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Lesson 3: Short and long vowels

Dutch uses the same alphabet as English. The letters a, e, i, o and u are called vowels. All other letters are called consonants.

Most verbs in Dutch end in en. In the table below you can see the infinitive forms of some verbs.

English Dutch
to eat eten
to sleep slapen
to talk praten
to buy kopen
to sell verkopen
to drink drinken
to knowsomeone kennen
to bake bakken

Syllables are separated between the consonants when there are two consonants in a row, and before the consonant if there is a single consonant. In the list below, the accent marks the stressed syllable and hyphens are used to separate the words into syllables.

  • é-ten
  • slá-pen
  • prá-ten
  • kó-pen
  • ver-kó-pen
  • drín-ken
  • kén-nen
  • bák-ken

Syllables that end in a vowel are called open syllables, and syllables that end in a consonant are called closed syllables. Vowels in open syllables are pronounced as long vowels, and vowels in closed syllables are pronounced as short vowels.

Compare the pronunciation of praten with that of bakken in the table above, to hear the difference between a long a and a short a, and also compare the pronunciation of eten and kennen to hear the difference between a long e and a short e.

Note that though the word kennen contains two short e vowels, their pronunciation is not similar. This is because the first e is in a stressed syllable, whereas the second e is not.

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