Afrikaans and English/Contrastive grammar

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Past tense

In English, past tense usually just involves changing the verb to its past tense form (usually by adding an '-ed' suffix to the end of the verb), but in Afrikaans, past tense usually involves adding a 'het' in the place of the verb, and then moving the verb to the end of the sentence and adding a 'ge-' prefix to the verb. If there's a preposition at the end of the sentence though, you join the preposition and the verb together.

  • (EN) I run today -> I ran yesterday; (AFR) Ek hardloop vandag -> Ek het gister gehardloop
  • (EN) I kick the ball -> I kicked the ball; (AFR) Ek skop die bal -> Ek het die bal geskop
  • (EN) I knock the vase off -> I knocked the vase off; (AFR) Ek klop die vaas af -> Ek het die vaas afgeklop

However, in Afrikaans, the exceptions to this rule include:

  • Auxiliary verbs, in which case only they change, while the rest of the sentence stays the same.
    • (EN) I can do it -> I could do it; (AFR) Ek kan dit doen -> Ek kon dit doen
    • (EN) I am a doughnut -> I was a doughnut; (AFR) Ek is 'n donut -> Ek was 'n donut
  • Words with 'be-', 'ge-', 'her-', 'er-', 'ont-', or 'ver-' prefix don't get a new 'ge-' suffix, staying the same.
    • (EN) I recognize the man -> I recognized the man; (AFR) Ek herken die man -> Ek het die man herken
  • Sentences with 'begin', 'probeer', 'gaan', or 'laat' in them. No 'ge-' prefix is added, and the words get moved to the end of the sentence.
    • (EN) I begin cooking it -> I began cooking it; (AFR) Ek begin dit kook -> Ek het dit begin kook
    • (EN) I let him begin talking -> I let him begin talking; (AFR) Ek laat hom begin praat -> Ek het hom laat begin praat

Intensive form

In Afrikaans, there are special words that describe intensive form, whereas in English there are no such words, and the ideas are expressed as similes or 2 words instead. Here is a list of a few intensive form examples:

Intensiewe vorm (Intensive form)
Oorspronklike woord (Original word) Intensiewe vorm (Intensive form) English translation original word English translation intensive form
Blind Stokblind Blind As blind as a stick
Nodig Broodnodig Necessary As necessary as bread
Helder Kristalhelder Clear Crystal clear
Flou Stokflou Weak As weak as a stick
Doof Stokdoof Deaf As deaf as a stick
Rond Koeëlrond Round As round as a bullet
Seker Doodseker Sure Dead sure
Bleek Doodsbleek Pale Deathly pale
Skraal Rietskraal Slim As slim as a reed
Koud Yskoud Cold As cold as ice
Rooi Bloedrooi Red Blood red
Soet Stroopsoet Sweet As sweet as syrup
Arm Brandarm Poor As poor as fire

Note that all negative physical traits have a 'stok-' prefix in their intensive form, and that many intensive forms have a 'dood-' prefix.