definitely not advisable to use any of those. Most Afrikaans ladies like to be courted in a more romantic, old-school kind of way—they prefer a gentleman’s approach.

“Keep it simple, be polite, and be straightforward,” Willem advised him. 

Jeffrey asked for some examples of lines he could use and Willem thought for a bit, searching for the best lines of those he knew. Here are some polite but casual pick-up lines that Willem considered:

Hello. My naam is Jeffrey. Mag ek vir jou ‘n drankie koop?

Hello. My naam is Jeffrey. Gee jy om as ek by jou aansluit vir ‘n drankie?  
“Hello. My name is Jeffrey. May I buy you a drink?”

“Hello. My name is Jeffrey. Do you mind if I join you for a drink?”
One might be tempted to think that the above lines are quite formal, but what makes them casual is the pronoun used. In Afrikaans, if you were going to be formal, you would use the pronoun u instead of jy or jou

Let’s have a look at the same pick-up lines, but using the formal pronoun u
  • Hello. My naam is Jeffrey. Mag ek vir u a drankie koop? (“Hello. My name is Jeffrey. May I buy you a drink?”)

  • Hello. My naam is Jeffrey. Gee u om as ek by u aansluit vir ‘n drankie? (“Hello. My name is Jeffrey. Do you mind if I join you for a drink?”)

This is a very formal way of talking and would seem out of place in a bar. For more information about this and other pronouns in Afrikaans, have a look at this article
Because they are in a bar and the setting is pretty informal, a slightly more flirtatious approach might also be suitable. No person is immune to sincere compliments! However, it would be best to read the situation and say what feels natural, because pick-up lines can be very cheesy, as I mentioned earlier.
Haai daar. Jy’s wraggies baie mooi. “Hi there. You are really beautiful.”
Dame, ek dink jy’s baie mooi en ek wil graag vir jou ‘n drankie koop.“Lady, I think you’re very attractive and I’d like to buy you a drink.”
Gee jy om as ek hier sit? Jy’t my voete onder my uitgeslaan…“Do you mind if I sit here? You’ve knocked me off my feet…”
Jammer as ek pla, maar ek wil net vir jou sê – jy slaan my asem weg!“Sorry if I’m bothering you, but I just want to tell you—you take my breath away!”
Jy maak my knieë lam. Gee jy om as ek hier sit voor ek omval?Literally: “You make me weak in the knees. Would you mind if I sit here before I fall?”
Wraggies, jy lyk bekoorlik. Mag ek vir jou a drankie koop?“Really, you look enchanting. May I buy you a drink?”

Young Man and Woman Laughing and Flirting.

Jy slaan my asem weg! / “You take my breath away!”

Willem decided to stick to the polite but simple, straightforward approach, and suggested to Jeffrey that he say: 

Hello. My naam is Jeffrey. Mag ek vir jou ‘n drankie koop? (“Hello. My name is Jeffrey. May I buy you a drink?”)

After practicing this line a few times, Jeffrey made his approach and delivered it to the beautiful woman at the bar. She did not seem offended, which was a good start, at least.

Jeffrey found out that her name was Charlize. He bought them more drinks and they chatted for almost an hour until she took a break to ‘powder her nose.’ He took the opportunity to hurry back to Willem and told him that it was going really well. He also wanted to know how he could tell Charlize that he really liked her and wanted to get to know her better. In his head, Willem quickly ran through all the Afrikaans love phrases that he could think of: 

Ek weet ons het nou net ontmoet, maar ek is reeds mal / gek oor jou.“I know we’ve only just met, but I’m already mad about you.”
Jy’s regtig cool! Ek hou van jou!1“You are really cool! I like you!”
Hey, dit was nou lekker om met jou te gesels. Ek wil jou graag weer sien. Kan ek jou selnommer kry, asseblief? “Hey, it was nice to chat with you. I would really like to see you again. Could I have your cell number, please?”
Ek dink jy is great en ek het jou geselskap baie geniet vanaand. Ek wil jou graag weer sien.1“I think you are great and I enjoyed our conversation a lot tonight. I’d like to see you again.”

1) Both Afrikaans and English are spoken by a large portion of the population in South Africa. This means that even older folks mix the languages vernacularly. This “cross-contamination” is considered normal, and it’s usually suitable in casual, informal situations.

They were all good options, but in the end, Willem decided on a different one. He whispered it into Jeffrey’s ear and told him that this line was sure to win Charlize over. Jeffrey practiced it a few times, then went over to her again. When he delivered his line, she burst into laughter and blushed. 

“Wait! What does My hart pomp tjoklit vir jou mean?” he asked her nervously. This was, of course, the line he had quoted.

She laughed again and told him that it means: “My heart is pumping chocolate for you.” When she saw how embarrassed he was, she assured him that it was quite a common, cute expression in Afrikaans. She just hadn’t expected it from him. Actually, it was quite sweet, she said, giving him a light kiss on the cheek to make him feel better. 

Jeffrey glared at Willem, who grinned from ear to ear and gave him an encouraging thumbs-up.

Couple Enjoying Drinks, Man Typing the Woman's Number into His Cell Phone.

Ek wil jou graag weer sien. Kan ek jou selnommer kry, asseblief? / “I would really like to see you again. Could I have your cell number, please?”

By the end of the night, Jeffrey and Charlize were quite comfortable with each other and she liked him enough to give him her number. They went on a few dates after that and Jeffrey’s feelings for her deepened. He went to Willem again to ask him for advice on how to tell Charlize that he wanted to take the relationship to the next level…

B. Taking it to the Next Level

Despite the fact that he and Charlize had been together for some months, Jeffrey had not yet learned how to say “I love you,” in Afrikaans. He was a naturally cautious fellow, but now he was ready to commit to a more serious relationship with this pretty, wonderful woman.

Young Couple Cooking Together

My lewe is soveel beter vandat ek jou ontmoet het. / “My life has been so much better since I met you.”

Once again, he turned to the web for insight. This time, he actually found some pretty good answers, but he still decided that he’d best ask Willem for ideas anyway. 

When Willem heard that Jeffrey was getting serious about Charlize, he was happy for his friend and searched through his inner library of romantic expressions in Afrikaans to find just the right one for his friend to use. It was not an easy choice, because there are many, as you can see below:

Sal jy my meisie wees?


This “asking out” question most often serves as a formality to seal a relationship. It denotes commitment, exclusivity, and the status of being a couple. Usually, it’s preceded by the Afrikaans love phrases in this column.

However, in many modern relationships, especially among the younger generation, this step is skipped. After a few romantic dates and declarations of mutually passionate feelings, it’s assumed that you’re together as a couple.
“Will you be my girlfriend?”
Ek het romantiese gevoelens vir jou.“I’ve got romantic feelings for you.”
Ek is verlief op jou.“I am in love with you.”
Jy’t my hart heeltemal verower. 

(The word jy’t is a contraction of jy [“you”] and het [“have”]).
“You’ve conquered my heart completely.”
My lewe is soveel beter vandat ek jou ontmoet het.“My life has been so much better since I met you.”
Jy is die godin van my hart.“You are the goddess of my heart.”
Jy is kosbaar vir my en ek gee om vir jou.“You are precious to me and I care about you.”
Jy is die enigste vis in die see vir my.“You are the only fish in the sea for me.”
But what if the roles were reversed? Are there specific Afrikaans love phrases for her when it comes to asking someone to take it to the next level? The answer is “Yes!” Charlize would be able to say most of the phrases above in the exact same way, except for the gender-specific ones, of course. Let’s have a quick look at a few alternative phrases that Charlize could use.
Sal jy my kêrel wees?“Will you be my boyfriend?”
Jy is die ridder van my hart.“You are the knight of my heart.”
Jy is my held.“You are my hero.”
You’ve probably noticed that we haven’t yet looked at how to say “I love you,” in Afrikaans! It’s simply: Ek het jou lief. / Ek is lief vir jou.

The expression that Willem eventually suggested to Jeffrey was a combination of two of the expressions above. He suggested that Jeffrey say: Jy’t my hart heeltemal verower. Sal jy my meisie wees? (“You have conquered my heart completely. Will you be my girlfriend?”)

Young Couple Holding Hands in Front of a Wooden Wall

Ek is lief vir jou. / “I love you.”

Jeffrey took Charlize out on a romantic date and, just after their first glass of wine, he asked her the question. Charlize went quiet and Jeffrey wondered, for a moment, if Willem had tricked him again. But it turned out that Charlize was choking back happy tears. When she felt okay to speak again, she softly told Jeffrey that she felt the same way about him. Below are some Afrikaans love phrases for her that she could choose from as a reply.

In Afrikaans, like in English, if you want to repeat a sentence or phrase back to someone, all you have to do is add the word ook (“too” / “also”) to what they said.
Ek het gevoelens vir jou. (“I have feelings for you.”)Ek het ook gevoelens vir jou. (“I also have feelings for you.”)
Ek is verlief op jou. (“I am in love with you.”)Ek is ook verlief op jou. (“I am also in love with you.”)
Jy is die enigste vis in die see vir my. (“You are the only fish in the sea for me.”)Jy is ook die enigste vis in die see vir my. (“You are also the only fish in the sea for me.”)

Now that you know how to reciprocate what someone has said to you in Afrikaans, can you figure out how Charlize replied to Jeffrey after he said, Jy’t my hart heeltemal verower? It should be quite easy.

If you guessed that Charlize added ook to her sentence, then you were correct: Jy’t ook my hart heeltemal verower. Ek sal jou meisie wees. (“You have also conquered my heart. I will be your girlfriend.”)

Dejected, sad Young Man Sitting on the Floor in a Station

Verwerping is soms baie moeilik om te hanteer. / “Rejection is sometimes very difficult to handle.”

C. Rejection

Sadly, things don’t always work out the way we hope they will when we ask someone to take it to the next level. Sometimes we discover that they don’t feel the same way, or that they’re not ready for an exclusive commitment yet. Happily, Jeffrey did not have to experience this, but what if Charlize had said no? How would she have phrased her rejection? 

In Afrikaans, we make use of double negatives in order to negate an expression. To learn more about the grammar behind this, have a look at this article. What it means, in short, is that you add two negating words to the sentence, not unlike you would do in some English slang. For example: 
  • “I didn’t do nothing.”
  • “I ain’t got no money.” 
In Afrikaans, we often use the double nie to express negation. Below are examples of what Charlize could have said, had she rejected Jeffrey’s proposal: 
Sal jy my meisie wees? (“Will you be my girlfriend?”)Jammer, ek wil nie. Ek hou baie van jou maar ek is nie gereed vir ‘n vaste verhouding nie. (“Sorry, I don’t want to. I like you a lot but I am not ready for a steady relationship.”)
Ek is verlief op jou. (“I am in love with you.”)Jammer, ek is nie verlief op jou nie. (“Sorry, I am not in love with you.”)
Ek het gevoelens vir jou. (“I have feelings for you.”)Jammer, ek het nie dieselfde gevoelens vir jou nie. Maar kan ons vriende wees? (“Sorry, I don’t have the same feelings for you. But can we be friends?”)
Or, you could give a generic negative reply:

Jammer, maar ek voel nie dieselfde oor jou nie. (“Sorry, but I don’t feel the same way about you.”)

Tip: If you’re the one doing the let-down, then remember to do so gently and with respect and kindness. Rejection can be very hard to take, especially in matters of the heart. It would be best to stick with the Golden Rule—do to others as you would have them do to you!

Couple Standing Face to Face, Holding Hands, Man Talks Kindly to Sad Woman at Airport

Jy beteken die wêreld vir my. / “You mean the world to me.”

2. Love Phrases for Long-Term Relationships

If you, like Jeffrey, have experienced luck in love, then it’s time to learn some additional love phrases in Afrikaans you can use to strengthen and progress your relationship. 

A. Phrases that help to keep a relationship strong:

Now that Charlize had agreed to be Jeffrey’s girlfriend, they were entering into a phase of the relationship where Jeffrey no longer had to woo her—but there was still work to be done. 

I don’t know if you agree with me here, but I think that if we want a relationship to work, we have to put some effort into it. Fortunately, Jeffrey was the kind of person who did like to put effort into his relationship. Part of this included studying Afrikaans in his spare time. Naturally, he spent a lot of his study time researching romantic expressions in Afrikaans!

He found that Charlize was a very kind and considerate girlfriend and often did nice things for him, so one of the first things he learned to say was:

  • Baie dankie. Ek waardeer alles wat jy vir my doen. (“Thanks a lot. I appreciate everything you do for me.”)

Sometimes he also wanted to tell her that he appreciated her for who she was, and not just for the things she did. So he learned to say:

  • Jy beteken die wêreld vir my. (“You mean the world to me.”)

Older Couple Working in the Garden, Man Giving the Woman a Yellow Flower

Baie dankie. Ek waardeer alles wat jy vir my doen. / “Thank you. I appreciate everything you do for me.”

And then, of course, there were those occasions when, no matter how considerate he was in general, he did something that required an apology. So he learned to say: 

  • Ek het ‘n fout gemaak; ek is jammer. (“I made a mistake; I’m sorry.”)

Charlize, it turned out, was also a very wise person, and he began to find that he really valued her input when it came to making decisions. He also cared about what she wanted, and for this reason, he learned how to say:  

  • Wat dink jy hiervan? (“What do you think about this?”)
  • Wat is jou opinie? (“What is your opinion?”)
  • Wat verkies jy? (“What do you prefer?”)

And then, of course, Jeffrey often used those two absolutely essential words in Afrikaans culture: 

  • Asseblief. (“Please.”)
  • Dankie. (“Thank you.”)

This article explains exactly how to use these terms correctly in Afrikaans!

Charlize was also very good at using expressions like these and, despite the ups and downs that all relationships go through, they found that their relationship grew from strength to strength.

Man Proposing to a Woman on a Bridge

Sal jy my vrou wees, asseblief? / “Will you be my wife, please?”

B. Popping the Question

Two years after their first meeting, Jeffrey decided he was ready to pop the question! He had been studying Afrikaans almost daily, so he was pretty sure he knew how to ask Charlize to marry him, but he checked his books anyway. This was not the kind of thing you wanted to make a mistake with. He found some great expressions: 

Sal jy my vrou wees, asseblief?“Will you please be my wife?”
Sal jy met my trou, asseblief? “Will you please marry me?”
Ek wil my lewe saam met jou deurbring.“I want to spend my life with you.”
Ek wil saam met jou oud word. “I want to grow old with you.”
The following two expressions are not actually marriage proposals, but they would definitely make any marriage proposal that much more meaningful and beautiful. 
Ek het jou lief bo alles en almal.“I love you above everything and everyone.”
‘n Lewe sonder jou is vir my ondenkbaar.“A life without you is unimaginable for me.”
As uncommon as it is in Afrikaans culture, it’s not unheard of that the woman might pop the question. So, if Charlize had wanted to be the one proposing, are there similar Afrikaans love phrases for her that she could have chosen from? The fact is that all of the above phrases can be used by both men and women, except for the first one. If she had been the one proposing, Charlize would have said: 
Sal jy my man wees, asseblief? “Will you please be my husband?”

One night, Jeffrey took Charlize out on a romantic adventure that included a day of fun, outdoor activities together, dinner at a fancy restaurant, and eventually a romantic stroll on a beautiful, moonlit beach. While they were walking along quietly on the wet sand, he suddenly stopped in front of her, dropped to one knee, and held up a small box that contained a gorgeous engagement ring. (Afrikaans girls tend to like old-style marriage proposals, remember!)

Two Hearts Drawn in the Sand on the Beach at Sunset.

Ware liefde hou vir ewig. / “True love lasts forever.”

Combining two of the phrases he had learned, he said earnestly: “Charlize, ek wil saam met jou oud word. Sal jy met my trou, asseblief?” (“Charlize, I want to grow old with you. Please, will you marry me?”)

Of course, Charlize said ja (“yes”)!

C. Terms of Endearment

Another way of saying “I love you,” in Afrikaans, without actually using those words, is to use terms of endearment. During their engagement, Charlize and Jeffrey grew even closer and Charlize often used Afrikaans terms of endearment when talking to him. Jeffrey soon found himself beginning to emulate her. 

In English, people use terms of endearment like “darling,” “baby,” or “honey.” Afrikaans people use these too, but they are spun in a uniquely Afrikaans way. It’s not easy to find a direct English translation for some of these; hence the literal translations that I have added. You’ll see that they have a very distinct character! 

  • my liefling (“my darling”) Lit. “my loveling”
  • my skattebol (“my darling”) Lit. “my treasure ball”
  • my skatlam (“my darling”) Lit. “my treasure lamb”
  • my skat  (“my treasure”)
  • my liefste (“my beloved”)
  • my enigste (“my only”)
  • my lief (“my love”)

Other expressions Charlize sometimes used were: 

  • my lam (“my darling”) Lit. “my lamb”
  • my ander helfte (“my other half”)

Charlize and Jeffrey were still young and in a relatively new relationship, so they wouldn’t have used the following terms of endearment (except perhaps in a jocular way). However, for older people who have been in a relationship for a while and who have a strong sense of familiarity with each other, these are very common: 
ou ding / my ou dingLit. “old thing” / “my old thing”
my ou man / my ou vrou“my old man” (also husband) / “my old woman” (also wife)
The use of ou in these phrases denotes both age and a sense of fond familiarity. A similar convention occurs in English when a speaker affectionately refers to their aging pet dog as, “my old doggie,” for instance. In this case, “old” carries connotations similar to those that the word ou does in Afrikaans when used as part of a term of endearment. However, make sure you’re using it in an appropriate context, meaning only with people you know very well.

Please note that, in Afrikaans, man can mean “man” or “husband” and vrou can mean “woman” or “wife,” depending on the context. If the speakers are married, then the words connote the latter meaning. 

Charlize and Jeffrey used these terms of endearment so often that they barely used each other’s names anymore. Everyone who knew them felt it was only right that they get married—they were so perfect for each other. Their wedding was something that everyone looked forward to.

Statue of Cupid, Roman God of Love

Ek het die skoot hoog deur! / Approximate: “Love hit me hard!”

3. Must-Know Love Quotes and Phrases

Many times, the words of a poet, songwriter, or novelist can perfectly capture how we’re feeling. Below are some Afrikaans love quotes translated in English, each one written from the heart and sure to capture that of your lover…

A. The Power of Beautiful Words

In a relationship, we often share with our partner lyrics from songs we like or lines from our favorite poems. One of Charlize’s favorite poems was called Erens is jy (“Somewhere you are”), from the anthology Eerste Gedigte (“First Poems”), and it was written by her favorite Afrikaans poet Antjie Krog. Charlize’s favorite lines from the poem were:

… as ek die dag my hand in joune sitsal ek my padkaarte bêre met die wete:my reis op soek na jou is nou verby.“… the day I put my hand in yoursI will put away my maps with the knowledge:my journey in search of you is now over.”

On the day of the wedding, Jeffrey stood in front of everyone and delivered his vows in Afrikaans with no mistakes at all. He knew that if he spoke his vows to Charlize in Afrikaans, they would be far more meaningful for her. After delivering his vows, he surprised everyone by clearing his throat nervously and then, in beautiful Afrikaans, recited a rendition of the poem his wife loved so much: 

Ek sit, hierdie dag, my hand in joune
en bêre my padkaarte met die wete:
my reis op soek na jou is nou verby.

“I put, this day, my hand in yours
and stash away my roadmaps with the knowledge:
my journey in search of you is now over.”

Love Letter and a Red Rose

Sonder jou liefde is die graaf te swaar vir my en val die geil reëns van die berge sonder doel. – D.J. Opperman.
“Without your love, the shovel is too heavy for me, and the abundant rain of the mountains falls without purpose.”

Charlize was deeply moved by his beautiful gesture and Jeffrey had to help her wipe away the tears there at the altar. Once she’d collected herself, the dominee (“pastor” / “minister”) married them and they kissed to raucous applause. 

Oh, and—all of this was 25 years ago. They are still happily married. 

B. Quotations that Inspire Love

If you wish to impress the Afrikaans person you love in the way that Jeffrey impressed Charlize, perhaps you’ll benefit from looking at these wonderful quotes from famous Afrikaans poets and singers.

sonder jou liefde is die graaf te swaar vir my en val die geil reëns van die berge sonder doel.

~ D.J. Opperman
“without your love the shovel is too heavy for me and the abundant rain of the mountains fallswithout purpose.”
Ek stuur vir jou ʼn berggansveermits dese wil ek vir jou sêhoe diep my liefde vir jou lê

~ Boerneef 2
“I send to you a wild goose featherwith which I want to tell youhow deep my love lies for you”
vye word suur, maar die liefde, die liefde is soeter as vye

~ Breyten Breytenbach 
“figs turn sour, but love, love is sweeter than figs”
ek wil vir jou ʼn gewelhuisie bouin die boland van my hart……maar ek wil vir jou my lewe geein die wit afdophuisie van my hart…

~ André Letoit aka Koos Kombuis

“I want to build for you a gabled housein the pastures of my heart……but I want to give you my lifein the white, dilapidated house of my heart…”
Die liefde is ʼn dubbeldoor—iets te wen en iets verloor.

~ Koos Du Plessis

“Love is a contradiction—something to win and something to lose.”
Die liefde in my 

Die liefde in my
Dis altyd jy, net altyd jy,
die een gedagte bly my by
soos skadu’s onder bome bly,
net altyd jy, net altyd jy. 

Langs baie weë gaan my smart,
blind is my oë en verward
is alle dinge in my hart. 

Maar dit sal een en enkeld bly,
en aards en diep sy laafnis kry,
al staan dit winter, kaal in my,
die liefde in my, die liefde in my.

~ NP van Wyk Louw

“The love in me,
It’s always you, always only you,
this one thought stays with me
as shadows live under trees
always only you, always only you.

Along many roads my sorrow goes,blind are my eyes and confused
are all things in my heart.

But this one thing remains,
which is nourished from deep within,
even when it’s winter, naked in me,
the love in me, the love in me.”

Happy Older Couple

Ek kan my nie ‘n lewe indink sonder jou nie. / “I can’t imagine a life without you.”

Which of these Afrikaans phrases resonates with you the most, and why? Let us know in the comments! 

4. Learn Afrikaans Phrases to Charm the Love of Your Life at AfrikaansPod101!

At AfrikaansPod101, we can help you understand Afrikaans easily with our hundreds of recorded videos, themed vocabulary lists, and variety of learning and study tools. With our help, you’ll be able to use the phrases correctly and speak like a native in no time!

Also, you can start deciphering Afrikaans phrases yourself with the multiple tools we make available to you upon subscription, such as the Afrikaans Key Phrase List and the Afrikaans Core 100 Word List. You should also make sure to keep your Afrikaans online dictionary closeby for easy translation! 

If Afrikaans vernacular is important to you, then take a look at the following pages on our website:

  1. The Best Afrikaans Internet Slang and How to Use it!
  2. How to Say “Hello” in Afrikaans Like a Native Speaker!
  3. How to Say I Love You in Afrikaans

Still hesitating? Don’t! Subscribe now, and you’ll be very happy you did!

About the author: Kurt Donald is an experienced writer and copy editor, and is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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All About How to Form the Negative in Afrikaans


Negation is, very simply put, the so-called “negative form” in a language. We use it when we want to express the opposite of a positive or affirmative statement. What is the negative form in Afrikaans? Let’s dig in!

One of the most fascinating features of the Afrikaans language is its use of the double negative, which means that two negatives resolve into one negative. For instance, in English one would say, “He cannot speak Afrikaans,” and only use the word ‘not’ once. However, to express the negative in Afrikaans, we usually have to use the negating word twice:   

Sy kan nie Afrikaans praat nie.
Literally: “She cannot Afrikaans speak not.”

Young Woman Holding up Both Hands to Indicate No or Stop

The negating word in the example above is nie and, as you will have gathered, nie means “not.” It sounds like “knee” in English, but a bit shorter and sharper on the ‘ee’ (like the ‘i’ in it). Nie is equivalent to the German nicht and the Dutch niet, but it’s used differently, of course.

No one really knows where this practice of using the double negative originated. Some say it may have its roots in the French language, and others suggest that it may have been borrowed from the San languages of Southern Africa. Negating with a double negative can also be found in Middle English, such as in Chaucer’s work, who sometimes used a triple negative!

Double negation still appears in regional and ethnical dialects such as Southern American English, African American vernacular English, and various British regional dialects, according to Wikipedia. Think: “You don’t know nothing,” or “He didn’t go nowhere today.” Whatever the source may be, the double negative is not extensively employed and, especially in the dialects, its use is frowned upon by the purists.

British Flag in a Speech Bubble Shape.

Double negation also occurs in other Germanic languages, such as can be found in villages in the center of the Netherlands and in Low Franconian dialects in West-Flanders—and even then, it’s used differently. The way the negative form in Afrikaans is expressed remains unique.  

While using the Afrikaans double negative may seem strange at first, once you grow accustomed to it, it will start to feel quite natural. Learning how to use it isn’t difficult, either.

However, before we begin with that, let’s start with the exception to the rule of the double negative. This exception uses a form more similar to that of other languages and employs only one negation word.  

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans Table of Contents
  1. The Rule of “One Knee”
  2. The Rule of “Two Knees”
  3. Changing Meaning – Placement of the First Nie
  4. Adding Color with Adverbs and Adjectives that Express Denial
  5. Converting Instructions and Requests to the Negative
  6. Formal vs. Informal Imperatives
  7. Negating Compound Sentences
  8. Answers to Exercises:
  9. How Can AfrikaansPod101 Help You Learn the Negative in Afrikaans?

1. The Rule of “One Knee”

It may be a bit convoluted, but the mnemonic “one knee” should serve to remind you of the simplicity of singularity. The one nie is used only in straightforward, relatively simple sentences.

  1. The single nie is used mostly in simple statement sentences, including those with reflexive or transitive verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and pronouns.
  2. It’s used mostly in present tense sentences. With other tenses, the single nie works only when certain hulpwerkwoorde van tyd (literally: “auxiliary verbs of time”) occur.

Let’s take a closer look at what this means.

A.1 In Simple Statement Sentences

To state the negative in Afrikaans using simple statement sentences, we put only ONE nie (knee!) after the verb, at the end of the sentence. That’s it! It looks like this:

– Short statement sentences: 

  • Hulle sien nie. – “They don’t see.”
  • Die rekenaar werk nie. – “The computer doesn’t work.”

– Statement sentences with a transitive verb and a pronoun:

Sometimes you need to be more specific and would then use a pronoun. In such a case, the One Knee rule applies mostly to statement sentences with transitive verbs in which the object is indicated with a pronoun. Read here all about Afrikaans pronouns!

  • Hulle waardeer haar nie. – “They don’t appreciate her.”
    Literally: “They appreciate her not.”
  • Sy eet dit nie. – “She doesn’t eat it.”
    Literally: “She eats it not.”
Young Woman Gesturing No for Dessert

– Statement sentences with an adjective and/or adverb:

Sometimes you need to be more descriptive in order to illuminate the subject or the action. Adding adjectives and/or adverbs won’t affect the One Knee rule.

  • Die nuwe rekenaar werk ongelukkig nie. – “The new computer, unfortunately, doesn’t work.”
    Literally: “The new computer works unfortunately not.”

A.2 Mostly in the Present Tense

As you may have noticed, these sentences are all in the simple present tense. In fact, this practice is not too dissimilar to negating the present tense verb in English by adding not

  • Hy sing. – “He is singing.” OR “He sings.”
  • Hy sing nie. – “He is not singing.” OR “He doesn’t sing.”
    Literally: “He sings not.”

Note: We don’t have a continuous tense in Afrikaans! Read all about Afrikaans tenses here.

In the Afrikaans past and future tenses, the One Knee rule applies only to very short, simple statement sentences with the following auxiliary verbs that indicate tense in Afrikaans. As mentioned, we call them hulpwerkwoorde van tyd.

Past Tense:      Hy was nie. – “He wasn’t.”
                         Hy wou nie. – “He didn’t want to.”
                         Hy het nie. – “He didn’t.”

Future Tense: Hy sal nie OR Hy gaan nie. – “He won’t.”

Women's Torn Jeans with Two Knees Showing

2. The Rule of “Two Knees”

Although things may seem to be getting a bit more complicated, there’s no need to panic about the negative form in Afrikaans! You simply need to remember to find the first part of the verb (whether it’s a base or an auxiliary verb) in the sentence, put a nie after it, and then put another nie at the very end of the sentence.

As we saw in the previous example, to negate very simply, we could say: Hy sing nie. (Lit. “He sings not.”) However, if we need to be more specific and have to introduce a direct or indirect object, the negation always doubles.

  • Hy sing (base verb) nie in Afrikaans (direct object) nie.
    “He doesn’t sing in Afrikaans.”
  • Hy sing (base verb) nie vir haar (indirect object) nie.
    “He doesn’t sing for her.”
Two Asian Girls and a Guy Singing Karaoke

When we use auxiliary verbs that indicate the past or future tenses, the negation also usually doubles:

  • Hy sal (auxiliary verb, future tense) nie sing nie.
    “He will not sing.”
  • Hy wou (auxiliary verb, past tense) nie sing nie.
    “He didn’t want to sing.”

What About the Be-Verbs?

In the present and past tenses, the be-verb is usually the main verb; in the future tense, the be-verb is an auxiliary verb. However, they all take the double negation.

Take a look at these negatives in Afrikaans:

Be-Verb Negation

PRESENT Tense Affirmative:
is (“is,” “to be”)

Die kat is oulik. 
“The cat is cute.”
PRESENT Tense Negation:
is nie (“is not”)

Die kakkerlak is nie o
ulik nie
“The cockroach is not cute.”
PAST Tense Affirmative:
was (“was”)

Die deur was toe. 
“The door was closed.”
PAST Tense Negation:
was nie (“was not”)

Die deur was nie toe nie
“The door was not closed.”
FUTURE Tense Affirmative:
sal wees / gaan wees (“will be,” “shall be”)

Die weer sal warm wees.
“The weather will be warm.”
FUTURE Tense Negation:
sal nie wees nie (“will not be”)

Die weer sal nie koud wees nie.
“The weather will not be cold.” 

Woman in Winter Gear Feeling Cold

3. Changing Meaning – Placement of the First Nie

While the rule remains true that one should put the first nie after the first verb in the sentence, sentences can sometimes become quite long and complex.

In terms of negation, this means that:

a) the first nie can be placed in various positions after the first werkwoord (“verb”) or hulpwerkwoord van tyd. (Lit. “auxiliary verb of time”); and

b) where one places it can change the meaning of the sentence. 

Consider the following sentence in the future tense: 

  • Sy gaan nie môre met haar nuwe bikini op die strand tan nie. 
    “She is not going to tan on the beach in her new bikini tomorrow.”

The entire sentence is negated because the nie is placed directly after what is, in Afrikaans, an auxiliary verb that indicates the future tense: gaan

  • Sy gaan môre nie met haar nuwe bikini op die strand tan nie. Sy sal iets anders dra.
    “She is not going to tan on the beach in her new bikini tomorrow. She will wear something else.”

In this case, the nie directly precedes “haar nuwe bikini” (her new bikini) and therefore negates only that phrase.

Young Woman in Bikini Sunbathing on the Beach
  • Sy gaan môre met haar nuwe bikini nie op die strand tan nie. Sy gaan elders tan.
    “She is not going to tan on the beach in her new bikini tomorrow. She will tan somewhere else.”

In this case, the nie directly precedes op die strand (on the beach) and therefore negates only that phrase. 

  • Sy gaan môre met haar nuwe bikini op die strand nie tan nie. Sy gaan iets anders doen as tan.
    “She is not going t tan on the beach in her new bikini tomorrow. She will do something other than tanning.”

In this case, the nie directly precedes the second verb “tan” (tan) and therefore negates only that action. 

It should be clear from the above explanations that one must be sure to place the first nie after the first verb in the sentence, and directly before the phrase or word one wants to negate. 

4. Adding Color with Adverbs and Adjectives that Express Denial

That said, negative sentences in Afrikaans do not always require for the word nie to be the first word of negation. Sometimes, to add a bit of color to your speech, you can use additional negation vocabulary in lieu of the first nie. This strengthens the tone of what you’re saying and makes it more specific and descriptive, like this:

Sy praat nooit Afrikaans nie.
“She never speaks Afrikaans.
“Lit. “She never speaks Afrikaans not.”
Die lesse is gladnie lank nie.
“The lessons are not long at all.
“Lit. “The lessons are not at all long not.”

These additional negation words are adverbs (bywoorde), adjectives (byvoeglike naamwoorde), and auxiliary verbs that express denial and, as you can see, they make the sentence a little more specific and descriptive. Just remember that you still need to add the nie at the end of the sentence! 

Here are some examples of auxiliary verbs, adverbs, and adjectives that can be used for denial. 

D.1 Woorde wat vir Ontkenning Gebruik Word / “Words that are Used for Denial”

enige (“any”) / een (“one”)

Daar is een oefening. 
“There is one exercise.”
geen (“no,” “none,” “not”)

Daar is geen oefeninge nie.
“There are no exercises.”
enigsins (“at all”)

Is dit enigsins moeite vir jou?
“Is it trouble for you at all?”
geensins (“by no means,” “in no way”)

Dit is geensins moeite nie.
“It is no trouble at all.”
êrens (“somewhere”)

Dit is êrens.
“It is somewhere.”
nêrens (“nowhere”)

Ek kan dit nêrens vind nie
“I can’t find it anywhere.”
iemand (“someone”)

Daar was iemand.
“There was someone.”
niemand (“nobody,” “no one”)

Daar was niemand nie
“There was no one.”
iets (“something”)

Die bobbejaan het iets oorgekom.
“Something happened to the baboon.”
niks (“nothing”)

Die bobbejaan het niks oorgekom nie
“Nothing happened to the baboon.”
ooit (“ever”)

Sal jy my ooit verraai?
“Will you ever betray me?”
nooit (“never”)

Ek sal jou nooit verraai nie
“I will never betray you!”
nog (“still”)

Ek kan nog die geraas verdra.
“I can still tolerate the noise.”
nie meer (“no longer”)

Ek kan die geraas nie meer verdra nie!
“I can’t stand that noise anymore!”
beslis (“indeed,” “definitely”)

Dit is beslis ‘n probleem.
“That is definitely a problem.”
gladnie (“not at all”)

Dit is gladnie ‘n probleem nie
“That is not a problem at all.”
al (“yet”)

Het hy al sy werk gedoen?
“Has he done his work yet?”
nog nie (“not yet”)

Hy het nog nie sy werk gedoen nie
“He has not yet done his work.” 
tog (“and yet”)

Daar was amper g’n reën nie; tog is die dam vol. 
“There’s been almost no rain, and yet the dam is full.” 
tog nie (“and yet not”)

Daar was baie reën; tog is the dam nie vol nie.
“There was a lot of rain, and yet the dam is not full.”
heeltemal (“completely”)

Ek is heeltemal verward.
“I am utterly confused.” 
nie heeltemal (“not completely”)

Ek is nie heeltemal verward nie
“I am not completely confused.”
iets (“something”)

Kan ek iets vir jou doen? 
“Can I do something for you?”
niks (“nothing”)

Ek kan niks vir jou doen nie. 
“I can’t do anything/can do nothing for you.” 
moet (“must,” “should”)

Jy moet my later bel. 
“You must call me later.”
moenie (“don’t”)

Jy moenie my later bel nie
“You mustn’t call me later.”

Note: Similar to the English “don’t,” this is the contracted form of moet nie (“do not”).
sal (“will,” “shall”)

Ek sal die boek later lees. 
“I will read the book later.”
sal nie (“will not”)

Ek sal die boek nie later lees nie
“I will not read the book later.”
gaan (“will”)

Ek gaan more studeer.
“I will study tomorrow.”
gaan nie (“will not”)

Ek gaan nie more studeer nie.
“I will not study tomorrow.”

Diploma Hat on Top of a Pile of Books, with a Scroll Next to It

5. Converting Instructions and Requests to the Negative

Giving instructions/commands and making requests are things that we often do, so it’s important to be able to convert these to their negative form. 

E.1 Giving Instructions and Commands

Converting instructions to their negative form is not that difficult. Have a look at this instruction and its negative form:

Instruction: Sit daar! / “Sit there!”
Instruction – Negative Form: Moenie daar sit nie! / “Don’t sit there!” (Literally. “Don’t sit there not.”)

As you can see, we added the word moenie to the instruction and then added nie at the end of the sentence in order to convert it to the negative form. The word moenie (“don’t”) is a contraction of the words moet (do) and nie (not)

In Afrikaans, when you add moenie to the sentence, you must then move the verb (sit, in this case) to the end and follow that with the ubiquitous nie.

A few more examples: 

Instruction – Positive FormInstruction – Negative Form
Staan op! 
“Stand up!”
Moenie opstaan nie!
“Don’t stand up!”
Lit. “Don’t up-stand not!”
Kom later terug!
“Come back later!”
Lit. Come later back! 
Moenie later terugkom nie! 
“Don’t come back later!”
Lit. “Don’t later back come not.” 
Gaan weg!
“Go away!”
Moenie weggaan nie! 
“Don’t go away!” 
Lit. “Don’t away-go not!”
Kyk daar! 
“Look there!”
Moenie daar kyk nie! 
“Don’t look there!”
Lit. “Don’t there look not!”

Two Young Women Pointing to Something on a Laptop Screen.

Did you notice that the verbs and adverbs got switched around in the negative? For example: 

Kyk daar became “Moenie daar kyk nie.”

Where the adverb usually follows the verb in Afrikaans affirmative expressions, the opposite is true of the negative. This is a rule you should take note of. This switching sometimes results in the formation of a compound verb. Consider this: 

Gaan weg!” becomes “Moenie weggaan nie!” and “Staan op!” becomes “Moenie opstaan nie!


Why not try to negate in Afrikaans yourself? Read the affirmative expressions, write your negative answers (using moenie) down somewhere, and check them against the list of answers at the end of this article. Don’t worry, you won’t have to combine any verbs and adverbs! 

Eet die kos! – “Eat the food!”
Drink jou medisyne! – “Drink your medicine!”
Sing hard! – “Sing loudly!”
Praat vinnig! – “Speak quickly!”

6. Formal vs. Informal Imperatives

While the rule is that you should add moenie to an instruction (also called an imperative) in order to make it negative, a formal, more polite imperative will get an asseblief (“please”). As soon as you do this, there is another set of rules that apply. Have a look at the following: 

Informal imperative: Moenie opstaan nie! / “Don’t stand up!”
Formal imperative: Moet asseblief nie opstaan nie. / “Please don’t stand up.”

As you can see, when you add asseblief to the negative sentence, you need to: 

  1. break the compound moenie into its component words moet and nie;
  2. put the asseblief (“please”) between the moet and the nie; and
  3. remember to add the final nie at the end! 

Here are some more examples using the same informal instructions as in exercise E.1, but now converted to formal imperatives.

Informal ImperativeFormal Imperative
Moenie later terug kom nie! 
“Don’t come back later!”
Moet asseblief nie later terugkom nie.
“Please don’t come back later.”
Moenie daar kyk nie! 
“Don’t look there!”
Moet asseblief nie daar kyk nie. 
“Please don’t look there.”
Moenie weggaan nie! 
“Don’t go away!”
Moet asseblief nie weggaan nie!
“Please don’t go away!”


Your turn again, if you’d like. Just as before, read the formal affirmative expressions and write the negative down somewhere. Then check them against the list of answers at the end of this article. 

Ry vinnig, asseblief. – “Drive fast, please.”
Loop vinniger, asseblief. – “Walk faster, please.”
Gooi die bal, asseblief. – “Throw the ball, please.”
Tel die vuilgoed op, asseblief. – “Pick the rubbish up, please.”

7. Negating Compound Sentences

Ek Sien Hom Maar hy Sien my Nie. - I See Him but He Doesn't See Me.

Quick grammar note: A simple sentence is one in which there is only a subject and a predicate, as illustrated by this sentence: 

Ek (subject) sien hom (predicate).
“I see him.”

Obviously, a compound sentence then contains more than one subject and more than one predicate. It consists of multiple clauses. Consider this compound sentence: 

Ek (subject) sien hom (predicate), maar hy (subject) sien my nie (predicate)
“I see him, but he doesn’t see me.”
Lit. “I see him, but he sees me not.”

When looking at compound sentences, an important point to remember is that if you’re negating the main clause, you should negate it as you would a standalone, simple sentence. Consider the following examples: 

Hy ry nie, want die verkeerslig is nie groen nie
“He’s not driving because the traffic light is not green.”
Lit. “He drives not, because the traffic light is not green not.”

Ek is nie fiks genoeg nie; dus sal ek nie aan the marathon deelneem nie
“I am not fit enough; therefore I won’t be participating in the marathon.”
Lit. “I am not fit enough not; therefore will I not in the marathon participate not.”

As discussed earlier, in compound sentences, we also only use negating words in the part of the sentence that we are negating

Have a look: 

Ek sal gaan stap as dit nie reën nie
“I will go for a walk if it doesn’t rain.”
Lit. “I will go walking if it not rains not.”

If only the main clause is negated, then we must put the first nie in the main clause and the second nie at the end of the sentence. Here’s an example: 

Ek het nie gedink dat jy my sal onthou nie
“I did not think that you would remember me.”
Lit. “I did not think that you me would remember not.”

8. Answers to Exercises: 

Converting instructions to the negative – Exercise I

Eet die kos! – “Eat the food!”Moenie die kos eet nie! – “Don’t eat the food!”
Drink die medisyne! – “Drink the medicine!”Moenie die medisyne drink nie! – “Don’t drink the medicine!”
Sing hard! – “Sing loudly!”Moenie hard sing nie! – “Don’t sing loudly!”
Praat vinnig! – “Speak quickly!”Moenie vinnig praat nie! – “Don’t speak quickly!”

Converting the polite affirmative to the polite negative – Exercise II

Ry vinnig, asseblief. – “Please drive fast.”Moet asseblief nie vinnig ry nie. – “Please don’t drive fast.”
Loop vinniger, asseblief. – “Walk faster, please.”Moet asseblief nie vinniger loop nie. – “Please don’t walk faster.”
Gooi die bal, asseblief. – “Throw the ball, please.”Moet asseblief nie die bal gooi nie. – “Please don’t throw the ball.”
Tel die vuilgoed op, asseblief. – “Pick the rubbish up, please.”Moet asseblief nie die vuilgoed optel nie. – “Please don’t pick up the rubbish.”

9. How Can AfrikaansPod101 Help You Learn the Negative in Afrikaans? 

We can assist you in learning Afrikaans negations in many ways! After all, that’s what we’re here for. Do you have any questions about the negative form in Afrikaans, or about these exercises? Please let us have them in the comments!

At AfrikaansPod101, we can help you understand Afrikaans easily with our hundreds of recorded video lessons, grammar and pronunciation guides, and these vocabulary lists.

Also, be sure to arm yourself with some words and phrases from our Afrikaans Key Phrase List and the Afrikaans Core 100 Word List. Remember to keep your Afrikaans online dictionary closeby for easy translation!

Also supplement your learning with these blog posts:

Enroll now for a free lifetime membership with AfrikaansPod101 to easily learn the Afrikaans negative form and so much more!

About the author: Christa Davel is a bilingual (Afrikaans and English) freelance writer and journalist, and is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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10 Great Reasons Why You Should Learn Afrikaans


Why learn Afrikaans? 

Well, there are plenty of good reasons to learn a new language.

Some might be inspired to learn the language because of its unique appeal. Or, perhaps they wish to acquire proficiency in a language other than their mother tongue, because it’s bound to open many doors for them. Perhaps you have your own, special reason for wanting to learn Afrikaans—or perhaps you’re still deciding whether you’d like to start learning it. In that case, it might help if I tell you what I, as a native speaker, love about the Afrikaans language!

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  1. It is uniquely expressive.
  2. It’s full of humor!
  3. It has lovely nuutskeppings (“neologisms”).
  4. It can broaden your job horizons.
  5. It has a significant international presence.
  6. Despite rumors, Afrikaans is not a dying language.
  7. It opens unique cultural horizons.
  8. It’s good for your brain.
  9. Learning Afrikaans specifically offers certain advantages.
  10. Because of its roots, Afrikaans is not that difficult to learn.

1. It is uniquely expressive.

Languages reflect the culture they originate from, so each language inevitably spawns its own inspiring words. The wonderfully descriptive Swedish word mångata comes to mind, for instance. This refers to the path-like glimmer of the moon on water.

Moonlight on Water

‘Mångatais ‘n pragtige Sweedse woord wat “maanligpad” beteken. / “‘Mångata’ is a beautiful Swedish word that means ‘the path of the moon on the water'”

Another beautiful example is the soulful, essentially untranslatable Portuguese saudade, which is so nuanced in meaning that it still inspires music and literature, and also has its own Wiki page. Saudade refers (very basically!) to a sad and deep yearning for something currently unattainable—a pretty universal feeling.

1.1 Afrikaans has personality!

Each language has its own unique “personality,” and this is especially true of Afrikaans. One often hears people talking about how “very expressive” Afrikaans is. Even South Africans will comment on this, despite having been exposed to it all their lives. 

It’s a very earthy, bold language that is reminiscent of the harshness and beauty of Africa—hence the word Afrikaans. Because of this, we’re often able to capture the essence of the thing we’re talking about in a way that few other languages can.

I’m particularly partial to the earthiness of Afrikaans. The somewhat grating, guttural “g” and our rolling “r” remind me of wagon wheels rattling over the hard earth, or perhaps something even more primal. It’s an unpretentious language that tends to express the thing as it is.

Even the words we use are often literal and relate directly to the thing they signify. Take the word aardvark, for instance. Literally, it translates to “earth pig,” which makes sense when you look at the animal

Drawing of an Aardvark

Die aardvark is ‘n uniek-Suid Afrikaanse dier. / “The aardvark is a uniquely South African animal.”

The aardvark looks like a long-nosed pig, and it gets its food from the earth by pushing a long, sticky tongue into subterranean termite nests. 

Consider also the word kameelperd (“giraffe”), which directly translates to “camel horse.” If you ask me, that’s a rather apt description of the giraffe!

An interesting aside: The English word “giraffe” originated from the Arabic zarāfah (زرافة), which delightfully translates to “fast walker”—something the kameelperd definitely is, by the way. I think that’s a wonderfully descriptive name too.

A Giraffe in Africa

Die Engelse woord “giraffe” wat ‘kameelperd’ beteken, vind sy oorsprong in Arabiers. / Approximate: “The word ‘giraffe’ originated from the Arabic language.”

1.2 Afrikaans has very expressive dialects and slang

Our language also has some fascinating dialects, and few can compare to Cape Afrikaans (also called Cape Flats Afrikaans) and Orange River Afrikaans. Even among Afrikaners, these are considered characterful and extremely expressive. 

We take creative license with slang, especially. Consider, for instance, the word bebloed (“bloody”). In Cape Flats Afrikaans, this word has its regular meaning (something covered or infused with blood), but it can also refer to anger, such as in the sentence: Hy was bebloed toe die kar gebreek het. (“He was really angry when the car broke.”) I guess it could refer to a person’s blood-red face associated with an outburst of extreme anger!

Or, consider the words kwaai (“angry”) and gevaarlik (“dangerous”). In Orange River Afrikaans, these are also exclamations used to indicate that something is excellent, awesome, and exciting. Like this: Dis kwaai musiek daardie! (“It is excellent music, that!”) Or: Sy nuwe bike is gevaarlik! (“His new bike is awesome!”) Many other South African languages adopted the use of these slang words, too.

Why study Afrikaans? Perhaps the gratification of expressing yourself in a wholly new, colorful way could be reason enough.

Laughing Young Woman Holding a Book Over Her Mouth.

Leer ‘n nuwe taal om nuwe horisonne oop te maak. / “Learn a new language to open new horizons.”

2. It’s full of humor!

I also think Afrikaans has a marvelous sense of humor. Have a look at some of these amusing idiomatic expressions. Maybe you can tell me which is your favorite in the comments! 

(And definitely also expand your language horizons with The 31 Best Afrikaans Proverbs and Their Meanings.)

  1. Die bobbejaan agter die bult te gaan haal. 

    Lit. “To fetch the baboon from behind the hill.”
    Meaning: To risk making things happen by talking or thinking (i.e. worrying!) about them in advance, similar to a self-fulfilling prophecy

  1. So ń bek moet jem kry.

    Lit. “Such a mouth should get jam.”
    Meaning: A response to a comment that is very clever or witty, or that rings true

  1. Wors in die hondestal soek.

    Lit. “To look for sausage in the dog cage.”
    Meaning: Looking for something that is hard to find, like looking for a needle in a haystack

  1. Dis ‘n feit soos ‘n koei.

    Lit. “It’s a fact like a cow.”
    Meaning: An obvious fact that can’t be argued with

These idioms are just the tip of a massive iceberg of wonderfully imaginative expressions!

3. It has lovely nuutskeppings (“neologisms”).

Having so many dialects, and being spoken by a people who love creative expression, Afrikaans is bound to deliver some interesting and colorful neologisms. 

The most recent one I encountered was googleloer. This is a verb that refers to the brief use of Google (the search engine), and translates literally to “Google peek.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic—a difficult time that saw more or less the entire world in lockdown and in dire need of lightheartedness—Afrikaners introduced neologisms such as koeshoes (literally: “dodge cough,” or the type of cough one should dodge away from) and kwarantynwyn (“home-brewed alcohol” or literally: “quarantine wine”). The words rhyme in Afrikaans, which makes them more catchy.

Now that I have hopefully convinced you that our language is appealing enough to want to get to know better, let’s look at other reasons why learning Afrikaans is a good idea.

Man with Six Arms Holding Different Items Pertaining to Work, Money, and Exercise.

Om meer as een taal te kan praat maak jou meer veelsydig in die lewe. / “Speaking more than one language will make you more versatile in life.”

4. It can broaden your job horizons.

This is true of all languages—they are portals into worlds of many kinds. But if you’re ready to transform your life by doing something really adventurous, consider working in South Africa or Namibia, where Afrikaans is widely spoken. Mother Africa has a way of getting into your blood like no other continent, and you are guaranteed a unique and soulful experience. You might even choose not to return home at all! Many foreigners eventually relocate permanently to South Africa or Namibia. Read here about South Africa’s most beautiful city to learn why this might be one of your best decisions yet. 

4.1 Don’t believe the negatives…

Don’t believe the nay-sayers too readily. With the right qualifications, and by working with a reputable recruitment agency, landing a great job in South Africa is entirely possible.

For instance, what do a CISCO solution specialist and a safety, health, environment, and quality practitioner have in common? They’re both on the South African government list for critical skills lacking in the country. 

There’s furthermore a dire need for medical staff and teachers of Afrikaans, especially in our rural areas. These jobs are almost guaranteed for applicants with the right qualifications, and obviously only if you’re fluent in Afrikaans.

Successful foreign applicants will have to apply for a critical skills visa, where speaking one or two of the 11 official languages will also count in your favor.

Tip: Do not visit South Africa in the hope that you’ll find employment while you’re there—that’s job-hunting the hard way. There are numerous private-sector foreign recruiting options, but be sure to look at Job Nexus, an agency that helps international job-seekers find suitable recruitment agencies in the country. Also consider Initiate International Recruitment, which lists several white-collar jobs every day. Read, in addition, our article Agencies that help you find a job in South Africa & More! for helpful tips.

Map of the World

Afrikaans het ‘n aansienlike internasionale teenwoordigheid. / “Afrikaans has a significant international presence.”

5. It has a significant international presence.

Aside from its unique beauty and its prevalence in South Africa, why is it important to learn Afrikaans? Well, while the language originated in and is widely spoken in our country, it has a significant international presence too.

  • Afrikaans is spoken by most Namibians as a first language, according to their 2011 census. English is the country’s official language, but it has first-language status in only 2% of households.
  • A few areas in Botswana, one of our neighboring countries, have significant Afrikaans-speaking populations. Afrikaans is not an official language of the country, but in the Kgalagadi, Kang, and Gantsi districts, its use is significant enough for “Botswana Afrikaans” to be classified as a distinct variety of the Oranjerivier (“Orange River”) dialect. 
  • Afrikaans courses are offered internationally by prominent universities such as Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S.A. It’s also offered as a subject by the Institute for Asian and African Languages at the Lomonosov Moscow State University. The University of Vienna, Austria, furthermore endorses an Afrikaans research group, while the Ghent University in Belgium has a ‘Centre for Afrikaans and the Study of South Africa.’
  • Furthermore, there are large groups of Afrikaans expats in countries like, among others, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the U.S.A., the U.K., and even the U.A.E.
  • Who’d have thought that you’d also find a small group of Afrikaans-speaking people in Patagonia, Argentina? This group comprises the hardy descendants of Afrikaners who left South Africa during the Boer Wars two centuries ago. They’re few in number, but the community is significant enough to have been the subject of a study by Michigan University, U.S.A. They even had a film made about the group, which was released in 2015: The Boers at the End of the World. Interestingly, the group was considered extinct three decades ago, but the community and their unique cultural heritage were revived. We have a word for this phenomenon in Afrikaans—kanniedood (lit. “cannot die”)—and it describes one of the most enduring Afrikaner characteristics: We are survivors—a hardy people who have historically faced incredible resistance, and have, time and again, survived against the odds. In much the same way, the Afrikaans language continues to survive and adapt.
The South African Flag in a Speech Bubble

Dit sal voordelig wees om goed Afrikaans te praat as jy in Suid Afrika of Namibië werksoek. / “It will be beneficial to speak Afrikaans well if you are looking for a job in South Africa or Namibia.”

6. Despite rumors, Afrikaans is not a dying language.

When South Africa gained full democracy in 1994, the fear was born among some Afrikaners that their language would disappear. Up until as recently as a few years ago, many thought it was only a matter of time before it would join the list of “Dead Languages.” However, these days, the nay-sayers are changing their tune—and also, the facts beg to differ.

  • The argument that the continued existence of Afrikaans is in danger has some validity, but this concern is disproportionately represented in the media by those with political agendas and narratives. Unfortunately, many still (justifiably) consider Afrikaans to be the “oppressor’s language”—the Caucasian Afrikaners being the oppressors. And yes, there’s no denying that Afrikaans history is steeped in blood that was shed during political struggle. However, the negative label is not entirely fair or accurate. Firstly, the majority of Afrikaans-speakers are non-Caucasian or “Coloreds”1—constituents of one of the country’s previously oppressed groups. Secondly, as a friend remarked: If somebody used to behave very badly, but was converted and was demonstrably committed to the good of all, would you really condemn them to death? Is there no redemption? Many feel that the Afrikaans language doesn’t deserve to die, despite its checkered past, and we believe that it still has a significant role to play in the world. It’s furthermore noteworthy that some of our most outstanding Caucasian Afrikaans authors were stalwarts of the political struggle against oppression and apartheid. Breyten Breytenbach, André P. Brink, Ingrid Jonker, and Athol Fugard come to mind.
  • Even though Afrikaans is not spoken by the majority of people in the country, it is nevertheless the South African lingua franca of business. It shares this status with English.
  • In 2018, 12.2% of the population listed Afrikaans as their home language, compared to 8.1% of English home-language speakers. It’s also the fourth most spoken language outside of the home.
  • The majority of the population in the Western Cape, Northern Cape, and Gauteng provinces speaks Afrikaans. This matters, because the Western Cape and Gauteng are the economic hubs of the country, while the Western and Northern Cape are home to many of our major tourist attractions.
  • The majority of the country’s population can speak Afrikaans as a second or third language, or they are at least able to communicate well enough in it to get what they need. If you plan to work or travel in rural areas, you’ll find English almost useless.
  • Afrikaans literature has the biggest market share in the local publication business, according to Dr. Nicol Stassen, executive head of one of the largest publication houses in South Africa (Protea Boekhuis). He noted that in 2015, 49% of all locally published books were Afrikaans, and large international publishers (such as Oxford and Penguin Random House) have joined this market. This was not always the case, by the way. In 2004, only 22% of all locally published books were Afrikaans, so the growth is very encouraging.
  • A number of extremely successful Afrikaans authors’ works were translated into other languages and distributed internationally. Many of these books have been turned into movies—think Deon Meyer, Elsa Joubert, Dalene Matthee, and so forth.
  • Afrikaans furthermore thrives in the performing arts arena, notably in the music and film industries. The movies Moffie and Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story garnered a lot of international interest and were nominated for important film awards. Also, countries like the Netherlands and Belgium love Afrikaans music, and our local stars often travel there to perform in front of huge crowds. 

1In South Africa, a large group of people of mixed descent (mainly Black, White, Malay, and San), self-identify as “Colored.” Please note that, unlike in America, this is not a derogatory term in South Africa.

South African Cape Vineyard

Suid Afrika is een van die wêreld se mooiste toeristebestemmings. / “South Africa is one of the world’s most beautiful tourist destinations.”

7. It opens unique cultural horizons.

South Africa is home to a rich diversity of cultures. Among them, the Afrikaners, specifically, are known for their cuisine, especially the famed braai. Be sure to read our article The Best South African Foods (with Recipes to Try) for more information on this delightful topic. 

Of course, there’s also our love of rugby. When our international rugby team, the Springbokke (lit. “jumping antelope”) plays, the game is a national event many won’t miss for anything. This is one of the top teams in the world and has won the Rugby World Cup on three occasions. The only other country to have done so is New Zealand.

One of the oldest industries in the country, the wine industry, is run mainly by Afrikaners. The quality of our wines is known far and wide, and the wines have won many prestigious international awards over the decades.

We South Africans are, in general, a friendly and generous lot, and it’s possible to make friends for life here. The country’s political scene is not the easiest to understand, and the divide between the rich minority and the poor majority is still way too big, but we’re also busy building a different, inclusive culture that many foreign visitors find unique and inspiring.

If you’re still not quite convinced about the benefits of learning Afrikaans—or of being introduced to such a unique culture—have a look at the next topic…

A Young Child Learning English Vocabulary

8. It’s good for your brain.

As it turns out, experiencing a new culture and studying in a different country may have cognitive benefits. These benefits are fairly well-documented and, while the research is not uncontested, the evidence leans most strongly towards second-language acquisition being a positive thing. 

  • One 2012 review of the data links bilingualism to improvements in cognitive and sensory processing. The authors also remarked that the ability to speak two languages may help you to better process information in the environment, leading to improved attention to detail and better task-switching capabilities. 
  • And that’s not all! It has been shown that bilingual students will learn a third language more easily than they did their second language. So, it appears that acquiring a new language becomes easier the more languages you master!

Research also seems to suggest that children and older adults benefit the most from bilingualism. Both groups can perform certain tasks better, and the benefits for adults are that they age better neurologically and show delayed onset of neuropathy. To think that it was once considered harmful for the brain to learn a new language…!

Young Woman Holding and Reading a Notebook

Om ‘n nuwe taal te leer is goed vir jou grysstof! / “Learning a new langauge is good for your grey matter!”

9. Learning Afrikaans specifically offers certain advantages.

Once you’ve mastered Afrikaans, you’ll likely find it extremely easy to learn Flemish and Dutch, and relatively easy to understand and study German and other related languages. Many birds with one stone, so to speak! And here’s why …

10. Because of its roots, Afrikaans is not that difficult to learn.

Like English, Flemish, German, Dutch, etc., Afrikaans is of Germanic origin. This means that for speakers of any related language, Afrikaans would be much easier to master. 

It’s also a relatively young language, so:

  • it has an uncomplicated vocabulary compared to, say, Mandarin or Chinese;
  • nouns don’t have gender;
  • conjugations are less complex compared to all older languages. For instance, the be-verbs don’t change for number and pronoun, as they do in English, for instance.

What’s more, over the past three decades, the internet has made language learning so much easier! Wondering where to learn Afrikaans when so many options are available? Innovative Language, which is one of the oldest online language-learning platforms around, draws from years of experience and tried-and-tested expertise. 

At Innovative Language, AfrikaansPod101 is one of 34 languages available to study and you can expect offerings such as:

Sign up right now and see for yourself why you should learn Afrikaans!

About the Author: Christa Davel is an experienced, bilingual (Afrikaans and English) freelance writer and copy editor, who’s currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s been writing for InnovativeLanguage since 2017.

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Tenses in Afrikaans – Your Easy Guide


Tenses in Afrikaans are not as hard to master as those of many older languages. In fact, there’s no need to feel tense about tenses!

A Woman Laughing with a Book on Her Head

Dis nie nodig om gespanne te voel oor Afrikaanse tye nie! / “There’s no need to feel tense about Afrikaans tenses!”

How Do We Indicate Afrikaans Tenses?

In Afrikaans, the verbs usually inflect for time, just as in English. This is called “conjugation” (werkwoord verbuiging) and it’s characterized by a change to the form of the verb—in this case, to indicate the tense. (Think “walk” vs. “walked.” Here, the verb has a suffix [-ed] to indicate that the action took place in the past.)

Some more good news: There are very few complex conjugations and rules for indicating the continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous tenses in Afrikaans! Of course, we have methods of expressing these concepts, but they’re very simple compared to those used in most older languages. In this article, we’re going to cover the basics of the simple past, present, and future tenses in Afrikaans.

Afrikaans Conjugations for Time

Conjugations for the simple past, present, and future tenses in Afrikaans tend to be less complex than those in English. Take the verb “to be,” for instance. It can be conjugated for time, but it doesn’t change for person or number as it does in English, Spanish, or French. 

Look at the following examples. Can you see how the irregular English verbs change only for time in Afrikaans?

was … gewees 
(“was” / “were”)
(“am” / “is” / “are”)
sal … wees
 (“will be”)
Example 1: 
Ons was by die see gewees. 
(“We were at the seaside.”)
Example 1: 
Ons is by die see.
(“We are at the seaside.”)
Example 1:
Ons sal by die see wees. 
(“We will be at the seaside.”)
Example 2: 
Die Afrikaanse les was baie interessant gewees.
(“The Afrikaans lesson was very interesting.”)
Example 2: 
Die Afrikaanse les is baie interessant.
(“The Afrikaans lesson is very interesting.”)
Example 2: 
Die Afrikaanse les sal baie interessant wees.
(“The Afrikaans lesson will be very interesting.”)

Footprints in the Wet Sand on the Beach

Ons was by die see gewees. / “We were at the seaside.”

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans Table of Contents
  1. What Does the Present Tense in Afrikaans Look Like?
  2. What Does the Past Tense in Afrikaans Look Like?
  3. What Does the Future Tense in Afrikaans Look Like?
  4. Compound Verbs (Partikelwerkwoorde) & Tenses in Afrikaans
  5. Can AfrikaansPod101 Help You Master Tenses in Afrikaans?

1. What Does the Present Tense in Afrikaans Look Like?

The simple present tense (eenvoudige teenwoordige tyd) in Afrikaans is used to express something happening right now. Its characteristics include…

  1. …the presence of selfstandige werkwoorde (“simple verbs”), such as werk (“work”), speel (“play”), and maak (“make”);
  1. …sometimes, a present tense koppelwerkwoord (“linking verb”), such as is (“is”) and a byvoeglike naamwoord (“adjective”);
  1. …appropriate adverbs and adverbial phrases of time.

The following adverbs of time (bywoorde van tyd) and adverbial phrases of time (bywoordelike bepalings van tyd) indicate the present tense in Afrikaans.

    nou (“now”)
    vandag (“today”)
    op die oomblik (“at the moment”)
    nou dadelik / onmiddelik (“right now”)
    deesdae (“these days” / “nowadays”)
    tans (“currently”)

Take a look at these syntactic analyses to see where the conjugations fit in.

Ek is tevrede. / “I am pleased.”

Subject PronounLinking VerbAdjective

Die bloggers is gewild. / “The bloggers are popular.”

Subject PhraseLinking VerbAdjective
Die bloggersisgewild.
The bloggersarepopular.

My selfoon lui nou. / Lit. “My cell phone rings now.”

Subject PhraseSimple VerbAdverb of Time
My selfoonluinou.
My cell phone“(is) ring(ing)”anow.

Baie toeriste geniet op die oomblik die Suid Afrikaanse somerweer. / Lit. “Many tourists enjoy the South African summer weather at the moment.”

Subject PhraseVerbAdv. Phrase of TimeObject Phrase
Baie toeristegeniet op die oomblik die Suid Afrikaanse somerweer.
Many tourists “(are) enjoy(ing)”aat the momentthe South African summer weather.
  • aNote: Afrikaans doesn’t have continuous tenses!

REVIEW: So, to recap quickly—how do we identify which tense is used in these sentences? 

That’s right! We know these are in the simple present tense because:
  • the linking / be-verbs are the present tense is (“am” / “is” / “are”);
  • the verbs are not conjugated; and
  • we can also spot a present tense adverb and adverbial phrase.

  • A Young Couple on a Sailboat in Beautiful Weather

    Baie toeriste geniet op die oomblik die Suid Afrikaanse somerweer. / “Many tourists are enjoying the South African summer weather at the moment.”

    Hopefully, that was easy enough. Now, onto the past tense in Afrikaans!

    2. What Does the Past Tense in Afrikaans Look Like?

    The simple past tense in Afrikaans (eenvoudige verlede tyd) is the most complex of the three tenses. It’s typically characterized by one or more of the following:

    1. Past Tense Verb Conjugation A) where a past tense koppelwerkwoord / linking verb (was) is used in tandem with the hoofwerkwoord / main verb (wees), but the latter gets the ge- prefix (gewees). These terms don’t correlate exactly, but the nearest English conjugation would be: “I was tired.” / Ek was moeg gewees. It’s also acceptable to simply say: Ek was moeg.
    1. Past Tense Verb Conjugation B) where a hulpwerkwoord van tyd / Lit. auxiliary verb of time (het) is paired with a hoofwerkwoord / main verb that also gets the ge- prefix. An English approximate would be the simple past tense conjugation, e.g. “The water boiled.” / Die water het gekook.
    1. The use of appropriate adverbs and adverbial phrases of time.

    A Pleased-Looking Employee Receiving a Certificate of Excellence

    Ek was tevrede gewees. / “I was pleased.”

    The following adverbs and adverbial phrases of time usually indicate the past tense. 

      toe (“then”)
      gister (“yesterday”)
      voorheen (“previously”)
      die vorige (“the previous”)
      laasjaar / laasweek / laas Kersfees (“last year” / “last week” / “last Christmas”)
      verlede jaar / verlede week / verlede Kersfees (Also “last year” / “last week” / “last Christmas”)
      in die verlede (“in the past”)

    Let’s see where the Afrikaans past tense conjugations fit into these sentences:

    Ek was tevrede gewees. / “I was pleased.”

    Subject PronounLinking Verb AdjectivePrefix ge- + Main Verb
    Ek wastevredegewees.

    Note: This can be translated as “was” OR “have been.”

    Die bloggers was gewild. / “The bloggers were popular.”

    Subject PhraseLinking VerbAdjective
    Die bloggerswasgewild.
    The bloggerswerepopular. 

    Note: Vernacularly, gewees is often omitted from the was … gewees conjugation, as shown in this sentence. The omission won’t change the tense or the meaning of the sentence.

    My selfoon het toe gelui. / “My cell phone then rang.”

    Subject PhraseAuxiliary VerbAdverb of TimePrefix ge- + Main Verb
    My selfoonhettoegelui.
    My cell phonethenrang.

    Baie toeriste het laasjaar die Suid Afrikaanse somerweer geniet. / Lit. “Many tourists enjoyed the South African summer weather last year.”

    Subject PhraseAuxiliary VerbAdverb of TimeObject PhraseIrregular Past Tense Verb
    Baie toeristehetlaasjaardie Suid Afrikaanse somerweergeniet.
    Many touristshavelast yearthe South African summer weatherenjoyed.

    Note: Keep in mind that geniet is an irregular past tense verb, meaning that there is no ge-morpheme conjugation. Read on for more about these irregular verbs and their conjugations for the past tense.

    REVIEW: So, to recap quickly—how do we identify the tense in these sentences? 

    That’s right! We know these are written in the simple past tense because: 
    1. the be-verb, as a linking verb, conjugates for the past tense—was (“were” / “was”)—and appears with and without the conjugated main verb gewees;
    2. there’s an auxiliary verb het + prefix ge- main verb conjugation; and 
    3. we can also spot a past tense adverb and adverbial phrase.

    2So, what is the exception? The exception is irregular main verbs.

    A Young Man Talking on His Cell Phone in a Street.

    My selfoon het gelui. / “My cell phone rang.”

    B.1 Irregular Main Verbs (onreëlmatige hoofwerkwoorde)

    Many (if not most) simple past tense sentences are conjugated with the Past Tense Verb Conjugation B (auxiliary verb het + gemain verb) mentioned under the previous heading. But of course, grammar being grammar, there are several exceptions to this rule. Very simply put—some verbs do not get conjugated with het + ge-main verb, ergo the term “irregular main verbs”. Only the auxiliary verb het appears in the sentence. 

    While it’s not difficult to spot these irregular verbs in a sentence (just look out for het plus a main verb), it’s challenging to list them based on similar morphological characteristics. So, for the purposes of the article, I’ve listed these irregular verbs according to the cluster of letters they start with. Some of these clusters are morphemes or prefixes (a morphological unit with meaning, such as “re-” in English), and others are just clusters of letters without classification.

    If this is all too complex—just memorize these irregular verbs, and remember the past tense conjugation! The asterisk * indicates transitive irregular verbs, meaning that when they appear in a sentence, you will always find a subject too. (Or, in other words—a subject is necessary in the sentence in order for it to make sense!)

    Starting with:Irregular Main Verbs:
      gesels (“chat”)

    Ons het gesels. (“We chatted.”)

      *gewaar (“notice”) / *gedra (“behave”) / *geniet (“enjoy”)

    *Die kinders het eerste die leeu gewaar. (“The children were the first to notice the lion.”)
      beperk (“limit”) / betaal (“pay”) / bedaar (“calm down”)

    Sy het betaal. (“She paid.”)
      vergeet (“forget”) / verloor (“lose”) / vergewe OR vergeef (“forgive”) / vergaan (“expire”)

    Hy het vergeet. (“He forgot.”)
      herhaal (“repeat”) / heroorweeg (“reconsider”) / herdenk (“commemorate”)

    Billie Eilish het sommige liedjies herhaal tydens haar konsert. (“Billie Eilish repeated some songs during her concert.”)
      ontvang (“receive”) / ontken (“deny”) / ontlont (“set off,” “ignite”)

    Hy het skuld ontken. (“He denied his guilt.”)
      erken (“admit”)

    Hy het skuld erken. (“He admitted his guilt.”)
    Irregular Compound Verbs 

    (Read on for more about regular compound or particle verbs and how they conjugate for the past tense.)
    afbetaal (“paid off”)
    opbetaal (“paid-up”)
    oorbetaal (“paid over”)
    inbetaal (“paid in”)
    weergee (“relay”)

    Hy het die volle bedrag inbetaal. (“He has paid in the full amount.”)
      weerspreek (“contradict”) / weerlê (“disprove”) / weerlê (“refute”)

    Die politikus het haarself weerspreek. (“The politician contradicted herself.”)

    Note: These look like particle or compound verbs, don’t they? They’re not, though, because the meaning of weer changes to “again” when it stands alone. In these irregular verbs, the prefix weer confers almost the same meaning as “against” or “contra-“.

    A Male Customer at the Bank Counter with a Lady Counting Money

    Hy het die volle bedrag inbetaal. / “He has paid in the full amount.”)

    Wait! These are not the only exceptions, unfortunately.

    B.2 Irregular Linking Verbs (onreëlmatige skakelwerkwoorde)

    If you spot one of the following linking verbs (skakelwerkwoorde) in a sentence, then they conjugate the same way as the irregular main verbs under the B.1 heading (auxiliary verb het plus the linking verb without a ge- prefix). The main verb retains its base form.

    Look at these examples:


    • Dit het bly reën. / “It kept raining.”


    • Ons het gaan eet. / “We went eating.”


    • Die dokter het kom help. / “The doctor came to help.”


    • Ek het Fortnite probeer speel. / “I tried to play Fortnite.”

    Vernacularly, it’s acceptable to conjugate the following with or without the prefix ge- when they serve as linking verbs

      leer (“learn”)
      aanhou (“keep on”)
      ophou (“stop”)
      help (“help”)
      sien (“see”)

    Some sources say this is a dialectical preference specific to certain parts of the South African Western and Northern Cape provinces, but I have encountered it across the whole country. It doesn’t matter, really, because the meaning remains unchanged.

    Here’s what these linking verbs look like in sentences:

    Tydens die pandemie het ek (ge)leer programmeer. / “During the pandemic, I learned to program.”

    Dit het aan(ge)hou reën. / “It kept raining.”

    Almal het op(ge)hou alkohol drink. / “Everyone stopped drinking alcohol.”

    Die laaste ent van die pad het hy (ge)help dra aan die baggasie. / “(For) the last bit of the road, he helped carry the luggage.”

    Ons het die uil (ge)sien wegvlieg. / “We watched the owl fly away.”

    An Owl in Flight

    Ons het die uil gesien wegvlieg. / “We watched the owl fly away.”

    You probably noticed the compound verbs (deeltjiewerkwoorde)—aanhou and ophou—and the special treatment they got. More about that later.

    Now buckle up for the future!

    3. What Does the Future Tense in Afrikaans Look Like?

    The simple Afrikaans future tense (eenvoudige toekomende tyd) can be recognized by one or more of the following:

    1. Future Tense Verb Conjugation A) which comprises an auxiliary or modal verb (hulpwerkwoord van modaliteit) sal / gaan, plus an unchanged main verb, similar to the English simple future: “We will walk.” / Ons sal loop.
    1. Future Tense Verb Conjugation B) which comprises an auxiliary or modal verb (sal / wil / kan), plus the auxiliary verb wees for the active voice and word for the passive voice. An approximate conjugation in English could be: “I will be satisfied.” / Ek sal tevrede wees. This is the active voice. To illustrate the passive voice: “That will be done.” / Dit sal gedoen word.
    1. Appropriate adverbs and adverbial phrases of time.

    The following adverbs of time and adverbial phrases of time usually indicate the future tense.

      dan (“then”)
      nou / binnekort (“soon”)
      nou-nou (Lit. “now-now,” which means almost the same as “soon-ish”)
      more (“tomorrow”)
      volgende week / maand / jaar (“next week / month / year”)
      voortaans (“henceforth”)
      van nou af (“from now on”)
      in die toekoms (“in the future”)
      oor ‘n uur / dag (“in an hour / day”)

    Now let’s look at how this works in a few sample sentences. 

    Ek sal tevrede wees. / “I will be contented.”

    Subject PronounAux. / Modal VerbAdjectiveBe-Verb

    Die bloggers gaan gewild wees. / “The bloggers will be popular.”

    Subject PhraseAux. / Modal VerbAdjectiveAux. / Be-Verb
    Die bloggersgaangewildwees.
    The bloggerswillpopularbe.

    My selfoon sal dan lui. / Lit. “My cell phone will then ring.”

    Subject PhraseAux. / Modal VerbAdverb of TimeBase Verb
    My selfoonsaldanlui.
    My cell phonewillthenring.

    Baie toeriste sal volgende jaar die Suid Afrikaanse somerweer geniet. / Lit. “Many tourists will next year enjoy the South African summer weather.”

    Subject PhraseAux. / Modal VerbAdv. Phrase of TimeObject PhraseBase Verb
    Baie toeristesalvolgende jaardie Suid Afrikaanse somerweergeniet.
    Many touristswillnext yearthe South African summer weatherenjoy.

    REVIEW: So, to quickly recap—how do we identify which tense is used in these sentences? 

    That’s right! We know they are in the simple future tense because: 
    1. some auxiliary verbs are conjugated to the future tense sal / gaan wees (“will be”);
    2. others conjugate simply to sal / gaan plus a base verb; and
    3. we can also spot future tense adverbs and adverbial phrases of time.

    If you’ve found our article on Afrikaans verb tenses helpful so far, also look at Your Definitive Guide to Proper Afrikaans Sentence Structure. Learning to form sentences is a great way to practice your use of tenses.

    But before we wrap it up—what happens to compound verbs (samekoppelings, deeltjiewerkwoorde, or partiekelwerkwoorde) in the past, present, and future tenses in Afrikaans…?

    4. Compound Verbs (Partikelwerkwoorde) & Tenses in Afrikaans

    This type of verb, also called samekoppelings, partiekelwerkwoorde, or deeltjiewerkwoorde, is a combination of what we call in Afrikaans a partiekel and a main verb, and they go together like a motorcycle with its sidecar. Well, not entirely, because the first part of the compound verb (particle) usually retains meaning when used separately from the main verb. So, unlike a sidecar, the particle can stand independently. Yet, the main verb’s meaning is modified by the partiekel—just as a motorcycle’s function and character are redefined by a sidecar!

    Below is a list of the most common compound verbs. In Afrikaans, the rule is that the particle and the main verb go together, even when they’re not written as one word. 

    D.1 Common Compound Verbs + Conjugations

    Particle VerbMain VerbPresent Tense ConjugationPast Tense Conjugation
    het + particle + -ge- verb

    Where the ge- appears in brackets, it means that it is sometimes omitted in the vernacular.
    Future TenseConjugation
    sal / gaan
    ingeeingee / “give in”het ingegee / “gave in”sal ingee / “will give in”
    toegeetoegee / “concede”het toegegee / “conceded”gaan toegee / “will concede”
    aangeeaangee / “pass on”het aangegee / “passed on”sal aangee / “will pass on”
    opgeeopgee / “give up”het opgegee / “gave up”gaan opgee / “will give up”
    oorgeeoorgee / “hand over”het oorgegee / “handed over”gaan oorgee / “will hand over”
    ophouophou / “cease”het op(ge)hou / “ceased”sal ophou / “will cease”
    aanhouaanhou / “keep on” OR “persist” OR “keep”het aan(ge)hou / “kept on” OR “persisted” OR “kept”sal aanhou / “will persist”
    inhouinhou / “keep in”het ingehou / “kept in”gaan inhou / “will keep in”
    voorhouvoorhou / “pretend”het voorgehou / “pretended”gaan voorhou / “will pretend”
    ingaaningaan / “go into”het ingegaan / “went into”sal ingaan / “will go into”
    oorgaanoorgaan / “go over” OR “cross”het oorgegaan / “went over” OR “crossed”sal oorgaan / “will cross”
    toegaantoegaan / “close” (by itself)het toegegaan / “closed”sal toegaan / “will close”
    aangaanAangaan / “persist” OR “go on”het aangegaan / “persisted” OR “went on”sal aangaan / “will persist” OR “will go on”
    afloopafloop / “walk or run down”het afgeloop / “walked or ran down”sal afloop / “will walk or run down”
    oploopoploop / “walk up”het opgeloop / “walked up”gaan oploop / “will walk up”
    inloopinloop / “walk in”het ingeloop / “walked in”gaan inloop / “will walk in”
    aankeeraankeer / “arrest” OR “round up”het aangekeer / “arrested” OR “rounded up”sal aankeer / “will arrest” OR “will round up”
    afkeurafkeur / “disapprove”het afgekeur / “disapproved”sal afkeur / “will disapprove”
    afbreekafbreek / “break down”het afgebreek / “broke down”gaan afbreek / “will break down”

    Did you like learning from this article? Then also look at The Best Afrikaans Verbs List at Your Fingertips and Your Easy Guide to Understanding Afrikaans Grammar.

    5. Can AfrikaansPod101 Help You Master Tenses in Afrikaans?

    I’d say yes! There are plenty of reasons why enrolling immediately is a good idea. For example, read about the benefits of a Premium PLUS membership, which is very reasonably priced and can fasttrack your learning considerably. 

    Skint month? No problem. Start with the lower-priced Basic option. You can always upgrade later. 

    You’ll also gain access to the following:

    Great value! Sign up today.

    About the author: Christa Davel is an experienced bilingual (Afrikaans and English) freelance writer and journalist, and is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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    The 31 Best Afrikaans Proverbs and Their Meanings


    The word “proverb” (spreekwoord in Afrikaans) is derived from the Latin proverbium. Collins Dictionary defines it as a short sentence that people often quote to give advice, or one that says something about life.

    Proverbs also tend to employ the same vivid imagery and metaphoric language common in children’s stories. So, perhaps they’re an adult throwback to children’s fiction—who knows?

    Proverbs touch us on a very deep level, as they go beyond nationality, gender, race, religion, and time. In this way, they connect us to one another with their universal truths and wisdom. The Afrikaans proverbs I’m going to cover in this article are sure to ignite your imagination and make you feel more connected to Afrikaner culture.

    Mother and Daughter Reading Together

    Ma en dogter lees ‘n boek saam (“Mother and daughter reading a book together”)

    Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans Table of Contents
    1. Why Use Proverbs in Afrikaans Conversations?
    2. The Difference Between Proverbs and Sayings/Idioms
    3. Afrikaans Proverbs and Meanings with English Equivalents
    4. Uniquely South African Proverbs
    5. Learn Afrikaans Proverbs Like a Pro at!

    1. Why Use Proverbs in Afrikaans Conversations?

    Many proverbs are conversation tools that add character to a language, almost like adding spice to food. Throw a unique Afrikaans proverb into a conversation, and you could well pass for a native speaker!

    Afrikaans proverbs can typically be used in both formal and informal settings, and parents often use them to explain ethics, morals, or other profound truths to their children.

    Many similar proverbs appear in different languages. This is simply because cultures have cross-pollinated over the centuries with the gradual expansion of the world’s population.

    First, we’ll take a look at those Afrikaans proverbs with English equivalents, of which there are plenty. Then, I will give a few examples of very unique Afrikaans proverbs with no English equivalents or approximations I can trace. (But if you know of an English approximate, or perhaps a similar proverb in your own language, please do share with us in the comments!)

    Before we start, let’s quickly look at the difference between a proverb (spreekwoord) and an idiom or saying (idioom / sêding). These two are closely related, but are not the same in usage and meaning.

    Two Girlfriends Chatting Outside.

    2. The Difference Between Proverbs and Sayings/Idioms

    This is not complicated, but on many sites, one is often confused with the other. A trait they share is the use of metaphoric language (i.e. imagery). Also, both proverbs and idioms evolve as languages evolve, so there’s rarely a single, permanent version of any specific idiom or proverb. 

    They differ in the following ways:

    A) Afrikaanse Sêdinge / Sêgoed / Idiome (“Afrikaans Sayings / Idioms”)
    • A saying always forms part of a sentence with a noun, proper noun, or pronoun that refers to a specific person, entity, and/or situation. So, idioms are not universally applicable
    • Often, different regions in South Africa have different idioms for the same thing. For instance, we have many different sayings for referring to a drunk person.

      In a rural town called Moorreesburg, Western Cape Province, the locals say: Hy/sy is ganspen. (Literally: “He/she is goose pen.”) 

      However, in Touwsrivier (also a small town in the Western Cape), we say: Hy/sy is kiepkop. In vernacular Afrikaans, a chicken is also sometimes referred to with an onomatopoeia: kiep or kiepie. This saying is closer to what we use in Gauteng Province: Hy/sy is hoenderkop. (Literally: “He/she is chicken head.”) It’s unclear where this idiom originated, but my guess is that it alludes to the movement of a chicken’s head when it walks—it doesn’t look very stable!

    • Example: Ons moes van aalmoese lewe. (“We had to live off charity.”)

      Van aalmoese lewe (“living off charitable offerings”) is a Dutch-based idiom meaning that someone is living in such extreme poverty that they have to depend on charity for survival. See below how this idiomatic expression differs from a certain proverb that also uses the word aalmoese.

    B) Afrikaanse Spreekwoorde (“Afrikaans Proverbs”)
    • Even if it forms part of a sentence, a proverb can always stand alone as a complete sentence or statement.
    • It usually expresses a universally applicable piece of wisdom or sentiment.
    • Pronouns in proverbs can be adjusted to be gender-correct, but vernacularly, they’re seldom modified this way.
    • Proverbs in Afrikaans tend to show less regional diversity than idioms do. They’re understood almost everywhere in the country.
    • Example: Aalmoese gee verarm nie. (“Giving charitably won’t make you poor.”) This proverb reminds us that giving freely to those in dire need will not cost us too much, nor will it harm us—a universal truth.

    3. Afrikaans Proverbs and Meanings with English Equivalents

    Now that you’re familiar with the differences between proverbs and idioms, let’s go over the most popular and widespread proverbs in Afrikaans! 

    1. Die appel val nie ver van die boom af nie. / “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”


    This is also a well-known proverb in English. It states that family members tend to share the same basic nature and/or traits.


    In Afrikaans, one uses this phrase to comment on any situation where a child displays the same characteristics or skills as one or both of their parents. It’s most often said in a positive sense, and it can be used for either gender.

    Example Sentence: 

    Sy is ‘n skrywer, net soos haar pa. Die appel val nie ver van die boom af nie.
    “She is a writer, just like her dad. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

    Trees with Fruit on an Apple Farm

    Die appel val nie vêr van die boom af nie. (“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”)

    2. ‘n Voël verander van kleur maar nie van veer. / “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “A bird changes its color but not its feathers.” 


    ‘n Jakkals verander van haar maar nie van streke nie. / “A fox changes its fur but not its tricks.”


    This expressive proverb means that even when people appear to have changed, their basic character is likely still intact. One’s true character will always show, no matter how hard one tries to hide it. The absolute truth of this proverb is debatable, because people can and do completely change, when they must. But this usually takes great effort and is not the norm.


    This proverb is mostly used when a person displays tenacious moral flaws. Picture this scene: A girl broke up with her boyfriend because he repeatedly lied to or cheated on her. The boy begged her to take him back with earnest promises to change his ways. All went well for a while, but he was soon lying and cheating again. In this instance, the proverb could be used as a comment that says it all, or it could serve as cautionary advice from a concerned parent or friend.

    Example Sentence: 

    Wees net versigtig om weer daardie man te vertrou. ‘n Voël verander van kleur maar nie van veer.
    “Just be careful trusting that man again. A leopard doesn’t change its spots.”

    Orange Feather

    ‘n Voël verander van kleur maar nie van veer. (Literally: “A bird changes color but not feathers.”)

    3. Die skoenmaker se kinders loop kaalvoet. / “The cobbler’s children are the worst shod.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “The shoemaker’s/cobbler’s children walk barefoot.”


    Like its English counterpart, this proverb refers to the rather ironic phenomenon where people who excel in their profession are sometimes unable to (or simply won’t) extend their services to their children. Think of the shoemaker whose children don’t wear good shoes (or any shoes at all). Or the car mechanic whose daughter’s vehicle always needs repairs. In the movie business, this is sometimes called “vocational irony.” 

    Some interpreters feel that the proverb refers to bad parenting, but I don’t agree. Unless the children are clearly in a bad way (which should then be reported to the appropriate local authorities), who really knows what is going on in another’s household?


    Imagine you’re a teacher who often organizes outings for your class. One of your pupils, the son of a dentist, is repeatedly unable to join, usually because of dental problems. You could then comment on the situation using this proverb.

    Example Sentence: 

    Die tandaarts se seun kon weereens nie saamkom op die uitstappie nie as gevolg van tandpyn. Lyk my die skoenmaker se kinders loop kaalvoet.
    “The dentist’s son could not join us on the excursion, again due to a toothache. It seems the cobbler’s children are the worst shod.”

    Two Children's Feet with Flowers

    Die skoenmaker se kinders loop kaalvoet. (Literally: “The shoemaker’s children walk barefoot.”)

    4. Wie nie waag nie, wen nie. / “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “Those who don’t dare, don’t win.”


    Just like the English version, this Afrikaans proverb reminds us that nobody can expect to win or succeed in life without sometimes pushing their own boundaries. It’s an encouragement to be bold and to act despite feeling afraid.


    Imagine this scenario, for instance: Your Afrikaans friend is offered a well-paid job where they’ll be expected to do work that will challenge him to up his skills. Soon after accepting the offer, however, and even before starting, he confesses to you that he wants to quit because his courage is failing. You could then say this proverb to encourage him to be more daring.

    Example Sentence: 

    Gaan vind eers uit wat die werk behels, dalk is dit nie so moeilik as wat jy dink nie. Onthou, wie nie waag nie, wen nie.
    “First go find out what the work entails; perhaps it is not as difficult as you think. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

    Cat Throwing the Shadow of a Lion.

    Wie nie waag nie, wen nie. (Literally: “Those who don’t dare, don’t win.”)

    5. Een swaeltjie maak nie ‘n somer nie. / “One swallow does not make a summer.”


    This proverb was appropriated from English and apparently first encountered in early glossaries, such as Richard Taverner’s transcription of the Latin proverbs of Erasmus (circa 1539). It alludes to the migratory return of swallows in early summer. In the olden days, when the swallows returned, people saw it as a sign that summer had started. However, sometimes there were “false alarms,” typically when only one swallow was spotted. The proverb came to mean that a single good sign doesn’t necessarily indicate a trend.


    It’s used to caution against blind or excessive optimism after a windfall. Or, as Erasmus put it: “It is not one good qualitie that maketh a man good.”

    Example Sentence: 

    Ons het goeie verkope gehad hierdie week, maar onthou—een swaeltjie maak nie ‘n somer nie. Dit gaan tyd neem vir die besigheid om regtig te floreer.
    “We made good sales this week, but remember—one swallow doesn’t make a summer. It will take time for the business to really flourish.”

    A Swallow Perched on a Twig

    Een swaeltjie maak nie ‘n somer nie. (“One swallow does not make a summer.”)

    6. Wat jy saai sal jy maai. / “As you sow, so you shall reap.”


    This well-known proverb is based on the hermetic principle that what you think, say, or do always returns to you in some form or another. The principle is similar in all religious traditions, but the proverb itself is found in the Christian Bible. 


    Just as in English, this proverb is used to comment on or warn about one’s behavior. Picture, for instance, that you find out your teenage son is considering cheating on his girlfriend. You might have a talk with him about morals and ethics, gently reminding him that what he sows, he will eventually reap.

    Example Sentence: 

    Moenie ‘n verneuker wees nie, my kind, dit maak mense seer. En onthou, wat jy saai sal jy maai. Dis hoe die lewe werk.
    “Don’t be a cheat, my child, it hurts people. And remember, as you sow, so you shall reap. Life works that way.”

    A Hand Sowing Seeds in the Soil

    Wat jy saai sal jy maai. (“As you sow, so you shall reap.”)

    7. Skoonheid vergaan maar deug bly staan. / Approximate: “Beauty is only skin-deep.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “Beauty fades but virtue endures.”


    This proverb sings the praises of inner virtue over outer appearance, or the value of inner, more enduring character qualities over the visible, transient ones.


    In practical terms, the proverb is used as a comment, warning, or advice when a person is blinded by the outer beauty of someone or something. This commonly happens when we become infatuated with a person or an object! 

    For instance, imagine you’re a car aficionado and a friend asks for your advice about buying a new car. He’s smitten by the latest body style of a certain sports car, and you realize that he wants to purchase it impulsively. However, as the expert, you know that it won’t be a good buy for him. That would be the perfect time to use this proverb.

    In Afrikaans, deug (“virtue”) is sometimes replaced with liefde (“love”), in which case it extols the virtues of choosing a life partner mostly for their inner beauty.

    Example Sentence: 

    Daardie is ‘n mooi motorkar, maar dis nie ‘n baie praktiese een nie. Onthou, skoonheid vergaan maar deug bly staan!
    “That is a nice-looking motorcar, but it’s not a very practical one. Remember, beauty fades but virtue endures!”

    Beautiful Sports Car on the Road.

    Skoonheid vergaan maar deug bly staan. (“Beauty disappears but virtue remains.”)

    8. Haastige hond verbrand sy mond. / Approximates: “Haste makes waste.” AND “More haste, less speed.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “The hasty dog burns its mouth.”


    This is a reminder to not hurry things unnecessarily, as you can end up spoiling them for yourself. It’s similar to the English proverb that warns against doing jobs hastily, because this could cause mistakes and unnecessary loss.


    This one is often used by parents during mealtime! In this case, it means exactly what it says: don’t eat too fast or the hot food will burn your mouth. It’s often used in other contexts too. For instance: your Afrikaans friend has booked a holiday weekend at a beautiful location and is tremendously eager to be off. She announces that she’s going to drive there at top speed, which you know will be unsafe. You might decide to use this proverb to remind her to drive at a sensible speed.

    Example Sentence: 

    Daar is gewoonlik verkeerskameras op daardie pad. En dit reën, so oppas. Haastige hond verbrand sy mond.
    “There are usually traffic cameras on that road. And it’s raining too, so be careful. The hasty dog burns its mouth.”

    Small Dog Running

    Haastige hond verbrand sy mond. (“The hasty dog burns its mouth.”)

    9. Aanhouer wen. / Approximate: “Practice makes perfect.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “One who persists wins.”


    This proverb encourages us not to give up on our goals or to quit working toward them when the going gets tough. It reminds us that it’s the tenacious person who will eventually get what they want. 


    This is one of the best Afrikaans proverbs to use when someone feels discouraged in their endeavors, or if they just don’t feel like continuing. It’s similar to the English approximate in that it encourages persistence, albeit with a different emphasis. Literally, Aanhouer wen encourages someone who feels discouraged and tired by their efforts to keep going, while the English proverb encourages persistence in order to reach a high standard.

    Imagine your daughter wants to improve her performance in athletics, but feels discouraged by her slow progress and therefore wants to quit practicing. That’s when you would give her a hug and remind her (with this Afrikaans proverb) that persistence will bear fruit.

    Example Sentence: 

    Ja, oefening is nie altyd lekker nie, my kind, maar onthou—aanhouer wen.
    “Yes, practice is not always pleasant, my child, but remember—the one who persists wins.”

    Athlete on Track Shouting in Victory with Arms Raised

    Aanhouer wen. (“One who persists, wins.)

    10. Approximate: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “From procrastination comes cancelation.”


    This proverb is a warning against procrastination. We’re all familiar with the dynamic—the longer you put off doing something, the more likely you are not to do it at all!


    The proverb is pretty straightforward and can be used in any situation where this reminder is appropriate. For instance—New Year’s resolutions! Who hasn’t promised themselves that they will lose weight, spruce up the garden, or write a book, only to reach the end of that year without having reached any goals due to procrastination? Use this proverb to remind yourself or someone else why it’s better to ditch this bad habit.

    Example Sentence: 

    Laat ek tog gaan oefen. Want regtig, van uitstel kom afstel!
    “Let me go and exercise. Because really, from procrastination comes cancelation.”

    Bored-looking Teenage Boy with Glasses

    Van uitstel kom afstel. (Literally: “From procrastination comes cancelation.”

    11. Elke hond kry sy dag. / “Every dog gets its day.”


    According to the Collins Dictionary, this proverb means that everyone will be successful or lucky at some point in their life. It has interesting origins, not as benevolent as the dictionary definition suggests. The proverb alludes to a pack of dogs that was allegedly loosed upon Greek playwright Euripides by a vengeful enemy in 405 BCE. The dogs mauled and killed the writer. The proverb came to mean that even the lowliest person will eventually get their revenge over their most powerful enemy. 


    It’s often used when we want to comfort a friend who’s down on their luck, whether in serious or trivial matters. For instance, if someone has lost a competition or didn’t get a job they applied for, you could use this proverb to cheer them up. It’s also sometimes used to say that a person will be avenged if they suffer something they didn’t deserve, such as when they’re unfairly fired or implicated in a crime they didn’t commit.

    Example Sentence: 

    Hy voel baie kwaad en verneder oor hy uit die span geskop is na vals beweringe van dwelmgebruik. Maar hy troos homself met hierdie wete—elke hond kry sy dag.
    “He feels very angry and humiliated because he was kicked off the team due to false allegations of drug use. But he comforts himself with this thought—every dog gets its day.”

    Basset Sitting on a Barstool Next to a Table with a Woman Who's Embroidering

    Elke hond kry sy dag. (“Every dog gets its day.”)

    12. Elke boontjie kry sy loontjie. / “You get what you deserve.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “Every small bean gets his little due.”


    If the literal translation doesn’t make much sense, that’s because this popular proverb is based on old Afrikaans folklore. The story is called Little Bean, Straw, and Ember and it tells us that one day, these three friends went for a walk in nature. They reached a stream to cross, and Straw generously offered to lie down and form a bridge that the other two could safely use. Little Bean went first and crossed the stream easily. Unfortunately, Ember burnt Straw, so both of them collapsed into the stream. Little Bean found this hilarious and laughed uncontrollably. In fact, he laughed so hard that he popped open! The moral of the story is that he got his due for mocking his friends in their misery.


    This is mostly used as a comment when we notice that someone, according to our judgment, gets what they deserve. For instance, a large company is exposed for poor environmental health and safety practices. At first, it seems they’re getting away with it, but then you read in the newspaper that someone has sued them and won a large settlement. This is when you could mutter this proverb to yourself or air it in a conversation to express your opinion. You could also use it to comfort a friend who has fallen victim to unfair treatment.

    Example Sentence: 

    Toemaar, ou pêl, moenie te sleg voel nie. Elke boontjie kry sy loontjie.
    “Don’t worry, old pal, and don’t feel too bad. They will get what they deserve.”


    In this case, the English version is closer to an idiom than a proverb because the pronoun “you” is often replaced with other pronouns or nouns.

    Green Beans, String Beans

    Elke boontjie kry sy loontjie. (Literally: “Every bean gets his dues.”)

    13. Die gras lyk altyd groener aan die ander kant van die draad. / “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”


    This well-known proverb refers to our tendency to compare our situation with others’, and then conclude that they have it better than we do, even when they really don’t. It’s not so much envy as it is the assumption that we’re worse off than others, making us wish we were on their side of the proverbial fence.


    Picture this scenario: Your Afrikaans colleague is not terribly unhappy at work, but she’s restless and bored in your department. She’s always looking longingly at colleagues in a different department who work outside of the office, thinking that they seem to have a better time. Therefore, she wants to ask for a transfer. However, you know that all is not as it seems in the other department, so you use this proverb to warn her against taking rash action.

    Example Sentence: 

    Die gras lyk altyd groener aan die ander kant van die draad, Sandra. Jy moet mooi dink oor ‘n oorplasing.
    “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, Sandra. You need to think very carefully about a transfer.”

    Fence in a Field with Green Grass on One Side

    Die gras lyk altyd groener aan die ander kant van die draad. (“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”)

    14. Oos, wes, tuis bes. / “There’s no place like home.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “East, west, home is best.”


    This proverb reminds us of the joys of having a good home. It implies that, no matter how far and wide we travel, nothing compares to being home, a place we love returning to.


    It’s used to describe a feeling of satisfaction upon arriving home after a long holiday or trip. It can also refer to the place where you were raised, or any place you fondly recall as “home.” You could use this proverb with good effect if, for instance, you were invited to a class reunion in your hometown and were asked to give a short speech. It would make a great opening line! 

    Example Sentence: 

    Goeienaand, Klasmaats van ’88. Wat kan ek sê—oos, wes, tuis bes.
    “Good evening, Class of ’88. What can I say—east, west, home is best.”

    Three Hands Holding Paper Figures of a Family Setup - a House, Family Members, and a Car

    Oos, wes, tuis bes. (Literally: “East, west, home best.”)

    15. Waar daar ‘n rokie trek, is daar ‘n vuurtjie. / “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”


    This is another well-known proverb, and it means that if rumors are circulating about someone or something, there’s always some truth to them.


    The absolute truth of this proverb is debatable, because really—do we ever get the full picture via rumors? We love to gossip, unfortunately, which distorts or takes away from the truth. So, use this proverb sparingly if you’re dealing with negative stories. 

    The proverb can be used positively too, though. For instance, your Afrikaans friend whispers that she heard along the grapevine that a mutual friend has gotten engaged, but she’s not sure. If you don’t know either, this proverb could be a good reply, accompanied by a happy wink.

    Example Sentence: 

    Ek weet nie, maar jy weet mos hoe die spreekwoord gaanwaar daar ‘n rokie trek, is daar ‘n vuurtjie.
    “I don’t know either, but you know what the proverb says—where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

    A Lit Match with Flame and Smoke

    Waar daar ‘n rokie trek, is daar ‘n vuurtjie. (“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”)

    16. Jy kan ‘n perd na die water toe lei maar jy kan hom nie maak drink nie. / “You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.”


    This one means that guidance has its limits, and that you cannot force anyone to take an opportunity or advice offered them.


    It’s mostly used as a comment during conversation. For instance: Your friend was looking for a specific garden tool and you told him which shop stocks them. Later you hear that he has not found the tool, but he didn’t take your advice either. You could then use this proverb as a remark.

    Example Sentence: 

    Ek het hom vertel waar daardie gereedskap te koop is. Ag wel, jy kan ‘n perd na die water toe lei maar jy kan hom nie maak drink nie.
    “I told him where those tools are sold. Ah well, you can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.”

    Horses Drinking Water at a Pond on a Farm

    Jy kan ‘n perd na die water toe lei, maar jy kan dit nie maak drink nie. (“One can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.”)

    17. Wanneer die son sak in die weste is die luiaard op sy beste. / Approximates: “A young man idle, an old man needy.” OR “A lazy youth, a lousy old age.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “When the sun sets in the west, the lazy bum is at his best.”


    This is a reference to dusk, which signals the end of the day—supposedly a lazy person’s favorite time of day, because now they can rest legitimately. Of course, it’s the end of work for many people.


    Parents use this proverb to teach or warn their children not to be lazy. In conversation, it’s a reference to idleness or laziness—oftentimes our own, even if rest is well-deserved! For instance, if you feel exceptionally tired after hard work and just want to stretch out in front of the TV with a glass of wine, you could exclaim this proverb with a smile to mildly deprecate yourself.

    Example Sentence: 

    Ek het nie lus om kos te maak vanaand nie; gee my net ‘n goeie fliek en wyn! As die son sak in die weste, is die luiaard op sy beste.
    “I don’t feel like making supper tonight; just give me a good movie and wine! When the sun sets in the west, the lazy person is at his best!”

    Lazy Guy Sleeping on Couch

    Wanneer die son sak in die weste is die luiaard op sy beste. (“When the sun sets in the west, the lazy bum is at his best.”)

    18. Die oggendstond het goud in die mond. / Approximate: “The early bird catches the worm.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “The break of dawn has gold in its mouth.”


    This personification of dawn is the antidote to the laziness referenced in the previous proverb, as it extolls the virtues of getting up early for work. The reasoning is that this will help you perform better, because most people tend to feel more energetic and motivated in the morning—gold. If you get up early, you’ll also have time to do more work—more gold!


    It’s used as a comment to remind us of the above. If, for instance, a manager wants to motivate his staff to come in earlier for work on a specific day, he might use this proverb.

    Example Sentence: 

    Waarom begin ons so vroeg Maandagoggend? Oggendstond het goud in die mond, Kollega.
    “Why are we starting so early on Monday morning? Break of dawn has gold in its mouth, my colleague.”

    Dawn Breaking Over a Corn Field

    Oggendstond het goud in die mond. (Literally: “Break of dawn has gold it its mouth.”)

    19. Goedkoop koop is duurkoop. / “If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly.”


    This proverb warns against the pitfalls of shopping like a miser, unless you’re very sure that you’re getting reasonable quality. We tend to get what we pay for! This is not always true, though; not all inexpensive products and services are of poor quality, nor does ‘expensive’ necessarily translate to ‘excellent quality.’ But, in general, a dodgy purchase could mean you’ll soon have to replace it with a better one, or pay for repairs! This would then cost you a lot more than if you’d been less stingy in the first place.


    The proverb is often used as a warning when someone is about to make a bad purchase to save money. Imagine this scenario: Your friend needs a new cell phone, but she’s saving for a vacation and therefore doesn’t want to buy her preferred (but expensive) brand. Instead, she’s considering another, much cheaper but unknown and slightly suspect brand. In this case, you could use this line to caution her.

    Example Sentence: 

    Daardie foon lyk aanloklik, maar oppas. Goedkoop koop is duurkoop.
    “That phone looks appealing, but beware. If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly.”

    Female Buyer at Counter of a Shop

    Goedkoop koop is duur koop. (“If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly.”)

    20. Honger is die beste kok. / “Hunger is the best sauce.”

    Lit. Translation: 

    “Hunger is the best cook.”


    This proverb means that if a person is hungry, they’re less likely to be finicky about the food they eat.


    It’s often used as a playful comment when children with a difficult palate eat all their food because they’re hungry. Imagine being grateful that your offspring is so hungry after a day of energetic play that, for once, they don’t complain about what’s on their plates! That’s when you would use this proverb with a smile.

    Example Sentence: 

    Wel, dit wys nethonger is die beste kok!
    Literally: “Well, this just shows—hunger is the best cook!”

    Family at Dinner Table Eating

    Honger is die beste kok. (“Hunger is the best chef.”)

    21. ‘n Halwe eier is beter as ‘n leë dop. / Approximate: “Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow.” 

    Lit. Translation: 

    “Half an egg is better than an empty shell.”


    This Dutch-derived proverb advises that sometimes, it’s better to cut your losses and take what you get rather than not getting anything. It doesn’t mean exactly the same thing as its English approximate, which advises that sometimes it’s wiser to take a sure thing today than to gamble on a better thing tomorrow. The Afrikaans proverb is more explicit about why—taking a gamble means you could end up with something worthless!


    Imagine this scenario: Your friend has booked an exclusive sea holiday for three weeks, and he’s been looking forward to it very much. However, before he’s due to leave, the booking agent calls and admits to having made a big mistake that reduces your friend’s holiday period by half. He decides not to shop for other holiday packages at such short notice, though, because the amended booking is now offered to him at a greatly discounted price. In your conversation on the topic, he uses this proverb to explain his decision.

    Example Sentence: 

    Dis nie ideaal nie maar dit is steeds ‘n wegkomkans en ek kry darem groot afslag. ‘n Halwe eier is beter as ‘n lëe dop.
    “It’s not ideal, but it is still a getaway and I am getting a large discount. Half an egg is better than an empty shell.”

    Hands Breaking Open an Egg into a Bowl

    ‘n Halwe eier is beter as a leë dop. (“Half an egg is better than an empty shell.”)

    4. Uniquely South African Proverbs

    Some proverbs are unique to a language, and Afrikaans has a few great, very expressive ones. Here are a few Afrikaans proverbs and sayings you won’t find in English!

    22. Stille waters, diepe grond—onder draai die duiwel rond. 

    Lit. Translation:

    “Still waters, deep ground—underneath (the water) the devil circles round.”


    This means that a demure, coy demeanor, especially in a group, can be misleading and hide a naughty or suspect character. There’s no easily traceable approximate in English, and it’s noteworthy that the Afrikaans proverb doesn’t mean the same as “Still waters run deep.” The latter implies that a quiet manner sometimes hides a passionate or profound nature, whereas the Afrikaans version suggests that a very quiet, demure behavior is suspect! 


    This proverb is most often used in jest to tease shy people. For instance, your new secretary rarely speaks during meetings or work-related social events. This could be a good line to tease her with if you want to draw her out and help her relax. 

    It’s sometimes also used as a comment when someone, regularly considered shy and proper, suddenly acts wildly out of character, or is at the center of a controversy or scandal. Or, it can serve to caution a friend if you feel they are dealing with a seemingly decent but definitely suspect person.

    Example Sentence: 

    Hoe praat jy dan so min, Rita? Jy weet wat die spreekwoord sê: Stille waters, diepe grondonder draai die duiwel rond!
    “Why don’t you talk more, Rita? You know what the proverb says: Still waters, deep ground—underneath (the water) the devil circles round!”

    23. Agteros kom ook in die kraal. 

    Lit. Translation: 

    “The ox bringing up the rear also gets into the kraal.”


    Even those lagging behind eventually reach their goal. The proverb is also sometimes a kind reminder that no one is a complete loser in every area of life.


    This is used as an encouraging comment when, in any situation, you see someone struggling to keep up with the group, but you have confidence that they’ll eventually make it. Or, use it when they do catch up! For instance, your family goes hiking, but your overweight son is battling a bit on the trail, so he keeps lagging behind. Eventually, he catches up with everybody else. You can then use this proverb to congratulate him, together with a huge smile and a cool drink!

    Example Sentence: 

    Aaah, kyk wie is hier! Agteros kom ook in die kraalgeluk, Boet!
    “Aaah, look who’s here! The ox bringing up the rear also gets into the kraal—congratulations, Boet!”


    Boet is a popular and casual nickname, close in meaning to the English slang term “Bro.” The female equivalent is Sus, used the same way as the English “Sis.” It’s not exclusively used among family, but Afrikaans parents like calling their offspring Boet or Sus.

    Lips with Lipstick being Applied.

    Oulap se rooi maak mooi. (“A penny’s red makes pretty.”)

    24. Oulap se rooi maak mooi

    Lit. Translation:

    “A penny’s red makes pretty.”


    Oulap is an old Afrikaans word for a penny, which is a unit of currency (low in value) used in some Western countries. In South Africa, the penny is no longer used as a monetary unit, but the proverb endures. It means that great improvement can be made with only a small adjustment, specifically regarding appearance. 


    Use this proverb as a compliment or comment in any appropriate situation. It’s very often used to compliment or refer to a woman who looks better with a little bit of makeup on. It’s also used when something, such as a room, looks prettier after colorful items (oftentimes red ones) have been added.

    Example Sentence: 

    Sy lyk baie goed met daardie lipstiffie aan. Oulap se rooi maak mooi!
    “She looks very good with that lipstick. A penny’s red makes pretty!”

    25. Die deler is so goed soos die steler.

    Lit. Translation: 

    “The one who shares in the loot is the same as the thief.” 


    In Afrikaans, the adjectival phrase, so goed soos, has two meanings: “as good as” and “the same as.”


    This proverb reminds us that if we are aware of a criminal act but consciously choose to profit from it anyway, we are morally as guilty as the person who committed the crime.


    It’s often used as a teaching tool by parents and teachers, or to comment on any situation where this truth is applicable. Suppose you find your five-year-old daughter enjoying mysteriously obtained candy with her friend. It turns out that the friend had nicked the candy from the local supermarket. Upon discovering this, you could use this proverb as a teaching tool during a very stern conversation with both about the criminality of thievery!

    Example Sentence: 

    Die deler is so goed soos die steler, my kind. Jy kon vir Theo gesê het om die lekkergoed te gaan teruggee; jy moes nie saam geëet nie! Dis verkeerd, ons maak nie so nie.
    “The one who shares in the loot is the same as the thief, my child. You could have told Theo to return the candy, and not have shared it with him! That’s wrong, we don’t do that.”


    Jakkals trou met Wolf se vrou. (“Jackal marries Wolf’s wife.”)

    26. Jakkals trou met Wolf se vrou. / Lit. “Jackal marries Wolf’s wife.”


    In South Africa, we often comment with this proverb during a so-called sunshower. This occurs when it rains while the sun is not behind the clouds, and in South African English, we call this phenomenon a Monkey’s Wedding. However, few know what this proverb really means. For this, we again have to look at an Afrikaans fable, this one featuring Jakkals (“Jackal”) and Wolf (“Wolf”) as main characters.

    In South African folklore, Wolf was Jackal’s uncle, and he and his pretty wife were also Jackal’s godparents. Then, Jackal fell in love with his godmother and proceeded to woo her, which was improper as it broke the unspoken societal laws of the bush. A nephew and a godmother were two things that just didn’t belong together—similar to the pairing of sunshine and rain, which almost appears unnatural. So, originally, this proverb referred to anything that went strongly against the societal norms of the time.


    Its original use is completely outdated in modern, vernacular Afrikaans. In fact, I have never heard it being used this way. It’s still a popular comment when a sunshower takes place, though.

    Example Sentence: 

    Kyk buitekant! Jakkals trou met Wolf se vrou.
    “Look outside! It’s a Monkey’s Wedding.”

    Three Glasses of Wine with Grapes

    Goeie wyn het nie ‘n krans nodig nie. (“Good wine doesn’t require a wreath.”)

    27. Goeie wyn het nie ‘n krans nodig nie. 

    Lit. Meaning: 

    “Good wine doesn’t require a wreath.”


    This proverb means that quality is self-evident; it doesn’t need to be praised or advertised. It’s apparently derived from a time when it was customary for travelers’ lodges to hang a wreath outside their doors to indicate the availability of wine. Over time, the places with good wine became so well-known and popular that they didn’t need to hang out a wreath any longer. 


    This is a rarely used proverb, mostly used to comment on excellent food or drink presented in a simple style or in a laid-back, unassuming setting. Imagine, for instance, you’re with friends in a low-budget restaurant where you get served a particularly superb wine. If someone mentions their surprise over this, you could comment with this proverb.

    Example Sentence: 

    Ja, hierdie is ‘n besondere wyn in ‘n onwaarskynlike plek. Maar dis soos hulle sê: goeie wyn het nie ‘n krans nodig nie. 
    “Yes, it’s an exceptional wine in an unlikely place. But, as they say: good wine doesn’t need a wreath.”

    28. Die kok is verlief.

    Lit. Meaning: 

    “The cook is in love.”


    The proverb originated when people were served food that was too salty. In modern Afrikaans, however, it refers to any slightly botched dish. The inference is that the cook must have been distracted because they’re in love, which is why they made mistakes while cooking!


    Use this as a lighthearted comment during a meal if there’s clearly something wrong with the food, but you don’t wish to make a big fuss of it.

    Example Sentence: 

    Ja, die kok is verlief, dis duidelik. Maar dis nie ‘n probleem nie, die kos smaak nie te sleg nie!
    “Yes, the cook is in love, that’s clear. But it’s not a problem, the food doesn’t taste too bad!”

    Owl Sitting on a Tree Stump

    Elkeen dink sy uil is ‘n valk. (“Everyone sees his owl as a falcon.”)

    29. Elkeen dink sy uil is ‘n valk.

    Lit. Translation: 

    “Everyone sees his owl as a falcon.”


    This proverb means that parents want to see their children only through rose-colored lenses, probably endowing them with characteristics they don’t really have. For instance, owls can fly, but not as high as falcons do. They’re also shy night-prowlers, whereas most falcons soar during the day.


    This is often a self-deprecating comment parents make when they notice they’ve expected too much of their offspring. However, unless you’re very close to the parents, never use this proverb sarcastically or to describe children’s lesser accomplishments—the parents may never speak to you again!

    Example Sentence: 

    Elkeen dink sy uil is ‘n valk, nè? Maar ek is steeds trots op my uiltjie, sy het tweede gekom in die kompetisie.
    “Everyone sees their owl as a falcon, don’t they? But I am still proud of my owlet; she came second in the competition.”

    30. Vat jou goed en trek, Ferreira.

    Lit. Translation: 

    “Take your stuff and leave, Ferreira.”


    This proverb commands that you “take your stuff and leave,” simple as that! It has an interesting, if rather cruel, backstory dating back to 1872 on a wealthy Western Cape Province farm close to Somerset West. The farm belonged to Willem Adriaan Van Aardt, who had a daughter called Ada. Ada, a music student, was a vivacious girl known for her fine sense of humor and excellent singing voice. Annie Malony was her piano teacher. The two were firm friends and were always called upon at social gatherings to provide musical entertainment.

    By age 17, Ada was extremely popular with everyone in the area and obviously had many suitors. One of the most persistent was Jannie Ferreira, son of neighboring farmer Mr. Stephanus Ferreira. Jannie had a birth defect (an ungainly gait), but this didn’t stop him from pestering the girl. He clearly didn’t want to get the hint that she was not interested in a relationship with him.

    Out of frustration with his obtuseness, Ada started penning down her feelings in verse, including the line: Vat jou goed en trek, Ferreira. (“Take your stuff and leave, Ferreira.”) She showed her writings to Annie, who immediately set it to a catchy polka tune. 

    At the next large social gathering, to which Jannie was also invited, the two performed the song together. After that evening, Jannie stopped visiting her—he’d finally gotten the message. However, the tune was so infectious that it quickly became popular in the region, and it later spread to all parts of the country. To this day, it’s a well-loved folk tune of the Afrikaans people; you can listen to it here.


    This proverb is most often used as a comment, or to tell someone to leave in a jocular manner. Or you could say it to mean “Get lost!” For instance, you and your friends are discussing the COVID-19 virus. You could then use this proverb to indicate you wish the virus would leave. 

    Example Sentence: 

    Gelukkig het ons vinnig entstof ontwikkel en kon ons vir die virus sê, vat jou goed en trek, Ferreira!
    “Fortunately, we quickly developed a vaccine and could say to the virus, take your stuff and leave, Ferreira!”

    Fireplace with Wood and Ash

    As is verbrande hout. (“Ash is burned wood.”)

    31. As is verbrande hout.

    Lit. Translation: 

    “Ash is burned wood.”


    As has two meanings in Afrikaans: “burned wood” and the conjunction “if.” The proverb literally clarifies which as you’re talking about. 


    It’s most often used in reply to a worry pot who always makes suppositions or raises objections, usually starting their sentences with As … (“If …”) or Maar wat as … (“But what if …”). Using this proverb, you indicate to them that there’s no way of telling if their fears are going to materialize, but that it’s reasonable to expect the best outcome. Ergo, they can stop worrying! Use it with a friendly tone and a smile, not as a sharp retort.

    Example Sentence: 

    Ja Marie, en as is verbrande hout. Ons het seker gemaak die erf is veilig vir kinders, Vriendin, so jy kan maar ophou bekommerd wees.
    “Yes, Marie, and ‘as is verbrande hout.’ We made sure the yard is safe for children, my friend; you can stop worrying.”

    5. Learn Afrikaans Proverbs Like a Pro at!

    Which of these Afrikaans proverbs resonate with you the most, and why? Let us know in the comments! 

    While learning these proverbs in Afrikaans will certainly impress the locals, there’s a lot more to discover about the language and culture of the Afrikaner people. 

    At, we can help you understand Afrikaans easily with our hundreds of recorded videos, our podcast, these vocabulary lists, and more. With our help, you’ll be able to use the proverbs correctly and speak like a native in no time!

    Also, gain the skills you need to decipher Afrikaans proverbs yourself with the multiple tools available to you upon subscription, such as the Afrikaans Key Phrase List and the Afrikaans Core 100 Word List. Also, keep your Afrikaans online dictionary close for easy translation! 

    If Afrikaans vernacular is important to you, then take a look at the following pages as well:

    1. The Best Afrikaans Internet Slang and How to Use it!
    2. How To Say “Hello” in Afrikaans Like a Native Speaker!
    3. How To Say “Thank You” in Afrikaans

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    Die Moederstad – Visit Cape Town and Lose Your Heart


    I love Cape Town (Kaapstad). Truly, this entire article can be summed up with the following quote, attributed to world-explorer Sir Francis Drake when he visited the Cape (circa 1580):

    “This Cape is the most stately thing and the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.”

    This is no exaggeration. I’ve visited some of the most beautiful cities on earth, but Cape Town and the Cape remain incomparable.

    Join me to learn why there’s something for every traveler to love and enjoy here, and discover even more great reasons to visit Cape Town yourself. 

     Note: We natives refer to Cape Town and the surrounding area (sometimes the Western Cape Province, too) as “the Cape.”

    We also call the city die Moederstad (“the Mother City”), but this lady is not only maternal and welcoming. She’s also mysterious, exciting, a bit dangerous, and always drop-dead, mind-bogglingly gorgeous, as you’ll discover! In this article, I will give you some basic tourist tips and discuss a few favorite personal haunts. Lastly, I’ll touch on the overly touristy spots that those looking for something different could probably avoid.

    Welcome to the city of my heart!

    Sunset Over Iconic Table Mountain, Cape Town

    Sonsondergang oor ikoniese Tafelberg, Kaapstad
    (“Sunset over iconic Table Mountain, Cape Town”)

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    Table of Contents
    1. A Quick Cape Town Travel Guide
    2. Cape Town Travel Guide
    3. BONUS – Emergency Travel Phrases & Vocabulary from AfrikaansPod101!

    A Quick Cape Town Travel Guide

    First, a few fast facts and travel tips to get the journey started.

    History / Geskiedenis

    • In the early fifteenth century, the first Western visitors to the southernmost coast of Africa were from Portugal: Bartholomew Dias and, later, Vasco Da Gama.
    • Cape Town was founded over a century later on April 7, 1652. This is the date when Jan Van Riebeeck, a colonial administrator from Holland, took over the proto-port from Autshumao. Autshumao was the leader of the Khoi group who had been supplying passing ships with meat and fresh water for decades. The Dutch intended for the Cape to be a supply station for ships en route to or from the East. This was called the “Spice Route.”
    • The indigenous Khoi people gave the Cape its very first name: “Hoerikwagga,” which means “mountain in the sea.” They called the Cape Peninsula (the southernmost part of Cape Town) ‘||Hui ! Gais.’ This toponym means “where clouds gather.”
    • Other names include “Cape of Storms” (allegedly what Dias called it) and “Cape of Good Hope” (apparently the name later bestowed by Portugal’s King John II, because its discovery was a good omen to him.)
    • Different theories are circulating as to why Cape Town is called the Mother City. The most popular explanation is that it’s the oldest city in South Africa, and therefore the “mother” of all cities in the region. 
    • Clouds often did (and still do) gather like a blanket over Cape Town’s most iconic landmark: Tafelberg, or “Table Mountain.” It was the Portuguese explorer António de Saldanha who baptized it Taboa da caba (“Table of the Cape”).
    • Simon Van Der Stel later took over from Van Riebeeck as governor of the Cape. He had grape vines brought from Europe and founded the region’s wine industry.

    Old Map of Africa with Compass

    Ou kaart van Afrika met kompas
    (“Old map of Africa with compass”)

    Language / Taal

    English is the most spoken, but second language of most Capetonians. The majority of the city’s population speaks either Afrikaans or Xhosa as their first language. Most locals will easily understand you if you address them in English, but to really connect, be sure to master some Afrikaans.

    Climate / Klimaat

    Someone asked the other day about the best time to visit Cape Town. I replied that any time is perfect. Really, it is! The city is a unique experience and primary destination for globetrotters, irrespective of the season. 

    Cape Town’s climate is Mediterranean, so you can expect relatively mild and pleasant weather throughout the year. It gets somewhat wet and stormy during the winter months of June through September, but if you don’t like weather extremes, you’ll love Cape Town’s generally temperate climate.

    Summer in Cape Town (October through February) tends to be dry with the occasional very hot day, but the humidity remains pleasantly low. From spring through midsummer, a very strong, dry wind sometimes blows from the Southeast. This wind is often referred to as the Kaapse dokter (“Cape doctor”), as it’s said to clean away all pollution and dust, thus “healing” the city’s atmosphere.

    Umbrella and Autumn Leaves in the Wind

    Sambreel en herfsblare in die wind
    (“Umbrella and autumn leaves in the wind”)

    To avoid the wind, March through May are the best months. For a pleasant summer visit, the best months would be October through February, which is the traditional tourist season.

    What to Wear / Wat Om Te Dra

    Like London in the U.K., Cape Town can experience the proverbial “four seasons in one day,” especially during fall and spring (April-May and September-October respectively). So, it’s a good idea to pack for layered dressing. Swimmers and surfers, keep in mind that the ocean water temperatures range between 13 °C (55 °F) and 17 °C (63 °F).

    Also, bring your camera as a primary accessory! A smartphone camera won’t do justice to this ridiculously photogenic city.

    Surfer in the Waves

    Branderplankryer in die golwe
    (“Surfer in the waves”)

    Currency & Ways to Pay / Geldeenheid en Betaalwyses

    The ZAR, or “Rand,” is South Africa’s currency. Most retailers accept credit and debit cards, and EFTs are often accepted too. However, you should still keep cash handy in your wallet for visits to the city’s famous flea markets, and for service tips.

    Public Transport, Rental Cars & Tour Buses / Publieke Vervoer, Huurmotors en Toerbusse

    If your holiday goal is to sightsee and explore, having your own vehicle is almost mandatory. We have several rental car and rental scooter companies, of which the bigger, international brands offer the best service. South Africans drive on the left side of the road in right-hand-drive cars. GPS is generally very reliable, so it’s easy to personalize your travel routes.

    The signature-red, City Sightseeing hop-on, hop-off tour buses are a good option for exploring the main attractions of the city. These open-top buses offer different types of tours at very reasonable prices. Although they run only during the tourist season, they are popular for good reason, so book your trips ahead.

    Tourist on a City Sightseeing Bus

    ‘n Toeris op ‘n rooi City Sightseeing bus
    (“Tourist on a City Sightseeing bus”)

    The city’s public transport network comprises local bus services, trains, and taxi minibuses. However, using public transport is probably more for the young and adventurous! If it’s your only option, that’s fine. But in that case, be extra-vigilant about your personal safety and that of your possessions, and try not to use it alone.

    My CitiBus is the city’s comfortable and modern bus service, originally conceived to handle the increased transportation needs of the 2010 Fifa Soccer Cup that we hosted. Several buses run on numerous routes and connect with the other transport services. Download the CitiBus app onto your phone for easy access to route schedules.

    The private car-taxi services, including the likes of Uber, are generally great alternatives.

    Safety Tips / Veiligheidswenke

    Some sites (and expats!) will have you believe that Cape Town is one of the most dangerous places on earth—and yes, crime statistics are high. However, criminal activities tend to be concentrated in certain areas and the majority of travelers are untouched by them. No different than most other first-world cities. 

    That said, taking precautions is always wise, so keep the following tips at the forefront of your mind wherever you find yourself: 

    • Keep your valuables locked up wherever you stay
    • When shopping or sightseeing, remain vigilant and keep your cellphone and wallet hidden on your person. 
    • Unless you’re young and built like a wrestler, don’t venture out on foot and alone after dark, especially in the CBD.
    • Always enter the poorer areas only with a resident.
    • When withdrawing cash at an ATM, never ask for or accept help from anyone other than a bank staff member.
    • If you’re alone, avoid using any public buses, trains, and minibus taxis after sunset. Only use these as part of a group of three or more. Singles and couples would be better off using a car taxi service such as Uber.
    • Here are some crime hot spots to avoid.

    Plugs, Etc.

    The country’s standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Bringing a standard travel adapter is advisable.

    Now, let’s dig into why every travel-lover should visit Cape Town at least once in their lives!

    Changing Cubicles on Muizenberg Beach, Cape Town

    Aantrek-hutte op Muizenberg Strand, Kaapstad
    (“Changing cubicles on Muizenberg Beach, Cape Town”)

    Cape Town Travel Guide

    She’s not a quick study, Cape Town. It would be best to visit for a month or longer, or to decide beforehand on specific tourist activities if you plan on a shorter stay (two weeks or less). 

    Everybody loves and needs food, though, so let’s start with eateries.


    Foodies and visitors usually find the city’s food scene to be extremely alive (and themselves thoroughly spoilt for choice). Cape Town is called the Culinary Capital of South Africa, as it boasts the most winners of prestigious local and international awards! The following restaurants in Cape Town have been tried and tested, and have some of the best offerings in the city. However, this list is far from exhaustive. If food is your focus, Cape Town is the place to visit!

    A.1 Fine Dining

    Fine dining is expensive and bookings are usually mandatory. That said, our fine dineries tend to be much cheaper than in other world-cities! In Dubai, for instance, you could easily pay between four to seven times the amount you would pay for a comparable meal in Cape Town.

    The following restaurants offer unforgettable culinary experiences:

    • Probably the most prestigious eatery in the city, The Test Kitchen (or TTK) doesn’t sport a conventional luxury look. But trust me—the unconventional aesthetics and equally unique cuisine will simply blow your mind. The restaurant and its owner/chef, Luke Dale-Roberts, have raked in several prestigious excellence awards over the past decade. 
    • Award-winning La Colombe is another must-visit fine dinery. Situated in the breathtakingly beautiful Constantia wine estate, this understated eatery elicits rave reviews for its eclectic cuisine and excellent service. It’s an unforgettable experience that some prefer over that of the TTK.

    Crab Dish, Seafood

    Crab dish, seafood

    A.2 Family and Other / Gesin en Ander

    Cape Town also has a large number of less expensive and more inclusive, but equally enchanting, restaurants. 

    • One of the best-kept secrets in town is probably an Italian restaurant called Magica Roma. Hidden in the corner of the Town Square in Pinelands, this laidback and unpretentious restaurant serves simply the best Italian food in the city, if not the province. And it’s all dished up with a large dollop of warm Italian hospitality—patrons tend to spend hours here! Magica Roma is insanely popular, so bookings are essential.
    • Want to take the family out for lunch in a beautiful setting? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more perfect spot than the Blue Water Café on Imhoff’s Farm near Kommetjie. Take your freshly prepared meal (from organic, local produce) outside to enjoy spectacular views of the valley.
    • South Africans are “java-philes” of note; we city-dwellers practically run on caffeine! No surprise then that Cape Town sports one of the world’s most wonderful coffee shops: the renowned Truth Coffee Roastery. Photographers alert—the gorgeous steampunk interior is a visual feast!

    Barista in the Truth Coffee Roastery, Cape Town

    ‘n Barista in die Truth Coffee Roastery, Kaapstad
    (“Barista in the Truth Coffee Roastery, Cape Town”)

    A.3 Wine Farms / Wynplase

    South Africa is an old and internationally renowned producer of top wines. So, naturally, many of our wines have won prestigious excellence awards over the past century. Wine connoisseurs are undoubtedly familiar with the Western Cape Province wine route, a worthy experience to be had outside of Cape Town.

    However, the most established wine farms are situated right within the city. Many of them feature restaurants and wine tasting venues in stunning natural surrounds—a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with friends. Spoil yourself with a visit to the completely breathtaking Groot Constantia, the oldest wine-producing estate in the country. Another place worth visiting is Steenberg Wine Farm. Steenberg also features a five-star hotel and a golf course for an all-round luxury experience.

    Many tourists opt for an organized wine-tasting tour, even though it’s tough to single out the best tasting rooms. Our wine is popular for good reasons.

    Now that the tummies and taste buds have been seen to, let’s investigate some ways to spend your Cape Town holiday.


    Numb with jetlag? Start your stay with a refreshing walk!

    Beach, Shallow Water, Sunset


    B.1 Beaches / Strande

    Cape Town beaches are generally excellent for strolling or jogging. The stunning Clifton and Camps Bay beaches are close to the CBD and are popular spots for locals, too. 

    Swimming is allowed at most beaches, but the water tends to be cold and sometimes there are sharks. Attacks are extremely uncommon in our oceans, but if you cannot tolerate the thought of taking the chance, Fish Hoek is a family-friendly beach with restaurants and shark nets. To surf in the waves or simply splash in a tidal pool, the most popular beaches are Muizenberg and Glencairn. St. James is another picturesque swimming beach, complete with changing rooms.

    B.2 Free Walking Tours / Gratis Loop-toere

    Every day of the year, irrespective of the weather, walkers head out for a 90-minute adventure on foot that starts at the Motherland Coffee Company in St. George’s Mall, CBD. The walks are ideal for getting a cursory glance of Cape Town’s urban beauty and history. No bookings are required for groups of less than ten. Simply pitch up to enroll for one of the several Free Walking Tours with the organizers under the green umbrellas, and be sure to tip.

    B.3 Hiking or Strolling in the Gardens / Stap Deur Die Tuine

    Cape Town has a great number of gardens and nature reserves, ideal for a gentle stroll, a serious hike, or a leisurely picnic.

    Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town

    Kirstenbosch Nasionale Botaniese Tuin in Kaapstad
    (“Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town”)

    • Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

      Visiting this internationally renowned botanical garden should be a priority—it is simply incomparable! Situated along the eastern side of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch is a feast of botanical diversity and beauty, ideal for hiking, strolling, and/or picnicking. Expect to pay a conservation fee.
    • Table Mountain National Park

      This location offers a good selection of hiking trails of varying difficulty. One of my personal favorites is Table Mountain itself, starting at Rhodes Memorial to Devil’s Peak (not for beginners). Or tackle the easier, 7km (4.3-mile) walk on the Newlands Forest Contour Path loop, also starting at the memorial. Silvermines, in the center of the Peninsular mountain chain, offers different walking experiences, so expect to completely forget you’re in a city! Entry to Table Mountain trails is free, but a conservation fee is charged per person at Silvermines.

    Fynbos in Cape Point Nature Reserve

    Fynbos in Kaappunt Natuur Reservaat
    (“Fynbos in Cape Point Nature Reserve”)

    • Cape Point Nature Reserve

      This reserve is also part of the Table Mountain National Park, but it deserves its own mention. It’s excellent for longer but smooth hikes or a shorter, steep climb, with killer views of the southeastern corner of the Cape Peninsula. It can get chilly quite quickly here, so bring a sweater. Also, make sure to drive to the reserve via Chapman’s Peak and Scarborough for spectacular scenery along the coastline.
    • Table Mountain Cableway Ride

      I planned to mention this excursion under the “Give These A Miss” heading, because the waiting lines for a ride are insanely long, even with a pre-booking. However, the views of the mountain are such a wonderful experience once you’re inside the car. Also, at over 3500 feet above sea level, the summit makes for unparalleled, leisurely viewing of the city and surrounding areas. Make sure to book tickets through the correct site online, and use the MyCitibus service to avoid a long walk from the parking lot to the entrance.

    C. OTHER

    Here are a few more attractions in Cape Town for tourists to enjoy. I’ve included locations for lovers of history, art, and culture, so let’s dive in! 

    C. 1 History / Geskiedenis

    If you’re after the history of the city, don’t miss out on the following museums:

    1. District Six: This museum shows the poignant history of a suburb and how apartheid (Literally: “separated-ness”) destroyed a once vibrant, multi-racial community. Bring tissues.
    2. Robben Island Prison: This is a well-known Unesco World Heritage site that preserves the history of those who spent time incarcerated in this political prison. Its most famous previous resident was President Nelson Mandela. It tends to be busy during the tourist season, but is historically significant.
    3. Heart of Cape Town Museum: A rather unknown gem, this interactive museum celebrates the day medical history was made: the first heart transplant ever.
    4. Castle of Good Hope: Situated in the CBD, this museum showcases the country’s shared heritage and hidden histories. It also houses the South African Military Museum.

    Entrance to Robben Island Prison

    Ingang van Robbeneiland Gevangenis
    (“Entrance to Robben Island Prison”)

    C.2 Visual Art / Visuele Kuns

    As with food and wine, Cape Town is synonymous with the fine arts. Many of the country’s great artists have made this their home, and there’s plenty going on in the art scene.

    1. Salt River and Woodstock Street Art

      Nope, I’m not going to start this list with the famous Zeitz MOCAA that opened its doors recently. First, go feast your eyes on Cape Town’s own street gallery in the erstwhile-industrial Salt River, or at Woodstock Exchange in Albert Rd. close by. These cultural assets can be enjoyed for free during a leisurely stroll by yourself, or as part of a guided tour.
    1. Iziko South African National Gallery

      For an informative journey through the history of South African and African art, this is your gallery. It’s situated in the beautiful Company Gardens in the CBD.
    1. Norval Foundation Art Museum

      The Foundation calls itself a “centre for art and cultural expression.” Book off a whole morning or afternoon for this trip to the Constantiaberg amphitheater, and view twentieth and twenty-first-century art in the most stunning surroundings.
    1. Zeitz MOCAA – Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

      This one is still on my to-do list, but it’s worth mentioning. The art museum opened three years ago to great acclaim, as it’s one of its kind on the African continent. If online reviews are to be believed, it’s the pinnacle of African art. But some of my local artist friends were unimpressed with the museum’s offerings; they also thought the entrance fees were exorbitant for what you get. However, this costly non-profit venture is still pioneering, so I’m hoping for a pleasant surprise when I do visit. Some say it’s worth going for the architecture alone!

    C. 3 Township Tours / Township Toere

    A Township Shop in South Africa

    ‘n Township winkel in Suid Afrika
    (“A township shop in South Africa”)

    I’ve given this a heading of its own because it is simply a must-have experience. It’s most suitable for the discerning traveler who loves pushing personal boundaries, or for those wanting to add heart and enduring memories to their visit.

    Cape Town is a glittery lady who can easily seduce visitors into believing that her identity comprises only glamor, opulence, and natural beauty. However, townships have not left the landscape of South African cities and towns, even after nearly three decades of democracy. A “township” is dictionary-defined as “…a suburb or city of predominantly black occupation, formerly officially designated for black occupation by apartheid legislation.” 

    However, these communities are vibrant and inspiring in unique and surprising ways. So, for a day, leave your Vuitton bag at the hotel, slip on your most well-worn trainers, and head out on a township tour. Or even spend a night. You will not only support a local entrepreneur, but you’ll also get to have a down-to-the-bones experience of the city’s sad underbelly. Think meaningful paradigm-shift. 

    Note: Never enter a township except in the company of a resident or tour guide, and remain mindful of the tour etiquette and rules. These will be spelled out at the start to ensure that visitors remain sensitive to the needs and boundaries of the residents. The tours are also perfectly safe if the rules are adhered to—we have never had a criminal incident reported on one of these.

    Give These A Miss / Vermy Hierdies

    Some places are tourist hot-spots and they offer relatively the same experiences as other world cities, or they’re over-commercialized. Still not horrible to visit, the following venues might be more suitable to include in a winter trip itinerary.

    Victoria Wharf on the V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa

    Victoria Wharf on the V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa

    • V & A Waterfront: This is a shopper’s heaven, with several designer offerings. Take a champagne-tour out on a boat to escape the bustle, or get on the Cape Wheel for a unique view of the city. But avoid it like a pest if you hate crowds, as it’s a very commercialized and insanely busy venue during the tourist season. 
    • Food Markets: Not every local or visitor will agree with me on this one! And yes, to be fair, the food markets—such as Old Biscuit Mill (where TTK is situated) and Oranjezicht City Farm Market—are atmospheric and fantastic for finding fresh food and goodies. However, as far as market experiences go, they’re not super-unique and tend to be constantly congested.
    • Bo-Kaap District: I’m on the fence about this one too, because I love photographing the erstwhile slave-quarter and quaint houses painted in the Malaysian style. If unique cuisines are an interest of yours, then the Cape Malay food in the restaurants will delight you. It’s a very small area and perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s perfect for the historian, photographer, and architectural tourist, though.
    • Century City & Canal Walk Shopping Centres: Although modern and impressive, these enormous shopping malls are very commercialized and always overcrowded.
    • Simon’s Town, Kalk Bay, and Muizenberg: I know, it looks like I’m contradicting myself! As mentioned earlier, Muizenberg has lovely swimming beaches. However, the three suburbs tend to be extremely populated during the tourist season. Out-of-season, you’ll find lovely nooks with local produce and bric a brac here, so don’t scratch this one off the to-do list completely.
    • Artscape theatre complex: This location is good for watching performances of the big names in local talent, but somewhat imitative of the European scene. You should instead seek out the smaller venues (many are add-ons to restaurants), especially for comedy or live music performances, if this type of entertainment is what you’re after.

    BONUS – Emergency Travel Phrases & Vocabulary from AfrikaansPod101!

    Of course, I want you to have a brilliant South African experience. So, here is a list of essential travel vocabulary and phrases:

    Good day!
    Good evening!
    Baie dankie.Thank you very much.
    Ja/nee, dankie.Yes/no, thank you.
    Verskoon my.Excuse me.
    Waar is die kleedkamer / toilet, asseblief?Where is the changing room / toilet, please?
    Kan jy my help, asseblief?Can you help me, please?

    Hopefully this article was educational and interesting. Do you have any questions? Let us have them in the comments below! Or even better—share your experiences with us if you’ve visited Cape Town before.

    At, we can help you understand Afrikaans easily with our hundreds of recorded videos, audio lessons, and themed vocabulary lists.

    Also, before you hop on a plane to the Moederstad, be sure to arm yourself with some words and phrases from our Afrikaans Key Phrase List and the Afrikaans Core 100 Word List. Remember to keep your Afrikaans online dictionary closeby for easy translation!

    Supplement your knowledge about the country and the Afrikaners even more with these blog posts:

    Enroll now for a free lifetime membership at Hope to see you when you visit Cape Town!

    About the author: Christa Davel is a bilingual (Afrikaans and English) freelance writer and journalist, and is currently based in Cape Town.

    Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans

    The Top English Words Used in Afrikaans – and More!


    Imagine getting this message from your South African friend:

    “Hey! Come jol with us on Saturday afternoon; we are going to gooi something lekker on the braai. The party will be under the lapa.”

    Do you have any idea what this message means? Let us know in the comments! At, we love hearing your thoughts and opinions, so feel free to weigh in. 

    But if you’re not really sure what your friend just invited you to, no worries. That’s ‘Afrikaan-lish,’ or rather, a blend of Afrikaans, English, and even one word appropriated from one of South Africa’s other languages!

    Woman Talking on Megaphone

    The example used above illustrates how languages cross-pollinate and influence one another. This is important, because nowhere in South Africa is Afrikaans spoken in complete isolation from English. 

    Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans Table of Contents
    1. It’s Important to Learn English Words in Afrikaans
    2. Afrikaans Words Used in English
    3. Learn Much More Than English Words in Afrikaans with AfrikaansPod101!

    It’s Important to Learn English Words in Afrikaans

    If you’re serious about learning nuanced Afrikaans in order to sound like and understand native speakers, it’s necessary to also study the phrases and vocabulary taken from other languages. Because the Afrikaans meanings are sometimes different from those in the original language, you’ll miss important clues about a conversation’s context if you’re not familiar with them.

    Afrikaans is influenced by many languages. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll be focusing on English influences on Afrikaans (and vice-versa). Afrikaans can be a fun language to learn—it is very descriptive and has real heart!

    So, let’s start with a list of English words used in Afrikaans. They are organized into different categories, but take note that it’s not a simple classification.

    Woman Learning with Tablet

    1 – Loanwords

    Scholars and linguists often debate the acceptability of some loanwords. However, loanwords are an integral component of nearly every major, internationally spoken language. Over time, these words become more incorporated into the general vernacular of the host language and become standardized. A great example is the word charcuterie (French for “cold, cooked meats”), which is accepted and commonly used in both English and Afrikaans. 

    There are plenty of English loanwords in Afrikaans; the list we’re providing is not exhaustive.

    Standardized Loanwords:

    The following examples are English loanwords that appear in Afrikaans dictionaries. Their use is accepted in any context (i.e. formal and informal) and they generally retain their original English meaning. 

    • Chop-chop
    • Denim 
      • In English, this word only refers to the material that garments (such as jeans) are made of. In Afrikaans, it refers to both the material and the garment “jeans.”
    • Garage 
      • Refers to both fuel stations and the place we leave our cars for the night.
    • Muffin

    Boy Eating Muffins

    Die seun geniet die muffin. (“The boy enjoys the muffin.”)

    • Robot 
      • This refers not only to a machine resembling a human being in appearance and/or function; in Afrikaans, it is also the word for “traffic light.”
    • Speaker (in Parliament)
    • Township 
      • In South African English, this refers to a city or suburb that was specifically designated for people of color under the country’s previous dispensation.
    • Whiskey

    Non-Standardized Loanwords:

    You won’t get struck by lightning if you pepper your Afrikaans with these, but it would be better to limit their use to casual and informal conversations.

    • Awesome
    • Cool
    • Funky
    • Great
    • Gross
    • Panties
    • Punk
    • Savvy
    • Scary
    • Selfie
    • Sexy
    • Tissue 
    • Rocker 

    Rockers Band

    Die rockers geniet hulself vanaand. (“The rockers are enjoying themselves tonight.”)

    2 – Anglicisms

    An Anglicism is any word or language construction that another language borrows from English. 

    It’s easy to confuse them with loanwords, as there is only one important distinction: an Anglicism is a language construct that’s directly taken from English, which looks and sounds like Afrikaans but actually distorts the Afrikaans idiom. This means that Anglicisms unnecessarily replace perfectly good Afrikaans words or phrases, and their use is therefore not really acceptable in formal or academic conversations. (That said, they are so commonplace in colloquial Afrikaans that many native speakers don’t even know they’re using Anglicisms!)

    DOEN – “DO” / “DOES”
    Sy doen haar ma ‘n guns.
    “She does her mom a favor.”
    Sy bewys haar ma ‘n guns.
    Ek wil niks met hom te doen hê nie.
    “I don’t want anything to do with him.”
    Ek wil niks met hom te make hê nie.
    Ons rugbyspan doen goed hierdie seisoen.
    “Our rugby team is doing well this season.”
    Ons rugbyspan vaar goed hierdie seisoen.
    A: Hou die kind van vrugte?
    B: Ja, hy doen!

    A: “Does the child like fruit?”
    B: “Yes, he does!”
    Hou die kind van vrugte? Ja, hy hou daarvan!
    Jou hare is mooi gedoen!
    “Your hair is done prettily!”
    Jou hare is mooi opgeknap!
    Sy kan doen met ‘n haarsny.
    “She can do with a haircut.”
    Sy het ‘n haarsny nodig.“She needs a haircut.”
    Dit sal doen, dankie.
    “That will do, thank you.”
    Dit sal voldoende / genoeg wees, dankie.
    Die katjie kan nie sonder sy kombers doen nie.
    “The kitten cannot do without its blanket.”
    Die katjie kan nie sonder sy kombers klaarkom nie.
    GAAN – “GO” / “GOES”
    Wat kan verkeerd gaan?
    “What can go wrong?”
    Wat kan skeefloop / verkeerd loop?
    Die kinders gaan vir die roomyskarretjie.
    “The children go for the ice cream car.”
    Die kinders pyl / storm op die roomyskarretjie af.
    Hulle gaan sonder koffie vir Lydenstyd.
    “They go without coffee for Lent.”
    Hulle bly sonder koffie vir Lydenstyd.
    Sy het vir my gegaan in die publiek!
    “She had a go at me in public!”

    Note: Do you spot the two Anglicisms here?
    Sy het my ingevlieg / ingeklim in die openbaar!
    HARDE – “HARD”
    Hierdie is die harde feite.
    “These are the hard facts.”
    Hierdie is die moeilike / nugter feite.
    Hulle het ‘n harde lewe.
    “They have a hard life.”
    Hulle ly ‘n swaar lewe.
    My sensei is ‘n harde leermeester. 
    “My sensei is a hard master.”
    My sensei is ‘n veeleisende leermeester.
    Die afskeid is hard op almal.
    “The departure is hard for everyone.”
    Die afskeid is moeilik vir almal.
    Die dief is met harde arbeid gevonnis.
    “The thief was sentenced to hard labor.”
    Die dief is met dwangarbeid gevonnis.
    Die Covid19 pandemie is baie hard op almal.
    “The Covid-19 pandemic is very hard on everyone.”
    Die Covid19 pandemie is baie swaar vir almal.
    Hy het hard geval.
    “He fell hard.”
    Hy het hom disnis geval.

    Two People Sparring in Karate Gis

    My sensei is ‘n veeleisende leermeester. (“My sensei is a hard taskmaster.”)

    HET – Approximate: “HAS” / “HAVE”
    Het jy dit in jou?
    “Do you have it in you?”
    Sit dit in jou?
    Hy het wat dit vat vir hierdie posisie.
    “He has what it takes for this position.”
    Hy is geskik vir hierdie posisie.
    IN – “IN”
    Een in ‘n miljoen
    “One in a million”
    Een uit ‘n miljoen
    Ons gaan trek in twee maande se tyd.
    “We’ll be moving in two months’ time.”
    Ons gaan binne twee maande trek.
    Die vliegtuig is in.
    “The plane is in.”
    Die vliegtuig het aangekom.
    Julle is in vir moeilikheid. / Julle soek vir moeilikheid.
    “You’re looking for trouble.”
    Julle gaan aan die pen ry. / Julle gaan in die moeilikheid beland.
    Maak jou versoek in skrif.
    “Make your request in writing.”
    Stel jou versoek skriftelik.
    Kom in!
    “Come in!”
    Kom binne!
    Hou my ingelig asseblief.
    “Keep me informed please.”
    Hou my op hoogte, asseblief.
    MERK – “MARK”
    Hy’t sy merk gemaak in die lewe.
    “He made his mark in life.”
    Hy het homself onderskei in die lewe.
    Zuma is ‘n gemerkte man.
    “Zuma is a marked man.”
    Zuma is ‘n gebrandmerkte man.
    Daardie is goeie merke vir die eksamen.
    “Those are good marks for the exam.”
    Daardie is goeie punte vir die eksamen.
    PART – “PART”
    Hy speel ‘n part in die onlangse politieke drama.
    “He plays a part in the current political drama.”
    Hy speel ‘n rol in die onlangse politiek drama.
    Dis goed in parte.
    “It’s good in parts.”
    Dis gedeeltelik goed.
    Die parte vir my motorfiets is skaars.
    “The parts for my motorbike are rare.”
    Die onderdele vir my motorfiets is skaars.
    Apart daarvan is sy ‘n oulike vrou.
    “Apart from that, she’s a nice woman.”
    Afgesien daarvan is sy ‘n oulike vrou.
    SIEN – “SEE”
    Hy sal nog die dag sien dat …
    “He will see the day that …”
    Hy sal nog die dag belewe dat …
    Laat ek sien.
    “Let me see (about that).”
    Laat ek dink daaroor. Gee my tyd.Lit.
    “Let me think about that. Give me time.””
    Dis ‘n moeilike situasie. Kan sy dit sien?
    “It’s a difficult situation. Can she see that?”
    Dis ‘n moeilike situasie. Kan sy dit verstaan / begryp?
    Sy wou my nie sien nie.
    “She didn’t want to see me.”
    Sy wou my nie ontvang nie.
    Ek gaan die bestuurder sien.
    “I’m going to see the manager.”
    Ek gaan die bestuurder spreek.
    Jy het Afrikaans vinnig opgetel.
    “You picked up Afrikaans quickly.”
    Jy het Afrikaans vinnig aangeleer.
    Die bul tel gewig op.
    “The bull is picking up weight.”
    Die bul sit lyf aan.Literally: “The bull puts on some body.”
    Sal jy die kinders optel by die skool?
    “Would you pick up the kids from school?”
    Sal jy die kinders oplaai by die skool?
    PUNT – “POINT”
    Dis waar tot op ‘n punt.
    “That’s true up to a point.”
    Dis waar tot ‘n mate.
    Maak ‘n punt daarvan ….
    “Make a point of it …”
    Stel jou dit ten doel
    Sy sien my punt.
    “She sees my point.”
    Sy sien my standpunt in.
    Dialoogvoering is haar sterk punt.
    “Dialoguing is her strong point.”
    Sy munt uit in dialoogvoering. / Dialoogvoering is haar talent.
    Jy rammel, kom tot ‘n punt.
    “You’re rattling on, get to the point.”
    Jy rammel, sê wat jy wil sê.Literally:
    “You’re rattling on, say what you want to say.”
    Hy staan uit in sy musiekklas.
    “He is standing out in his music class.”
    Hy blink uit in sy musiekklas.Literally:
    “He is shining out in his music class.”
    Sy kan die reuk nie staan nie.
    “She cannot stand the smell.”
    Sy kan die reuk nie verdra / verduur nie.
    Sal jy staan vir die Parlement?
    “Would you stand for Parliament?”
    Sal jy jou verkiesbaar stel vir die Parlement?
    Die opvoering was uitstaande.
    “The performance was outstanding.”
    Die opvoering was uitstekend.
    VAL – “FALLS”
    Ons planne het deurgeval.
    “Our plans fell through.”
    Ons planne het in duie gestort.
    Val vir versoeking
    “Falls for temptation”
    Swig voor die versoeking.

    A Girl being Tempted with a Slice of Chocolate Cake

    Sy wil swig voor die versoeking. (“She wants to fall for the temptation.”)

    Die emmer skop
    “Kick the bucket”

    This saying means something or someone has died.
    Lepel in die dak steek.
    Literally: “Stick the spoon in the roof.”
    Ek verwag hulle nou enige minuut.
    “I am expecting them any minute now.”
    Ek verwag hulle enige oomblik.
    Hulle gaan ‘n dans hou.
    “They’re going to host a dance.”
    Hulle gaan ‘n dansparty hou.
    Hy studeer wet.
    “He’s studying law..”
    Hy studeer regte.
    Ek woon twee deure van hom af.
    “I live two doors from him.”
    Ek woon twee huise van hom af.
    Daar is ‘n sterk familie ooreenkoms.
    “There is a strong family resemblance.”
    Daar is sterk familietrekke.
    Ons finansiële posisie is goed.
    “Our financial position is good.”

    (Not to be confused with the accounting term “financial position.”)
    Ons geldelike omstandighede is goed.
    Die gemors is haar fout
    “The mess is her fault.”
    Die gemors is haar skuld.
    Sy spel is uitstaande.
    “His playing is outstanding.”
    Sy spel is uitstekend.
    Sy is af siek.
    “She’s off sick.”
    Sy is afwesig as gevolg van siekte.
    Die tyd hardloop uit.
    “Time is running out.”
    Die tyd word min.
    Dit spreek nie rerig die probleem aan nie.
    “That doesn’t really address the problem.”
    Dit hanteer nie werklik die probleem nie.
    Ek skrik my byna dood.
    “I nearly died with fright.”
    Ek skrik my boeglam.
    Bloed is dikker as water.
    “Blood is thicker than water.”
    Die hemp is nader as die rok.

    Two Men in a Basketball Game

    Hy speel uitstekend. (Literally: “He is playing outstandingly.”)

    Afrikaans has a lot of Anglicisms! As said, they remain a point of contention among linguists. Now that we’ve covered just a few phrases, here are some individual Anglicized words you should know. 

    addisioneel (“additional”)bykomend
    admireer (“admire”)bewonder
    akkommodasie (“accommodation”)verblyf
    akkommodeer (“accommodate”)insluit; inneem; aanpas
    aktiveer (“activate”)ontketen; aan die gang sit; veroorsaak; aansit
    analiseer / analise (“analyze” / “analysis”)ontleed / ontleding
    area (“area”)gebied
    arrestasie (“an arrest”)inhegtenisname
    detail (“detail”)besonderhede
    braaf (“brave”)dapper
    valstande (“false teeth”)kunsgebit
    opbottel (“to bottle up”)opkrop

    A Large Resort with a Pool

    Vakansie veblyf (“Holiday accommodation”)

    3 – Loan Translations

    A common mistake is to label any Afrikaans word that sounds English as an Anglicism. But it’s important to remember that Afrikaans and English share the same Indo-European or West-Germanic roots. Therefore, some words sound and look like Anglicisms but are actually legitimate, native Afrikaans vocabulary. We call these “loan translations,” and they are often derived from French or Dutch. 

    Boekmerk“Book mark”
    Broodlyn“Bread line”
    Piesangrepubliek“Banana republic”
    Diefwering“Burglar proofing”
    Kougom“Chewing gum”
    Maalvleis“Minced meat”
    Rommelverkoping“Jumble sale”
    Woefkardoes“Doggy bag”

    Minced Beef

    Hierdie is lae-vet maalvleis. (“This is low-fat mince.”)

    Afrikaans Words Used in English

    This will be fun! 

    South African English expressions are as peppered with Afrikaans loanwords, loan translations, interjections, and slang as the other way around. Most Afrikaners are bilingual, especially city-dwellers. 

    The following list is not exhaustive, but we have included the most popular Afrikaans loanwords that South African English speakers use. 

    AfrikaansThis is the language of the Afrikaner people from South Africa.
    ApartheidLiterally: “Apart-ness”

    This refers to the very strict racial segregation policies as enforced by the previous South African regime.
    Ag manLiterally: “Aw man”

    This is a common interjection that can depict…almost any mood! 
    BiltongApproximate: “Beef jerky”

    This is dried meat, usually beef though it can also be ostrich or game. It is a very popular snack among South Africans.
    BoetLiterally: “Brother”

    This is often a casual term of endearment among close male friends. However, in certain situations, it can be seen as patronizing. Don’t ever address your boss as Boet, for instance!
    BoerLiterally: “Farmer”

    This usually refers to an Afrikaans-speaking South African, usually Caucasian and sometimes politically conservative and racist.
    BoereworsLiterally: “Farmer’s sausage”

    This is a unique South African sausage we love to cook over the coals.
    DoosLiterally: “Box”

    If the speaker uses this word to refer to another person, it’s an Afrikaans expletive that means the same as “idiot,” “twat,” or “prat,” but more vulgar. It is added here for identification purposes only—it’s not to be used in polite, respectful, and civil conversation!
    DofLiterally: “Dim”

    This is a derogatory pronoun that describes a slow-witted person.
    Dop / DoppieLiterally: “Screwtop”

    This is slang for an alcoholic drink. 
    DroëworsLiterally: “Dried sausage”

    This refers specifically to dried boerewors, a cousin of the Portuguese chourico or the Polish cabanossi. However, it’s only made with beef, ostrich, or game, not pork. 
    FynbosLiterally: “Fine bush”

    This flowery plant family is found only in South Africa, mostly along the coast of the Eastern and Western Cape provinces. The “fine” refers to the shape of the leaves.
    JolThis means the same thing as “play,” but it usually refers to having fun.
    KraalThis refers to an African rural village or an enclosure for cattle.
    KoeksistersLiterally: “Cake sisters”

    This is a traditional, very popular Afrikaans confectionary that comprises pieces of twisted, deep-fried dough that’s been dipped in syrup. 
    KoppieLiterally: “Cup” or “Small head”

    It means “cup” / “small head” only in Afrikaans. Yet, in both Afrikaans and English, it also refers to an African monadnock, or a low-ish hill.
    LekkerThis is a slang interjection that means “tasty,” “good, and “nice.”
    MieliesThis is corn on the cob or maize. It’s traditionally steamed or boiled as is, and enjoyed with salt and some butter.
    RooibosLiterally: “Red bush”

    This is an indigenous shrub from the fynbos family. Its leaves are used to brew a very popular tea with many health properties.
    RondavelThis is a round hut with a thatched roof.
    VeldIt is very close in meaning to “field” but it also refers to African vegetation.
    VoetstootsLiterally: “Push with foot”

    This is a term used in business that means “as is.” It usually implies that there’s no guarantee, and can sometimes also mean “no returns.”
    YstervarkiesLiterally: “Iron piglets”

    These are very similar to lamingtons and are a huge favorite at the tea table.

    Corn on the Cob or Mielies

    Ons eet mielies vir aandete vanaand. (“We’re having mielies for supper tonight.”)

    Well, that’s about it! We hope you learned a lot and enjoyed this article. Can you now translate the text your imaginary South African friend sent you? Write your interpretation in the comments below!

    When studying any language, it’s important to learn and recognize its most commonly used loanwords.

    For instance, the word lapa in the message is a Sotho loanword commonly used in many of South Africa’s languages, including Afrikaans and South African English. It refers to a building construction described by one manufacturer as “a timber frame crafted from African hardwood poles supporting a genuine and fully thatched roof.” Lapas come in different shapes and sizes, and many Afrikaners’ homes have one close to the outside pool. It usually forms part of the entertainment area. 

    Because a lapa is mentioned, this indicates that the event will be held exclusively outside. This could be important info depending on the season, because it could hint that the weather will be cool and you should dress warmly. 

    Learn Much More Than English Words in Afrikaans with AfrikaansPod101!

    When you sign up for a Lifetime Account, you get multiple benefits immediately at your fingertips! You’ll gain access to thousands of lessons and tools tailored to meet you at your level of Afrikaans proficiency so you can start right away.

    We provide topic-related, culture-specific Afrikaans vocabulary lists (like this 100 Core Afrikaans Word List) as well as easily accessible lessons that introduce vocab in both writing and audio recordings. This ensures you learn the language as it’s pronounced by native Afrikaans speakers.

    You’ll also gain access to the following, and so much more:

    The value is simply unbeatable!

    If you’re serious about your learning, we have several learning options to suit your pocket and your language learning needs. Take a look at our three different learning plans, each one affordable while still providing great value for your money. 

    Happy Afrikaans learning!

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    A South African Culture Guide for Students of Afrikaans!


    In dictionaries, “culture” is defined as the ideas, customs, and social behaviors of a particular society or group of people. These different cultures were all shaped, over many centuries, by people’s shared experiences as natives of a specific country. 

    What is South African culture like? This is not an easy question to answer! Not surprising, really—looking at our demographics, we see that the official South African population comprises approximately 60 million people with very diverse origins, languages, cultures, and religions. For instance, we have 11 official languages!

    What is your country’s culture like? Share with us in the comments.

    At, we celebrate diversity because we understand that global citizenship is real! Developed countries, in particular, are melting pots of many nationalities and cultures. We tailor our lessons and our teaching approach accordingly. 

    With that in mind, let’s delve into the culture of South Africa together!

    Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans Table of Contents
    1. The Importance of Understanding Afrikaans Culture in South Africa
    2. Afrikaans Culture in South Africa – It’s Complicated
    3. South African Culture
    4. Traditional Holidays
    5. Immerse Yourself in South African Culture with AfrikaansPod101!

    1. The Importance of Understanding Afrikaans Culture in South Africa

    Having a grasp of the diversity of South African culture is key to having a good experience when you visit! An overview of the Afrikaans culture in South Africa will go a long way toward helping you understand our people as a whole. There are plenty of overlaps among our numerous cultures. It is the different South African cultures that make up our unique Rainbow Nation, a group identity that South Africans are still busy whittling into shape.

    Knowing the quirks particular to a nation’s people is similar to getting to know another person well while building a relationship with them. Therefore, applying good relationship skills to this process will foster exactly that—good relationships. Here’s why this is important globally:

    1. As mentioned, we often find plenty of similarities among our cultures. These similarities emphasize the common bonds we all share. In turn, this makes for a sense of global community and is important for such things as trade, tourism, and survival (as the recent COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated).
    1. Still, our cultures are also very different from one another. Differences keep us and the world interesting and unique. But even more importantly, learning how to deal with them in relationships builds character! For instance, when differences are very pronounced, do we exercise our “better angels” of patience, respect, acceptance, and tolerance, or do we lapse into an easier (but ultimately alienating) “us vs. them” narrative?
    1. Embracing your own culture gives you a sense of identity and a place in the world.

    2. Afrikaans Culture in South Africa – It’s Complicated

    What is Afrikaans culture? Well, the answer is not as simple as many sources (such as this Wikipedia page) would have us believe. Ask any Afrikaans-speaking South African how they would characterize an “Afrikaner,” and the replies will vary greatly depending on who you’re talking to.

    The simple definition involves only one criterion. It posits the Afrikaans language as the touchstone of Afrikaner culture and nationality. By estimation, over five million people in the country speak the language as their mother tongue.

    People Holding Each Other’s Wrists in a Circle of Unity

    But not all South Africans agree with this simplistic view. Hundreds of thousands of South Africans who speak Afrikaans as a first language (especially from the Northern and Western Cape provinces) describe themselves only as “Coloreds,” or people of color. You will be hard-pressed to find any of them identifying as Afrikaners.

    South Africa’s political history is the backdrop to this attitude. It is most often the politically conservative natives who prefer to define Afrikaners as a group of one ethnicity (Caucasian/White), and of Dutch origin. Many South Africans of all races and languages find this definition limiting and offensive. 

    This is because its criteria are antiquated. They date back to an era early in the twentieth century, when a group of Afrikaans-speaking, white settlers finally took rule of the country. This group referred to themselves as Boere (“Farmers”), collectively the proud Boerenasie (literally: “Farmer nation”), and they remained in rule for almost a century. Yet, those who now call themselves the Boerenasie comprise only a small group of conservative, openly racist, white, Afrikaans-speaking nationals.

    Children of Different Ethnicities Standing Together

    Many disillusioned Afrikaners (mostly younger and white) vehemently oppose this myopic view of their nationality. The white Afrikaners’ political history is neither a pleasant nor a flattering one, and many white Afrikaans natives choose to distance themselves from it.

    This drives to the heart of a complex, painful matter—national identity, with Afrikaans as its symbol. The topic is also one of great reach and depth, which is beyond the scope of this article. 

    So, for brevity’s sake, we’re going to focus on only one criterion for Afrikaans culture: the language!

    3. South African Culture

    Let’s start by qualifying that a large portion of South African society is Western-based and heavily influenced by European and American cultures, irrespective of our language or ethnicity. This means that most South Africans observe Western customs and habits, and our basic societal structures are similar to those of many Western countries.

    The culture is also shaped by South Africa’s social structures and people’s living conditions—the largest part of which is unfortunately still abominable. But as humans do everywhere in the world, we strive to overcome our circumstances by finding beauty in the rubble and hope despite adversity. 

    3.1 Family

    Family of Four Watching TV Together on the Couch

    In South African culture, family life can vary from one household to another. But one thing is for sure: Afrikaners are big on family, no matter what size or shape it takes!

    Hierarchy is important in the more conservative homes. The man is head of the house, even if he’s not the primary breadwinner. Also, children are expected to respect adults and their elders, an expectation that is often enforced with strict discipline. Corporal punishment is (fortunately) unlawful. 

    In the cities, this family model tends to be more fluid and the hierarchy more relaxed. Many women have also become breadwinners out of necessity, and women’s rights in the country are of the most progressive in the world.

    3.2 Religion

    Young Man with Bible on His Lap Praying in Church

    The South African Constitution, globally considered one of the most progressive and liberal constitutions, guarantees everyone the freedom to practice any religion.

    Christianity is our country’s main religion, with the three top denominations being the Protestant Dutch Reformed Church, the Zion Christian Churches, and the Catholic Church.

    Other religions include Islam, Hinduism, African Traditional Religion, and Judaism. In the last national census that included religion, approximately five million South Africans described themselves as “non-religious,” and over three million stated no religious affiliation.

    Those Afrikaners who are religious tend to be Christian, and their faith often has great prominence in their lives.

    3.3 Social & Work

    Mixed Ethnicity Young People Having A Good Time

    Afrikaners have a distinct basic temperament that underpins all their behavior. Drawing on their inherited Dutch heritage, this collective character tends to be pragmatic with a down-to-earth, courageous approach to life. Sometimes this approach comes across as blunt, or even tactless—no pussyfooting for this lot! 

    Almost paradoxically, Afrikaners are also kindhearted, generous, accepting, and community-builders. Especially in rural areas, we take care of one another and often participate in charitable community work. The plight of children, in particular, gets a lot of attention in the non-profit sector. 

     Our British heritage ensures that, while socially polite and welcoming, we are private and take time to warm up to strangers. When you become part of our circle, however, you’ve made friends for life (and some very loyal ones, too!).

    South African culture in the workplace is defined by Afrikaners’ willingness to pull their weight. That colleague always leaving the office last on a Friday afternoon? Probably an Afrikaner. Most are known to be reliable, loyal, and hard workers, and we value the same in employers and employees alike.

    3.4 Art

    Pablo Picasso famously said: “Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” 

    Art is “untrue” in that it is simply an image of the world, and not the world itself. Yet, like a mirror, it does reflect our world accurately and truthfully back to us. Some South African artists give a voice to what urgently needs fixing in their communities or personal lives, while others showcase the ideal and our country’s beauty.

    – Painters and Sculptors

    One such artist is Afrikaans-speaking painter and sculptor Willie Bester from the Western Cape. He turns items sourced from rubbish dumps, which he sees as symbolic of his community, into messages of hope and love. Some of his pieces also take the form of bleakly beautiful reminders of the still-unredeemed.

    From the previous century, Maria Magdalena (Maggie) Laubser was an Impressionist painter and printmaker, also hailing from the Western Cape province. Her artworks, initially criticized, eventually became widely accepted and internationally acknowledged for their often pastoral beauty.

    Canvas with Paint, Paint Brushes and Palette

    – Music

    German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer called music the “food of the soul.” He probably didn’t mean elevator music, but even this must touch the soul in an enigmatic way or it wouldn’t exist! 

    In Afrikaans culture, music is important. Over the decades, Afrikaans music has evolved to become a platform of political activism, but it tells so much more about us than our political battles. 

    Our collective musical oeuvre boasts multiple genres, some of which are rather innovative.

    Some Afrikaans rappers are quite controversial. The most prominent is probably one of South Africa’s most famous exports: Die Antwoord. This male and female hip-hop duo were previously married and have a child together. Their musical style was described as revolutionary when they first broke into the hip-hop scene via YouTube in 2010. Their songs’ lyrics, often a mix of English and Afrikaans, are angry, explicit, and vulgar, and their videos are filled with disturbing and dystopian imagery. Reactionary art cannot get more in-your-face than this, so be warned—this is not for the faint-hearted!

    Rapping is not renowned for its gentle tunes and lyrics, but that doesn’t mean the genre is always harsh. For instance, Die Happy Song (“The Happy Song”) from renowned Afrikaans Capetonian rapper, Hemelbesem (literally: “Heaven Broom”), really warms the heart. It addresses social issues of very poor communities, but with a hopeful angle.

    Opposite on the shock-value spectrum is Spoegwolf (literally: “Spit Wolf”), an alternative rock band that made national music history in 2019 by becoming the first South African artists to reach #1 on the Apple Music Album charts. Don’t let the sometimes-rowdy tunes fool you—the lyrics, which are mostly pure Afrikaans, raise the spirit and nourish the heart while keeping it real.

    – Acting and Directing 

    South Africa has produced a good number of Hollywood screen-successes over the years. Some notable names include Charlize Theron, Trevor Noah, and Lesley-Ann Brandt, all of whom speak fluent Afrikaans!

    Gorgeous ex-model Lesley-Ann Brandt boasts an impressive on-screen repertoire, including roles in big productions like the TV series Spartacus. This former Capetonian’s most famous performance so far was as Mazikeen, a feisty demon-with-a-heart in the hugely popular FOX TV series Lucifer.

    Retro Movie Reel

    An actress-producer who needs no introduction is Academy Award-winning Charlize Theron, originally hailing from Benoni, Gauteng province. This versatile artist is as comfortable in action-hero gear as she is in serious character roles. In 2003, she won the Best Actress Oscar for portraying the U.S. serial killer Eileen Wuornos in Monster, and she was nominated for another one for her role in North Country (2005). She also owns a production company and is currently one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses.

    Primetime Emmy Award-winner Trevor Noah is another internationally renowned South African export. Originally from a very poor community near Johannesburg, Trevor beat the odds and rose to fame for his remarkable talents as a satirist and comedian. He was performing to full-house international audiences long before he took over as host on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show in 2015, a position he still held at the time of this writing.

    Also worth mentioning are two former South African directors, Gavin Hood (Academy Award-winner) and Neill Blomkamp (Academy Award nominee). Gavin gained fame for directing the movie Tsotsi, based on the novel with the same title by S.A. playwright, Athol Fugard. In 2005, this film won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for a Golden Globe the following year. 

    In 2009, Neill directed the critically acclaimed sci-fi film District 9, an adaptation of his earlier short film Alive in Joburg. The film was nominated for the Academy Award Best Picture in 2010.

    – Literature

    Afrikaans is an expressive, deeply emotional language that can really stir the heart. If your aim is to learn a people’s true spirit, mastering their language and reading their literature is one of the best ways to do so.

    South Africa boasts two Nobel Prize-winning English authors. But we also like to brag about our other internationally acclaimed authors who write (or wrote) mostly in Afrikaans.

    Bookshop with Bestseller Stand in the Foreground

    Some notable wordsmiths include:

    • Deon Meyer, an ex-journalist who is making it huge as a fiction writer with his politically based thrillers. His work has been translated into many other languages and provided the fodder for at least one movie and a TV series.
    • Marita Van Der Vyver, also an ex-reporter, first wrote books for young adults before winning several awards for her first adult novel, Griet skryf ‘n sprokie (“Griet Writes a Fairy Tale”).
    • Ronelda Kamfer is a young poet from Cape Town who has already won several prestigious national awards for her work.
    • Adam Small was a 20th- and 21st-century political activist, writer, and poet whose work beautifully and poignantly captured the Colored people’s struggle for democracy. Also having won prestigious awards, Small’s work has been translated into 20 different languages, and even posthumously this writer has a cult following. 

    If you’re a serious student of Afrikaans, make reading Afrikaans literature your aim! And allow AfrikaansPod101 to help you get there, starting with the Afrikaans alphabet, of course.

    3.5 Food

    A Selection of Foods including Nuts, Eggs, and Fish

    Eating is a universally wonderful activity that unites communities. South Africans love to gather outdoors (we have a fantastic climate for this) and around a fire. South African cuisine is exceptionally diverse—we’re not called the Rainbow Nation for nothing! 

    Of particular interest is the South African-made sweet liquor concoction called Amarula Don Pedro

    Don Pedro cocktails allegedly hail from Blouberg Strand (“Blue Mountain Beach”), Cape Town. They were first mixed in the 70s, by chef Danny Ferris of the Bellinzona restaurant. Legend has it that Danny was inspired by a Scottish whiskey maker during a trip to Scotland, who added a shot to ice cream as part of a whiskey-tasting demonstration. Most South Africans know and love Don Pedro cocktails, especially for dessert. The recipe involves a decadent mix of whiskey, double cream, and ice cream. In recent years, whiskey is sometimes replaced with locally brewed Amarula, a creamy dessert liquor.

    South African culture and food go hand in hand, so let’s have a look at a few more signature dishes:

    • Braais (“Barbeques” – Nope, it’s not quite the same!)
    • Bobotie (A Malay-based curried mince dish.)
    • Boerewors (Literally: “farmers sausage” – a traditional South African sausage we love to barbeque.)
    • Biltong en droë wors (Droë wors = “dried sausage.” English approximate for biltong = “jerky beef.” However, we make biltong with beef, game, or ostrich meat. Fish biltong is called bokkoms.)
    • Koeksisters or koesisters (Literally: “cake sisters” – a confectionary of deep-fried dough that’s sometimes braided, dipped in sweet syrup.) 
    • Malvapoeding (Literally: “marshmallow dessert” – somewhat similar to the beloved British sticky toffee pudding, but some say it’s better.)
    • Melktert (Literally: “milk tart” – a creamy cinnamon pastry or confection, very similar to the British custard pie or the Portuguese pastéis de nata = “cream puffs”.)
    • Pannekoek (Literally: “pancake” – similar to the French crêpe, but usually served with cinnamon-sugar and a dash of lemon juice.)
    • Potjiekos (Literally: “little-pot food” – similar to stew, but different.)

    4. Traditional Holidays

    What a country’s people commemorate says a lot about their culture. As is the case with most developing countries in the world, South African history and culture are darkly dappled, marked with both glorious victories and horrible battles lost. However, we still love to commemorate how strong we are and how far we’ve come.

    Beautiful African Woman in Traditional Gear.

    5. Immerse Yourself in South African Culture with AfrikaansPod101!

    We take pride in presenting you with culturally relevant, up-to-date Afrikaans lessons with many free resources.

    These include:

    Choose the enrollment option that best suits your needs and join us immediately for a language learning experience like no other! 

    About the author: Christa Davel is an experienced bilingual (Afrikaans and English) freelance writer and editor, and is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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    The Best South African Foods (With Recipes To Try!)


    Food, food, food—who doesn’t love it?

    Eating not only sustains us, but it’s also one of the most pleasant and gratifying sensory experiences we can engage in. No wonder enjoying meals together is a favorite occasion around the world. 

    South Africans are no different, of course. Our cuisine is diverse and we love getting together to eat, drink, and enjoy each other’s company. So, join us now for a wonderfully tasty investigation into South African foods!

    Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in Afrikaans Table of Contents
    1. Why Should You Know About South African Foods?
    2. South African Foods
    3. Typical But Lesser-Known Afrikaans Foods
    4. Afrikaans Food Vocabulary & Phrases
    5. Get Cooking in Afrikaans with AfrikaansPod101!

    1. Why Should You Know About South African Foods?

    Traveling, working, or planning to stay? After learning our language, few things would prepare you better for this adventure than getting to know our country’s people! This needn’t be a difficult task—studying our cuisine, for instance, can be helpful. It certainly depicts something about our collective identity and temperament.

      A. South African food is just as diverse as the country’s people. We house more than eleven nationalities in our Rainbow Country, which makes for a smorgasbord of variety. Never a dull moment!
      B. Our food also tends to be exceptionally rich in flavor, and sometimes very spicy. Some of the Malay- and Indian-influenced dishes, in particular, are not afraid to burn! Are we a “spicy” lot as a people? Well, looking at our history, we probably are. However, it’s also noticeable that, in our relatively short history, South Africans have never had it easy. At any given time, a part of the population was suffering some gruelling hardship or another, and today the country is still in the process of fixing that. Our history caused us to be tenacious, strong-willed, and highly opinionated. This means that we sometimes polarize. Our cuisine reflects this!
      C. That said, we’re not a bunch of fire-eaters at heart. Despite our occasional wildness, we ultimately prefer temperate to terrible. Looking at South Africa’s political history, for instance, it’s clear that we tend to avoid cataclysmic, all-destructive revolutions (sometimes just barely, but still!). Perhaps, due to the inhumane Boer wars with their concentration camps as well as British Field Marshal Kitchener’s ‘scorched-earth policy,’ we collectively abhor utter destruction. Our democracy and rectification of social injustices are still works in progress, but we’ve always been able to avoid becoming a truly demolished nation. So, while often strong and adventurous, our cuisine is not a difficult taste to acquire. You’re guaranteed to be won over by most of the flavors and textures—just as you will be by the country’s people!
      D. Need an easy conversation-starter with your Afrikaans friends? Well, South African food is it. Especially if you’ve tried some of our dishes and can praise their excellence, you will win over many a host’s heart with sincere compliments. Read on til the end for vocab and phrases that will impress your Afrikaans friends (or your AfrikaansPod101 tutor!).

    As mentioned, South African cuisine is marked by its vast variety of influences. This is due to the many nationalities that have found their home in our country over the centuries. However, we won’t try to cover every culinary influence in this article; rather, we’ll focus on the main staples and a few lesser-known Afrikaans dishes.

    2. South African Foods

    Each population group’s cuisine has its distinct flavors and delicacies. Over time, many of these have cross-pollinated to become collective property.

    The pre-colonial South African diet was mainly characterized by cooked grains, fermented milk, and stewed meat, supplemented by vegetables and fruit. These dietary trends have not disappeared and still form the base of countless South African recipes. Yet, one thing is sure: any South African foods list would be remiss if it omitted braaivleis (“barbeque meat”) and grain-based pap (“porridge”)!

    A Group of People Having a Braai or Barbeque

    Suid Afrikaners is lief vir braai! (“South Africans love barbequing!”)

    Braai-ing (“barbequing”) doesn’t need any introduction, as it’s a common cooking method worldwide and is discussed on nearly every website dealing with South African foods. Not to downplay its significance, though! For us, to braai together is as much a social custom as it is a way to prepare food. Read about the history, rituals, and paraphernalia of the Afrikaner barbeque on Wikipedia’s informative page

    Our braaivleis (“barbeque meat”) is almost always accompanied by pap and gravy or tomato relish, but that’s not the only way we enjoy it.

    2.1 Pap (“Porridge” / “Grits”)

    Very similar to American grits, the well-loved South African food pap still graces many tables in a great variety of dishes. Made of maize meal (or cornmeal), it’s usually white in color with a stiff and fluffy (or runny and soft) texture, and it’s a satisfying accompaniment to…well, almost any food. 

    South Africans love pap. We have it…

    • …with sugar, milk, and a small lump of butter for breakfast.
    • …as a fermented drink popularly called mageu.
    • …in a delectable, enigmatic paptert (“porridge pie”), another braai side dish.
    • …as an accompaniment to kaiings (leftover pork-meat or sheep’s tail fried until crispy—to die for!).

    Yes, pap is quite versatile in its utility. And these are only a few of the recipes we’ve created over the centuries!

    A Glass of Milk

    Thick, fermented drink being poured in a glass

    Pap Recipes

    Want to make this simple South African dish at home? 

    Watch slick food vlogger Funi teach the ins and outs of cooking this traditional, authentically South African food. 

    Also consider this easy recipe for a deliciously cheesy paptert, which is often a serious rival for the meat at braais! It’s not only moreish, but also very filling—so try to keep those portions small. 

    Or try out this recipe for an uncommon but tasty and attractive treat: the spicy pap bake. Replace the tinned chakalaka relish (another traditional South African food) by making your own. Siba Mtongana is the queen of chakalaka with this recipe, but it’s best to omit the tinned baked beans for the pap bake recipe. Warning: This is a pretty spicy dish! Obviously, you can adapt the spices to taste.

    But hey, we’re not done with maize yet! Read on for another creative use of this vegetable under the Typical Afrikaans Dishes heading below. Next, though, is another traditional, wildly popular South African food that nearly every culture in the country has adopted and adapted: potjiekos (literally, “small-pot food”).

    2.2 Potjiekos (“Small-Pot Food”)

    South Africans love to gather around a fire for social meetings. And when we’re not braai-ing (“barbequing”), we make a potjie. To qualify as authentic potjiekos, this dish must comply with four rules: 

    • it must be prepared in a cast iron pot;
    • it must be cooked on the glowing embers of an outside fire; 
    • it only gets stirred right before serving; and
    • it usually takes a loooong time to cook (we’re talking hours here!).

    A Pot beside A Fire

    ‘n Potjie op die kole (“a little pot on the embers”)

    As to what you want to cook in that pot—it’s entirely up to you! As said, different cultures have appropriated this cooking method; in some rural communities, this is how meals are prepared every day.

    Over the years, some very outlandish potjies have seen the light of day, but the traditional ones are meat-and-veg dishes. And none can beat them!

    Potjie Recipes

    Potjiekos is a versatile dish, but it’s especially superb for cooking traditionally tough meats. The meat in these recipes will not only melt in your mouth, but also be juicier than you’ve ever enjoyed it.

    For the basics on how to properly cook potjiekos, visit the informative Taste of Africa site. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the method—preparing food like this is an art! Still, we recommend you give it a try as this dish will likely steal your heart. 

    Wow your large family with this traditional lamb potjie in a tomato base. Slowly cooking the meat brings out its natural flavor and sweetness, which is deliciously conferred to the rest of the ingredients. Even the most stubborn, anti-vegetable carnivores are guaranteed to gobble up the veggies! The lamb can be replaced with mutton, but the meat’s cooking time will likely be longer.

    Indian cuisine exerts a large influence on South African foods, as over a million Indians have made South Africa their home. That’s why we think you should consider this Indian-style recipe for a chicken curry potjie. Cooking this way allows for optimal development of all the flavors from the fragrant Indian spices. But this isn’t the only thing behind this dish’s seductive powers. Cooking in cast iron pots lends the ingredients a unique and recognizable flavor—you may never want to eat chicken any other way again!

    Lots of Spices

    speserye om by ‘n potjie te voeg (“spices that can be added to a potjie“)

    For an unusual pairing of seafood and chicken, consider this Surf and Turf potjie. The dish is prepared with rice already added and makes for a complete and devastatingly flavorsome meal.

    Remember the outlandish versions we mentioned? Well, the following recipe is definitely so for traditional potjie-lovers, who are all carnivorous. Yet we added it to this recipe list because it’s guaranteed that vegetables have never tasted this good. Try local braai-master Jan Scannel’s vegetarian curry potjie to enchant your taste buds.

    A Spicy Dish being Cook

    tradisionele potjiekos (“traditional potjiekos“)

    Since this site is about Afrikaans, let’s now look at a few dishes the Afrikaners love in particular. We’re big on pap and potjiekos, of course, but the following dishes are unique to Afrikaner tables.

    3. Typical But Lesser-Known Afrikaans Foods

    Searching the Internet for Afrikaans foods draws up many lists that tend to comprise the same fare. Glance here, for instance, to get a pretty comprehensive list of South African foods. But there are plenty of traditional South African dishes that are rarely heard of outside the country. For example, a dish that’s not often mentioned but still commonly loved is melkkos (“milk food”).

    3.1 Melkkos (“Milk Food”)

    Melkkos is said to have developed from a thick Malaysian drink called bubur lambuk (“special porridge”), which is traditionally enjoyed to break the Islam fasting month of Ramadan. The Cape-Malays call the drink “boeber.” Traditionally made with sago, vermicelli, and sugar, it’s flavored with cardamom, cinnamon, and rose water. Similar drinks and puddings are popular around Asian and African countries, India, and other regions.


    Geur melkkos met kaneelsuiker. (“Flavor melkkos with cinnamon sugar.”)

    In Afrikaner homes, though, this dish is prepared a lot more simply. Melkkos is a hugely comforting and satisfyingly sweet, creamy porridge without any religious significance. Originally served as a dessert or pudding by the Afrikaner Boere (“Farmers”), it later became a meal in its own right. Kids adore it, and it’s relatively quick and easy to make.

    Melkkos’ taste and creamy texture is very similar to the well-known (and beloved!) melktert (“milk tart”). Melktert, however, is not runny, is usually served cold, and tends to be much sweeter than melkkos. It’s also served as a dessert or tea-accompaniment rather than a meal.

    This is an easy melkkos recipe you can make at home, just as it’s made and served in most Afrikaans homes. Adjust the amount of sugar and cinnamon to taste.

    The next item on our South African food list is a very popular and commonly enjoyed Afrikaans tea with some superhero health properties.

    3.2 Rooibostee (“Red Bush Tea”)

    Fynbos or “fine bush” is a vegetation unique to South Africa, found mostly in the Western and Eastern Cape regions. Fynbos has a large degree of biodiversity, with rooibos (“red bush”) being a member of one of its plant families.

    Rooibos leaves are used to make an herbal tea characterized by a beautiful red color (hence the name), and a distinct, sweet flavor. 

    We love this beverage not only for its tastiness, but also because it’s very healthy. In fact, few things soothe colic-y and allergic babies as well as black rooibostee (“red bush tea”)! It’s high in antioxidants and there’s even evidence that it’s good for heart health (though more clinical study is needed).

    Red Bush Tea

    Rooibos tea leaves

    Rooibostee is prepared like any other tea, by steeping it in just-boiled water for a few minutes. It’s taken with or without milk and sugar or honey and lemon.

    However, it’s also a firm winner as an iced tea! Look, for instance, at this recipe with spices and fruit juice, ingredients which add to the tea’s health properties. Kids love its smooth, sweet taste and it’s certainly a perfect replacement for sugar-loaded fizzy drinks. Experiment by adding fresh herbs (mint is a favorite) or fruit (such as apples) to a pot of hot rooibostee. Let it cool down, refrigerate, and enjoy!

    Rooibostee is also used to flavor food and it’s become a gourmet favorite of late. For very healthy snacks, for instance, try this delicious rooibos gummy recipe. Or change breakfast forever with this rich but super-healthy overnight rooibos and yoghurt chia porridge.

    But that’s not all, folks! Your skin loves this tea, too. Rooibos extract forms the basis of a popular local skincare product that caters especially for sensitive skin. However, you can make your own rooibos toner in a jiffy! Brew some as usual and allow it to cool down, decant it into a clean container, and there you have it: soothing, brightening skin toner for daily use. Keep it in the fridge and prepare a fresh batch every week.

    A Smiling Woman

    Hou jou vel gesond met rooibostee. (“Keep your skin healthy with rooibostee.”)

    Rooibostee is particularly excellent for soothing acne and brightening a dull complexion. If the toner forms a reddish film when dry, just rinse your face with water before moisturizing. 

    Do you have raccoon-eyes due to stress or after a too-long night? No problem! Soak two cotton pads with the refrigerated tea, squeeze out any excess, and place them on your closed eyelids for a few minutes. You won’t believe the difference! 

    Another of the tea’s uncommon uses is making rooibos wine. Here, its wood replaces oakwood during the maturation process of the wine. It gives red wines a very unique, but distinctly rooibos, flavor.

    3.3 Soet Mieliebrood / “Sweet Cornbread”

    Nope, we haven’t forgotten the promised maize/corn recipe! 

    Us Afrikaners love our regular family dinners as well as watching major sports events together, and this almost always calls for a braai (“barbeque”). Rugby or football matches mysteriously seem much enhanced by braaivleis (“barbeque meat”) and this bread! A staple of authentic South African cuisine, it’s definitely for the sweet-toothed and makes an extremely popular pre-meal snack to soak up the (inevitable) alcohol in the stomach.

    Soet mieliebrood (“sweet cornbread”) is close, but not 100% similar, to its American cousin with the same name.

    Many other South African cultures have appropriated this easy bread recipe. This particular one is for baking in the oven, but seasoned braai-chefs love to bake it directly on the coals.


     Corn on the cob

    4. Afrikaans Food Vocabulary & Phrases

    Now that you’re good and hungry for the must-try South African foods we covered, it’s time to take the next step. The following vocab and phrases will enhance your Afrikaans delivery in restaurants and at parties. 

    4.1 South African Food Vocabulary

    1. bobotie
    2. biltong (approximate: “beef jerky” – dried beef)
    3. beskuit (“rusks”)
    4. boerewors (literally: “Boere sausage”)
    5. frikkadelle (“meat balls”)
    6. hoenderpastei (“chicken pie”)
    7. koeksisters (literally: “cake sisters” – sweet, syrupy pastries)
    8. malvapoeding (literally: “marshmallow pudding” – cake-like dessert with sweet sauce)
    9. pampoenkoekies (“pumpkin fritters”)
    10. skilpadjies (literally: “small tortoises” – minced lamb’s liver wrapped in caul fat, barbequed)

    4.2 South African Food Phrases

    Waiter Offering Something to a Couple in a Restaurant

    in die restaurant (“in the restaurant”)

    4.2.1 In the restaurant

    • Mag ek die spyskaart sien, asseblief? (“May I see the menu, please?”)
    • Het julle ‘n wynlys? (“Do you have a wine list?”)
    • Wat kan jy aanbeveel? / Wat stel jy voor? (“What do you recommend?”)
    • Ek verkies vegetariese kos. (“I prefer vegetarian food.”) 
    • Brand hierdie baie erg? (“Does this burn a lot?” / “Is this very spicy?”)
    • Watter dis is julle spesialiteit? (“Which dish is your specialty?”)
    • Wat is julle spesiale dis vir vandag? (“What is your special dish of the day?”)
    • Ek sal die wildsvleis probeer. (“I will try the game meat.”)
    • Ek wil hierdie een hê, asseblief. (“I want this one, please.”)
    • Kan ons apart betaal, asseblief? (“Could we pay separately, please?”)

    4.2.2 At a party or private dinner

    • Hierdie dis is fantasties! (“This dish is fantastic!”)
    • Die slaaisous is heerlik. (“The salad dressing is delicious.”)
    • Het jy koljander hier bygevoeg? (“Did you add coriander to this?”)
    • Mag ek die sout kry, asseblief? (“May I have the salt, please?”)
    • Ek sal die Merlot neem, dankie. (“I will have the Merlot, thank you.”)
    • Nie vir my nie, dankie; ek bestuur. (“Not for me, thank you; I’m driving.”)
    • Mag ek nog kry, asseblief? (“May I have more, please?”)
    • Jy kan maar skep, ek is mal hieroor! (“You can dish up [a lot], I am crazy about this!”)
    • Komplimente aan die kok! (“Compliments to the chef!”)
    • Die maaltyd was werklik besonders, baie dankie. (“The meal was truly remarkable, thank you very much.”)

    Supplement these with this list of Afrikaans compliments!

    5. Get Cooking in Afrikaans with AfrikaansPod101!

    We hope you’re salivating after reading this blog post. What do you think would be your favorite South African food? Or have you had the pleasure of tasting some traditional dishes already? Let us know in the comments below!

    If you enjoyed this article, consider signing up immediately to learn about much more than just South African cuisine. 

    With over a decade of experience, we draw on our expert knowledge of online language learning techniques to offer you a unique learning space. Thousands of Afrikaans lessons are available at your fingertips, with free resources such as apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle Fire

    With AfrikaansPod101, you can also create your own collection of vocab lists, learn the Afrikaans alphabet, and so much more!

    We offer many enrollment options to suit your personal needs. Members can also enjoy features such as:

    Don’t hesitate—enroll now!

    About the author: Christa Davel is a bilingual (Afrikaans and English) freelance writer and journalist, and is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa.

    Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in Afrikaans

    Your Easy Guide to Understanding Afrikaans Grammar


    Before we delve into this Afrikaans grammar guide, let’s get this out of our systems: Grammar in any language is a strange bird. Look at this joke in English, for instance:

    Question: What is the longest sentence in the English language? 
    Answer: “I do.”

    Did you get it? If you didn’t and you’re an AfrikaansPod101 Premium PLUS student already, why not ask your tutor?

    Male Hands in Handcuffs

    If you’re not a member (or a punster), let me explain. “Sentence” means two things in English. This is how the online dictionary defines it:

    A “sentence” is:

    1. a set of words in most languages that is complete in itself, usually containing a subject and a clause that states something about the subject (A clause is a phrase or a part of a sentence.)

    2. the punishment assigned to a defendant found guilty by a court, or fixed by law for a specific offence

    Punning is the art of using an alternate meaning of a word in a comical way. This joke would not be funny if you didn’t know the second meaning of “sentence.”

    But that’s not all—context is important too. So how does “I do” relate to a long prison sentence? Well, it’s simple, because there’s only one place where you would commonly use those words in relation to a lengthy commitment. Fortunately not for all, but for some, that’s marriage!

    Male and Female Hands Together, Showing Wedding Bands

    Yes, it’s not simple. Some students compare grammar to math and music studies—quite complex! So, for your convenience, we’ve compiled this free online Afrikaans language grammar guide. Study these principles thoroughly and you will get well ahead on your journey to learn Afrikaans.

    Context can only be understood if you know a country’s culture and language well. For this, you’ll need to have the basics of the language’s grammar under your belt! 

    The grammar of most languages can be subdivided and explained under two headings: lexicology and syntax.

    Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans Table of Contents
    1. Afrikaans Grammar: “Lexicology” / Woordleer
    2. Afrikaans Grammar: “Syntax” / Sintaksis
    3. AfrikaansPod101 – Your Excellent Afrikaans Grammar Companion!

    1. Afrikaans Grammar: “Lexicology” / Woordleer 

    Afrikaans is a West-Germanic language, very closely related to Dutch. These are the basics of its lexicological complexities.

    1.1 “NOUN” / NAAMWOORD

    DefinitionJust like in English, a naamwoord most often indicates something you can perceive with any one of your senses. These also include abstract things.
    How to IdentifyTo spot a noun, ask the following questions:

    a) Can I use it with an article, or lidwoord, such as ‘n (“a”) or die (“the”)? 

    b) Does it have a plural form?

    c) Can I turn it into a diminutive?

    If you answer yes to these questions, then it’s a noun!
    ExamplesJust like English nouns, Afrikaans nouns decline for number. Different from English, they also inflect for diminutives.

    ‘n rok / “a dress”
    ‘n rokkie / “a little dress”
    die rokke / “the dresses”
    Main Sub-categories
    • Soortnaam / “Appellative” or “Common/concrete noun”

      These are things you can count, such as: stoel (“chair”), Arabier (“Arab”),  waterdruppels (“water drops”), motorkar (“motor car”).

    • Abstrakte naamwoord / “Abstract noun”

      These include abstract things you cannot touch, such as: liefde (“love”), gedagte (“thought”), ideologie (“ideology”).

    • Massanaam / “Uncountable/mass noun”

      These are things you cannot count, such as: goud (“gold”), water (“water”), musiek (“music”), or hout (“wood”).

    • Maatnaam / “Noun of measurement”

      These are words that indicate the measured amount of a mass noun, such as: kilogram goud (“kilogram gold”), druppel water (“drop of water”), sakvol hout (“bagful of wood”).

    • Eienaam / “Proper noun”

      An eienaam can be the name of a specific person, place, publication, organization, brand, and so forth. These sometimes don’t take plural forms, and they can be categorized as: persoonsnaam (“personal names”), pleknaam (“name of a place”), organisasienaam (“name of an organization”), and so on.

    • Kollektiewe selfstandige naamwoord / “Collective noun”

      These nouns represent groups, such as: gehoor (“audience”), koor (“choir”), span (“team”).

    • Saamgestelde selfstandige naamwoord / “Compound noun”

      These are made up of two or more nouns, such as: waterbottel (“water bottle”), seekos (“seafood”), roomys (“ice cream”).

    • Werkwoordelike selfstandige naamwoord / “Verbal noun” 

      These nouns are derived from verbs, such as: die besluit (“the decision”), ‘n aanval (“an attack”), ‘n gebou (“a building”).

    Water Droplets on Wood


    1.2 “VERB” / WERKWOORD

    DefinitionVerbs usually depict some sort of action, including abstract actions.
    How to IdentifyTo identify a verb, ask the following questions:

    a) Can I use a pronoun, such as “he,” “she,” or “we” (hy, sy, or ons), in front of it? Or, in other words, can someone or something perform this action?

    b) Can it take a past tense form?
    ExamplesAfrikaans verbs conjugate for tense, mood, and voice, but not for noun, pronoun, or number. So, we don’t worry about subject-verb agreement in Afrikaans. 

    Here, we’ll discuss only the basics of tense conjugation. For more details, take a look at this article: All About Verb Conjugation in Afrikaans.
      Present Tense: Unlike English verbs, Afrikaans verbs conjugate exactly the same way for every pronoun and number in the present tense.

      Hy / Sy vlieg. (“He / She flies.”)
      Ons lag. (“We laugh.”)
      Julle bly. (“You stay/remain.”)
      Die honde blaf. (“The dogs bark.”)
      Past Tense: Afrikaans verbs typically conjugate with an auxiliary verb of time: het (“have” / “has”), which is used in front of a deelwoord (“past participle”). The latter is formed by adding the prefix ge- to the infinitive verb. Again, this conjugation remains the same for all of the pronouns.

      Hy / Sy het gevlieg. (“He / She flew.”) OR (“He / She has flown.”)
      Ons het gelag. (“We laughed.”) OR (“We have laughed.”)
      Julle het gebly. (“You stayed/remained.”) OR (“You have stayed/remained.”)
      Die honde het geblaf. (“The dogs barked.”) OR (“The dogs have barked.”)

      Future Tense: For the future tense, the auxiliary verb of modality (also called a modal verb) sal is used the same way as “will” (i.e., with the infinitive verb).

      Hy / Sy sal vlieg. (“He / She will fly.”)
      Ons sal lag. (“We will laugh.”)
      Julle sal bly. (“You will stay/remain.”)
      Die honde sal blaf. (“The dogs will/would bark.”)
      Historic Present Tense: This tense is sometimes used to describe something that happened in the past, but the verb remains in the present tense. Then we use the word toe (approximate: “when”).

      Toe ek opstaan, glimlag hy vir my. (Lit. “When I stand up, he smiles at me.”) 

      It would not be incorrect to change it to the past tense, though.
    Main Sub-categories
    • Oorganklike hoofwerkwoord / “Transitive main verb” 

      These verbs are identified when there is an object in the sentence. 

      Hy drink koffie. (“He drinks coffee”). 
      “Coffee” is the object.

    • Onoorganklike hoofwerkwoord / “Intransitive main verb”

      These verbs are identified when there’s no object in the sentence. 

      Ons slaap. (“We sleep.”)
      Sy lag spontaan. (“She laughs spontaneously.”) 

      Note: spontaan (“spontaneously”) is an adverb.

    • Hulpwerkwoorde / Lit: “Helping Verbs”

      These include two types of auxiliary verbs: the auxiliary verb of time het (“has”) and auxiliary words of modality, or modale hulpwerkwoorde. The latter category includes: sal, wil, moet, and probeer (“shall,” “will,” “must,” and “try”). 

        Present: Die honde probeer blaf. (“The dogs try to bark.”)
        Past: Sy het gevlieg. (“She flew.”) / Ons het gelag. (“We laughed.”).
          ♦ Note: het is an auxiliary verb of time.
        Future: Julle sal bly. (Lit.: “You shall stay.”)
          ♦ Note: sal is not considered an auxiliary verb of time, but rather one of modality.

    • Koppelwerkwoorde / “Linking Verbs 1”

      In Afrikaans, we differentiate between two types of linking verbs. 

      Koppelwerkwoorde link the subject to a quality. Again, these remain unchanged for every pronoun and number. 

        Present: Sy is mooi. (“She is pretty.”) / Ons is moeg. / (“We are tired.”)
        Past: Sy was mooi. (“She was pretty.”) / Ons was moeg gewees. (“We were tired.”)
          ♦ Note: gewees can be omitted for the past tense.
        Future: Sy sal mooi wees. (“She will be pretty.”) / Ons sal moeg wees. (“We will be tired.”)
          ♦ Note: the auxiliary verb wees is never omitted for the future tense.

    • Skakelwerkwoorde / “Linking Verbs 2”

      The second type of linking verb usually links auxiliary verbs with main verbs.

        Past: Sy het net gelag. (“She just laughed.”)
        Future: Julle sal kom bly. (Lit.: “You will come stay.”)

    A Woman Laughing



    DefinitionThese types of words modify or describe nouns.
    How to IdentifyTo identify an adjective, ask the following questions:

    a) Can I use the word in front of a noun?

    b) Will it still say something about the noun if I use it after a linking verb (koppelwerkwoord)?

    c) Does the word have degrees of comparison?
    Examples1. In front of a noun: ‘n Gelukkige man (“a happy man”) / ‘n Opgewonde kind (“an excited child”)

    2. After a linking verb / koppelwerkwoord: Hy is gelukkig. (“He is happy.”) / Die kind is opgewonde. (“The child is excited.”)

    3. Degrees of comparison: Gelukkig, gelukkiger, gelukkigste (“Happy, happier, happiest”) / Opgewonde, meer opgewonde, die mees opgewonde (“Excited, more excited, the most excited”)
    Main Sub-categoriesLike in English, there are two types of adjectives. The classification is based on their position in a sentence relative to the noun.
    • Attributief / “Attributive” – The attributiewe byvoeglike naamwoord (“attributive adjective”) stands in front of the noun.

        Die mooi vrou (“The pretty woman”)

    • Predikatief / “Predicative” – Usually, the predikatiewe byvoeglike naamwoord (“predicative adjective”) stands after the koppelwerkwoord (“linking verb”).

        Die vrou is gelukkig. (“The woman is happy.”)
    Of course, you can use both types in the same sentence: Die mooi vrou is gelukkig. (“The pretty woman is happy.”)

    Pretty Woman Laughing


    1.4 “ADVERB” / BYWOORD

    DefinitionThe adverb describes the verb or verbal clause in a sentence.
    How to IdentifyWhich word says something about what happens or what is being done? The adverb should answer questions such as, “How?” “When?” “Where?” or “How much?”

    Some adverbs have degrees of comparison.
    • Ons baklei nooit. (“We never fight.”)
    • Die kinders speel buite. (“The children play outside.”)
    • Sy ma is baie oud. (“His mom is very old.”)
    Main Sub-categoriesAs you probably noticed in the examples, there are several types of adverbs. Following are the four main categories:
    • Bywoorde van tyd / “Adverbs of time”
      • gister, vandag, more (“yesterday,” “today,” “tomorrow”)
      • Example: Jou pakkie kom vandag. (Lit.: “Your parcel arrives today.”)

    • Bywoorde van plek / “Adverbs of place”
      • daar, hier (“there,” “here”)
      • Example: Die potplant staan hier. (“The potted plant stands here.”)

    • Bywoorde van graad / “Adverbs of degree”
      • ver, lank, werklik, baie (“far,” “long,” “really,” “very”)
      • Example: Die pad was lank. (“The road was long.”)

    • Bywoorde van wyse / “Adverbs of manner”
      • vinnig, stadig, hoog, hard (“fast,” “slow,” “high,” “hard”)
      • Example: Sy werk hard. (“She is working hard.”)

    Tarred Road with Mountain on Background



    DefinitionA pronoun is a word that acts as a replacement for a noun in a sentence.
    How to IdentifyAsk this question:

    Can the word stand in place of the noun? In other words, does it refer to a person or a thing?
    Examplesek, jy, hy, ons, dit, niemand, wie, hierdie, daardie (“I,” “you,” “he,” “we/us,” “it,” “nobody,” “who,” “this,” “that”)
    Main Sub-categories
    • Persoonlike voornaamwoorde / “Personal pronouns”
      • Hy, sy, julle, ons (“he,” “she,” “you [plural],” “we”)
      • Example: Hy eet. (“He eats.”)

    • Onpersoonlike voornaamwoord / “Impersonal pronoun”
      • dit (“it”)
      • Example: Dit staan in die straat. (“It is standing in the street.”)

    • Besitlike voornaamwoorde / “Possessive pronouns”
      • Syne, hare, joune (“his,” “hers,” “yours”)
      • Example: Die tas is syne. (“The suitcase is his.”)

    • Vraende voornaamwoorde / “Interrogative pronouns”
      • Wie, wat, waar, wanneer (“who,” “what,” “where,” “when”)
      • Example: Wie is hierdie? (“Who is this?”)

    • Aanwysende voornaamwoorde / “Demonstrative pronouns”
      • Hierdie/dié, daardie (“this,” “that”). These function as determiners of the nouns.
      • Example: Hierdie is lekker. (“This is tasty.”)

    • Onbepaalde voornaamwoorde / “Indefinite pronouns”
      • Niemand, menige (“nobody,” “many”)
      • Example: Menige het opgedaag. (“Many came.”)

    • Betreklike voornaamwoord / “Relative pronouns”
      • Wie se, wie, wat (“whose,” “who,” “that”)
      • Example: Die vliegtuig wat nou opstyg is groot. (“The plane that is taking off now is large.”)

    • Wederkerige voornaamwoorde / “Intensive pronouns”
      • Myself, jouself, onsself (“myself,” “yourself,” “ourselves”)
      • Example: Jy vergeet van jouself op die verhoog. (“You forget yourself on stage.”)
      • Note: In sentences with these pronouns, the subject and the object are referring to the same person.

    • Wederkerende voornaamwoord / “Reciprocal pronoun”
      • Mekaar (“each other” / “one another”)
      • Example: Hulle het mekaar lief. (“They love each other.”)
      • Note: In sentences with this pronoun, the subject and the object are not referring to the same person.

    A Couple Laughing at a Table



    DefinitionPrepositions show a relationship between an object and another element in the sentence. It usually precedes the object of the sentence (which is a noun, a pronoun, or a clause/phrase with either). Prepositions indicate time or location, or introduce an object.
    How to IdentifyAsk yourself if you can add an article and/or a noun after a voorsetsel (“preposition”).
    Examplesonderaan, langs, agter, by, vir (“underneath,” “next to,” “behind,” “by,” “for”)
    Main Sub-categoriesThere are three main types of prepositions.
    • Preposition of Time:
      • teen, voor, na, vandat, vanaf (“by,” “before,” “after,” “since,” “from”)
      • Example: Teen middagete was almal honger. (“By lunchtime everyone was hungry.”).

    • Preposition of Location:
      • op, teen, agter, bo-op, onder, binne in, van (“on,” “against,” “behind,” “on top of,” “under,” “right inside,” “from”). It is usually followed by an article and a noun, except in the case of proper nouns.
      • Example: Hulle is op die strand. (“They are on the beach.”) / Man van Atlantis (“Man from Atlantis”)

    • Preposition Introducing an Object:
      • vir, teenoor (“for/at,” “towards”)
      • Example: Ons lag vir die komediant. (“We laugh at the comedian.”)
    Note: A common mistake is to label en (“and”) a preposition. “And” is a conjunction, because it joins words, phrases, and clauses. 

    A Rear View of Couple Sitting on Deck Chairs on the Beach



    DefinitionArticles are short words that define nouns as nonspecific or specific. They are determiners that modify nouns.
    How to IdentifyThere are only two articles in both English and Afrikaans: ‘n (“a”) and die (“the”). 
    Examples‘n rekenaar (“a computer”)
    die neef (“the cousin”)
    Main Sub-categoriesTwo types of articles can be discerned:
    • Bepaalde lidwoord / “Definite article”
      • die (“the”) – This article modifies the noun to indicate only one, specific thing.
      • Example: Koop die rok maar nie die skoene nie. (“Buy the dress but not the shoes.”)

    • Onbepaalde lidwoord / “Indefinite article”
      • ‘n (“a”) – This article modifies the noun to indicate something general and non-specific.
      • Example: Dra ‘n rok, enige rok. (“Wear a dress, any dress.”)

    Woman in Long Red Dress



    DefinitionA conjunction links words, phrases, and clauses, or ideas and thoughts—both literally, and in meaning.
    How to IdentifyDepending on the conjunction, you could ask yourself this question: 

    Can I discern two independent sentences by removing the conjunction?
    ExamplesJan slaap terwyl ons werk. (“John sleeps while we work.”)
    Patricia en Lukas was by die begrafnis. (“Patricia and Lukas were at the funeral.”)
    Main Sub-categoriesUnlike in English, which categorizes conjunctions into three groups, Afrikaans categorizes them into only two groups. Some voegwoorde fall into both categories.

    1. Neweskikkende voegwoord / “Coordinating conjunction”

    These conjunctions join independent clauses, which are phrases that can function as sentences and still make sense when you remove the conjunctions. These conjunctions include: en, maar, want, of, dog, terwyl (“and,” “but,” “because,” “or,” “yet,” “while”).

    Example: Hy slaap en ons werk. (“He sleeps and we work.”)

    2. Onderskikkende voegwoord / “Subordinating conjunction”

    This type of conjunction only joins dependent clauses. These are clauses that cannot function as a sentence, nor do they make sense when you remove the conjunction. These conjunctions include: hoewel, omdat, terwyl (“however/though,” “because,” “while”).

    Example: Terwyl hy slaap, werk. (Lit.: “Though he sleeping was, were we working.”)

    Sleeping Man



    DefinitionParticles are short auxiliary words or parts of words that have no semantic meaning on their own. They modify nouns and verbs for negation, possession, comparison, etc.
    How to IdentifyAsk yourself questions pertaining to the categories. For example: 

    Is the word used to indicate negation? Is it used to indicate possession?
    Examplesso…soos (“as”)
    nie…nie (“not”)
    se / (” ‘s “) – genitive
    van (“of”)
    Main Sub-categoriesMany of the following Afrikaans partikels are found in English, even though English doesn’t necessarily categorize them as such.
    • Ontkenningspartikel l “Negative particle”

      Afrikaans is known for its system of so-called double negation. It involves using the particle nie (“not”) twice to indicate negation. The two particles usually flank nouns, clauses, or phrases.

      Example: Ek is nie moeg nie. (“I am not tired.”) 

      The first nie is also an adverbial preposition.

    • Besitspartikel / “Genitive particle”

      These particles indicate possession, and include se and van (“genitive ‘s” and “of”).

      Example: Kieran se meisie is mooi. (“Kieran’s girlfriend is pretty.”) / Die meisie van Kieran is mooi. (“The girlfriend of Kieran is pretty.”)

    • Vergelykingspartikel / “Comparison”

      So…soos (“as…as”) are labeled specifically as particles in Afrikaans, and indicate a comparison between two things or ideas.

      Example: so vars soos ‘n oggendbries (“as fresh as a morning breeze”)

    • Deelpartikel / “Preposition”

      The preposition van (“of”) links words and phrases that indicate possession. 

      Example: Sewe van die nege vrouens is blond. (“Seven of the nine women are blond.”)

    • Infinitiefpartikel / “Infinitive particle”

      Om…te (“to + infinitive”) is always used with the base form of a verb to indicate the infinitive.

      Example: Hy sukkel om te loop. (“He struggles to walk.”) / Die kat is gelukkig om hierdie kos te eet. (“The cat is happy to eat this food.”)

    • Werkwoordpartikel / “Verb particle”

      These include op, af, uit, weg (“up,” “down,” “out,” “away”). Like in English, this particle modifies the verb.

      Example: Eet jou kos op. (“Eat up your food.”) / Hulle breek weg van die groep. (“They break away from the group.”) / Sy het haar kêrel afgesê. (“She broke up with her boyfriend.”) 

      Note: Uitmaak and its translation “made out” mean the exact opposite. In Afrikaans, it means that a couple plans to break up their relationship when you say: Hulle gaan uitmaak. However, in the translation “They will make out,” “making out” is an euphemism for sexual intercourse.

    • Graadpartikel / “Adverb particle”

      The particle te (“too”) modifies the verb to indicate excess. 

      Example: Dis te warm in die woestyn. (“It’s too hot in the desert.”)

    Desert Dunes



    DefinitionThese words indicate numbers or an amount.
    How to IdentifyAsk yourself these questions:

    a) Can I symbolize the word with numbers, like 1,2,3…? (With the exception of onbepaalde hooftelwoorde [“indefinite pronouns”].)

    b) Can I turn the word into a rangtelwoord (i.e. ordinal number)?

    c) Is it impossible to grade the word? (Number words cannot be expressed in grades. We cannot say, for instance, “one-er” or “one-est.” “One” is and can only be that—a single thing!)

    d) Is this word indispensable in its modification of the noun? (A noun in a sentence will still “work” if adjectives are removed. However, most often, determiners such as numbers are indispensable to the meaning of the noun.)
    Exampleself (“eleven”)
    twee-en-twintig (“twenty-two”)
    tiende (“tenth”)
    massas (“masses”)
    Main Sub-categoriesAll number words function as determiners of nouns (and not as adjectives).
    • Bepaalde hooftelwoord / Lit: “Definite cardinal-number word”

      These words denote quantity: een, twee, drie (“one,” “two,” “three”).

    • Onbepaalde hooftelwoord / Lit: “Indefinite cardinal-number word”

      These are also indefinite pronouns: hordes, massas, talle (“hordes,” “masses,” “many/countless”).

    • Bepaalde rangtelwoord / Lit: “Definite ordinal-number word”

      These words indicate rank: eerste, tweede, derde (“first,” “second,” “third”).

    • Onbepaalde rangtelwoord / Lit: “Indefinite ordinal-number word”

      laaste, soveelste (“last,” “umpteenth”)


    DefinitionAn interjection is an utterance or exclamation that conveys a certain meaning or emotion.
    How to IdentifyAsk yourself if the word can:
    • stand alone in a sentence, and
    • be followed by an exclamation mark.
    There are some common interjections in every language, such as “Wow!”, and these are easily understood. However, every language also has culture-specific interjections, with nuances that won’t be easily discerned by a non-native speaker. It’s also difficult to describe their meaning to a non-native. Only by regularly practicing your Afrikaans with natives could you gain the subtler meanings of some interjections. (Others you may never fully understand!)
    • Eina! (“Ouch!”)
    • Sjoe! (Approximate: “Wow!”) This is commonly used in any situation that inspires awe.
    • Aitsa! (Approximate: “Wow! That’s great!”) This is used only if you’re impressed by something, usually positive. 
    • Haai?! (Approximate: “Huh?!”)
    • Siestog / Foeitog (Approximate: “It’s a shame”)
    • Awê (“Hi there”)
    • Aikona (“No”)
    Main Sub-categoriesNone.

    Woman Looking Amazed

    SJOE! (“WOW!”)

    Got it? Probably not, but don’t despair. No valuable discipline is ever gained overnight! 

    Now let’s move on to the next point of basic Afrikaans grammar: how Afrikaans words get strung together into sentences.

    2. Afrikaans Grammar: “Syntax” / Sintaksis

    Syntax, which is the basic grammatical structure of sentences, can be a gruellingly complex subject in any language. Correct Afrikaans grammar largely depends on your ability to form sentences according to the proper structures and rules. However, the basics are fairly similar to English. 

    Buckle up!

    2.1 Enkelvoudige Sin (“Simple Sentence”) VS Saamgestelde Sin (“Compound Sentence”)

    A) Simple sentences in both English and Afrikaans follow a simple Subject-Verb (SV) format. For example: Die kind eet. (“The child eats.”)


    • Simple sentences can have only one verb or gesegde. In Afrikaans syntax, single verbs and clauses are referred to as gesegdes (approximately: “clauses”). Read on for more about this.
    • Also remember: a gesegde comprising an auxiliary verb + main verb  = only one verb! 

    B) Compound sentences always contain two verbs or gesegdes (“clauses”). For example: Die kind eet terwyl die hond blaf. (“The child eats while the dog barks.”)

    2.2 Parts of Simple and Compound Sentences

    Sentences consist of other parts, too. Very briefly, the following:

    A) Enkelvoudige sinne / “Simple sentences”

    1. Onderwerp (“Subject”)
    Who or what performs the action in the sentence or phrase? The answer is always the subject. For example: Clint vlieg die vliegtuig. (“Clint flies the airplane.”)

    2. Voorwerp (“Object”)
    In a sentence, the object usually follows the subject (except in the passive voice). The object is that which the action is performed upon. For example: Clint vlieg die vliegtuig. (“Clint flies the airplane.”)


    • Direkte voorwerp / “Direct object”

      The direkte voorwerp (“direct object”) always follows the main transitive verb. For example:

        Vlieg (“fly”) = main verb
        Vliegtuig (“airplane”) = direkte voorwerp (“direct object”)

    • The indirekte voorwerp / “Indirect object”

      An indirekte voorwerp (“indirect object”) always follows a preposition. For example: Clint vlieg die vliegtuig vir Paul. (“Clint flies the airplane for Paul.”)

      The preposition vir is followed by Paul, the indirekte voorwerp (“indirect object”).

    3. Gesegde (“Clause”)
    As mentioned, all verbs and clauses are called a gesegde (approximate: “clause”) in Afrikaans syntax. They are sometimes referred to as a werkwoordstuk. (Lit: “verb piece”).

    Example: Clint het die vliegtuig gevlieg. (“Clint flew the airplane.”)

      Het (“has”) = auxiliary verb of time
      gevlieg (“flew”) = main verb, simple past tense

    (Refer back to Auxiliary Verbs of Time under the previous section for more information on the prefix ge-.)

    Fighter Plane Pilot in the Cockpit


    4. Byvoeglike & Bywoordelike Bepalings (“Adjective and Adverbial Clauses”)

    i) Byvoeglike Bepalings: In Afrikaans syntax, all adjective words or clauses are grouped under byvoeglike bepalings. Like in English, these describe nouns.

    Example 1 [Single word adjectives]: Die honger kind eet die lekker kos. (“The hungry child eats the tasty food.”) 

    Example 2 [Adjective phrases]: Die kind met die rooi trui eet die kos met baie kaas. (“The child with the red jersey eats the food with lots of cheese.”) 

    ii) Bywoordelike Bepalings: All adverbial words or clauses are called bywoordelike bepalings in Afrikaans syntax. As in English, these describe actions or verbs. Adverbial words or clauses are divided into four groups: time, place, manner, and degree. 

    Refer back to Bywoorde (“Adjectives”) under the previous section for examples of single words that fall into this category. Following are examples of adverbial clauses:

    Example 1: Voor haar vertrek moet sy eers groet. (“Before her departure she must first greet.”) 

    Here, the underlined = bywoordelike bepaling van tyd (“adverbial clause of time”).

    Example 2: Hulle gaan oorslaap in die beste hotel. (“They are going to sleep over in the best hotel.”)

    Here, the underlined = bywoordelike bepaling van plek (“adverbial clause of place”).

    Couple Standing at a Hotel Reception


    B) Saamgestelde sinne / “Compound sentences” 

    Compound sentences consist of two or more clauses or simple sentences with ideas that relate to each other. As mentioned, in Afrikaans syntax these always contain two gesegdes (“verbs” or “clauses”).

    1. Neweskikkende sin / “Coordinating sentence”

    Parts of sentences are grouped under this heading when they are of equal importance in terms of meaning. In Afrikaans, they also still make sense when the neweskikkende voegwoord (“coordinating sentence”) is removed, and can function as simple sentences.

    Example: Jan wil skei maar Marta weier. (“John wants to divorce but Martha refuses.”) 

    2. Onderskikkende bysin / “Subordinating sentence”

    Compound sentences can also contain a main sentence and one or more subordinating clauses. The latter is identified by the fact that it doesn’t make sense when it stands alone. In such a case, the subordinating sentence or clause is called a bysin.

    Example: Die man wat in die rooi sportsmotor ry, moet voor parkeer. (“The man who’s driving the red sports car must park in the front.”

    Here, the underlined = Onderskikkende bysin.

    Red Sports Car


    2.3 Basic Word Order – STOMPI

    Like most Germanic languages, such as English, Dutch, and French, the basic Afrikaans sentence follows the SVO pattern:

    Subject: Ek
    Verb: drink
    Object: koffie

    Translation: “I drink coffee.”

    A Cup of Coffee with Coffee Beans

    Obviously, things get more complex as you expand sentences. Throw adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, etc., into the mix, and you soon sit with a more difficult sentence pattern. 

    For this, we have a rule-of-thumb in Afrikaans: the oft-quoted STOMPI rule. It’s beguilingly simple because almost every sentence will more-or-less follow this pattern. Stick to this pattern, and you’re very unlikely to mess up your word order.

    Note: Only in much-extended sentences will you be able to apply the STOMPI rule completely. This topic is thoroughly covered in our Afrikaans Word Order article, so be sure to study that too.

    STOMPI is the easy acronym we use, but since we’re dealing with grammar, that’s not the whole picture. This is because it actually includes two silent verbs, and therefore stands for:

    Subject              Die reën
    (V1) Verb 1        kom
    Time                  soms
    Object               vir die Kapenaars
    Manner             saggies
    Place                 oor die berge
    (V2) Verb 2        gesluip
    Infinitive             om verligting te bring.

    Translation: “The rain sometimes sneaks quietly over the mountains for the Capetonians to bring relief.”

    As you can see, this is a very long, descriptive sentence. The following one is simpler, but also correct.

    Subject            Die reën
    (V1) Verb 1      sluip
    Time                soms
    Object               –
    Place                oor die berge
    Infinitive            om verligting te bring.

    Translation: “The rain sometimes sneaks over the mountains to bring relief.”

    3. AfrikaansPod101 – Your Excellent Afrikaans Grammar Companion!

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