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Splitting a word into syllables can help you to find the right pronunciation.

The pronunciation of the vowels aa, ee, ie, oo, uu, au, ou, ei, eu, ieu, ij, oe, and ui does not depend on syllables.

  • the oe in boeken (books) and in boek (book) are pronounced the same.

    The pronunciation of vowels that have only one letter (a, e, i, o, and u) is not always the same. This chapter is written especially for these vowels. We are trying to determine when these vowels are pronounced as

  • aa, ee, ie, oo or uu - in open syllables
  • a, e, i, o, or u - in closed syllables


  • the a in baken (beacon) and in bak (tray, reservoir) are pronounced differently.
  • the a in bakken (trays, reservoirs) and in bak (tray, reservoir) are pronounced the same, because the syllables are both closed here.

    Note: the pronunciation of vowel e is often like u in the English word “hurtle”, even in open syllables. Examples are de (the), ze (she or they), einde (end), and praatte (talked). Even the word een (which means a or an) is pronounced dull, although it has an ee in it.

    Open Syllables

    Always: When the last letter of a syllable is a vowel, the syllable is open.

    Very often: If a syllable is open, a is pronounced like aa, e like ee, i like ie, o like oo, and u like uu. We call this pronunciation clear.
    The first syllable of water (meaning: water) is wa. This is an open syllable. The letter a is pronounced as aa. The pronunciation is clear.

    Closed Syllables

    Always: If a syllable is closed, the pronunciation of the vowels we just talked about (a, e, i, o, u) is different.
    The first syllable of takken (meaning: branches) is tak. This is a closed syllable. The letter a is pronounced as a in the English word part. This pronunciation is dull.
    The first syllable of messen (meaning: knives) is mes. This is a closed syllable. The letter e is pronounced as e in the English word mess. This pronunciation is short and sharp. And not like ee.

    Double consonants

    A double consonant is pronounced as one consonant. The double consonant is only needed to change the pronunciation of a vowel. Double consonants that occur are: bb, dd, ff, gg, kk, ll, mm, nn, pp, rr, ss, and tt.

    Splitting Words

    Always: Every syllable has one vowel in it.
    Vowels are: a, e, i, o, u, aa, ae, au, ou, ee, ei, eu, ie, ieu, ij, oe, oo, ui, uu. The letter y is a vowel sometimes.
    They are never split. Examples are:
    ou in hout (wood) cannot be separated: hout
    oo in voor (before, for, in front of) cannot be separated: voor
    ee in deel (part) cannot be separated: deel
    The word voordeel (advantage) is split this way: voor-deel

    Always: Other combinations of vowels, like the following, are split.
    ua in situatie (situation) is split: si-tu-a-tie
    uee in actueel (recent) is split: ac-tu-eel
    ue in evacueren (to evacuate) is split: e-va-cu-e-ren
    iu in jodium (iodine) is split: jo-di-um

    Always: When two consonants are the same, the last one always joins the second syllable.
    vissen (fish, to fish): vis-sen

    Often: A consonant between two vowels joins the second vowel. In English, it is the other way round.
    water (water): wa-ter
    broden (loaves): bro-den
    gedaan (done): ge-daan
    veroorzaken (to cause): ver-oor-za-ken (possible reason: ver is a prefix)

    More than half of the time: When two consonants follow each other, the first one joins the first syllable.
    kranten (newspapers): kran-ten
    banden (tyres): ban-den
    gestoofd (stewed): ge-stoofd (possible reason: ge is a prefix)
    beslagen (steamed): be-sla-gen (possible reason: be is a prefix)
    lachen (to laugh): la-chen (reason: ch is seen as one sound. But a is dull here anyway.)

    Always: A compound word is made by joining two or more words. The boundaries between these words are boundaries of syllables also. First split the compound word in words. After that, split these words into syllables. Not earlier. beurs (stock exchange) and optie (option) are the words.
    beursoptie (stock exchange option): beurs-op-tie

    Always: When a diaeresis is placed on a vowel, this vowel must be the first letter of a syllable.
    Example: geïn must be split, while gein (an informal word for fun) should not.
    We zijn geïnformeerd. (We are informed): We zijn ge-in-for-meerd.
    Example: eeë must be split. ee belongs to the first, and ë to the second syllable.
    sleeën (to sleigh, sleighs): slee-en

    The diaeresis can be omitted if it is clear where the boundary between two syllables is. For example when the second syllable of sleeën is on the next line:
    We wandelen in het park en we zien kinderen slee-
    en. Ze spelen op de heuvel.

    Translation: “We walk in the park and we see children that are sleighing. They play on the hill.”

    Note: a foreign vowel may look like a vowel with a diaeresis:
    föhn - blowdryer


    Large example: evaluatiecommissie (evaluation committee): e-va-lu-a-tie-com-mis-sie
  • v, between e and a, joins a.
  • step 1: e-valuatiecommissie.
  • l, between a and u, joins u.
  • step 2: e-va-luatiecommissie.
  • ua is not in the Pronunciation list and is split.
  • step 3: e-va-lu-atiecommissie.
  • t, between a and ie, joins ie.
  • step 4: e-va-lu-a-tiecommissie.
  • ie is in the Pronunciation list and is not split.
  • step 5: e-va-lu-a-tiecommissie.
  • evaluatie and commissie are two existing words.
  • step 6: e-va-lu-a-tie-commissie.
  • mm is split.
  • step 7: e-va-lu-a-tie-com-missie.
  • ss is split.
  • step 8: e-va-lu-a-tie-com-mis-sie.
  • ie, in the Pronunciation list, is not split.
  • step 9: e-va-lu-a-tie-com-mis-sie.

    End result: e-va-lu-a-tie-com-mis-sie.
    The conclusion is that all syllables are pronounced clear, except com and mis.
    The pronunciation is the same as the non-existing word: ee-vaa-luu-aa-tie-com-mis-sie.

    water (water): wa-ter the first syllable is open (a as aa)
    taken (tasks): ta-ken the first syllable is open (a as aa)
    taak (tasks): taakaa is one vowel, and is not split
    takken (branches): tak-kenall syllables are closed, kk is split (a is dull)
    reis (journey): reisei is one vowel, and is not split
    voordeel (advantage): voor-deel oo is never at the end of a syllable
    verwarming (heater): ver-war-ming m joins the last syllable (e as in less is regular)
    verandering (change): ver-an-de-ring ver is a prefix (first e as in less)
    sleeën (sleighs): slee-en a diaeresis starts a syllable
    slepen (to drag): sle-pen e like the Dutch ee (as in the English word hay)
    lettergrepen (syllables): let-ter-gre-penonly the third syllable is open
    vrachtauto (truck): vracht-au-tocompound word, t joins the first syllable
    vracht (freight): vrachtone vowel means we have one syllable
    auto (car, automobile): au-to au is one vowel, and is not split
    Ik maakte (I made): Ik maak-te aa is one vowel, and is not split
    Ik voelde (I felt): Ik voel-de oe is one vowel, and is not split
    het veroorzaakt (it causes): het ver-oor-zaakt ver is a prefix (e as in less is regular)
    is beslagen (is steamed): is be-sla-gen be is a prefix (e almost as u in bus)
    geven (to give): ge-ven First e as ee. Second e almost as u in bus (both regular).
    tegengoal (opponent’s goal): te-gen-goal reason: oa is one English sound.

    Words that are treated about the same share a row.

    wa-tera-vond (evening), ho-tel (hotel), le-ven (to live, life), te-gen (against), lo-pen (to walk), ne-men (to take), vlie-gen (to fly, flies), gla-zen (drinking glasses)
    tak-kenfles-sen (bottles), vis-sen (fish, plural), rol-len (roles), drup-pels (drops)
    taakheet (hot), hier (here), boor (drill), muur (wall), boek (book), reis (journey), zout (salt), saus (sauce)
    kran-ten ban-den (tyres, tapes), woor-den (words)
    ver-oor-zaaktver-an-dert (changes), ver-an-de-ren (to change), ver-a-de-ming (relief)
    be-sla-genge-groeid (grown), ge-dra-gen (worn, behaved, carried)

    compound words and phrases
    halogeenverlichting (halogen lighting) ha-lo-geen-ver-lich-ting
    tegemoetkomend verkeer (oncoming traffic) te-ge-moet-ko-mend ver-keer
    turbocompressor (turbo compressor) tur-bo-com-pres-sor
    transportonderneming (transportation corporation) trans-port-on-der-ne-ming

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