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Here's how to use DE or HET

Updated: Mar 10

Why is it "het boek" instead of "de boek"? That's probably the #1 question people who learn Dutch have.

This is a question I've been asked tons of times. I mean seriously, if you gave me a cup of coffee for every time someone asked me this question, I probably wouldn't close an eye for the rest of my life.


However, I have the real answer on this really interesting question for you.


Strict Rules for de and het


The real answer is that there is no strict answer for when to use de and het. There are a couple rules and a handful of guidelines. Let's have a look at the important rules first.


  • Rule #1 - Plural Nouns always have the Article de.

Example: het boek (the book)

de boeken (the books)

  • Rule #2 - Words of Fruits and Vegetables always have the Article de.

Example: de banaan (the banana)

de komkommer (the cucumber)

  • Rule #3 - Compass Points always have the Article het.

Example: het Noorden (the North)

het Zuiden (the South)

het Westen (the West)

het Oosten (the East)

  • Rule #4 - Nouns in the Diminutive form always have the Article het.

Example: de hond (the dog)

het hondje (the dog) diminutive

  • Rule #5 - Nouns in the Diminutive form, but also Plural always have the article de.

Example: de hond (the dogs)

het hondje (the dogs) diminutive

de hondjes (the dogs) diminutive

  • Rule #6 - If we use a verb as a noun, we always use het.

Example: Het wachten is voorbij (the waiting is over)

  • Rule #7 - Names of languages always have the Article de.

Example: het Netherlands (the Dutch)

Usually we don't use the article for names of languages, but we can use it when we say:

Ik vind het Nederlands een prachtige taal" (I find (the) Dutch a beautiful language).


Guidelines for de and het


Besides the accurate rules we just discussed, there are also a lot of guidelines. As I explained in my youtube video about de and het, I wouldn't recommend you to learn these guidelines by heart because they simply aren't accurate and have a lot of exceptions. Studying the guidelines is only going to make it more difficult for you to know when to use de or het. Let's have a look at a few of those guidelines.

About 75% of all Dutch nouns are de nouns
  • Guideline #1 - Nouns with two syllables starting with be-, ge-, ver-, and ont- often have het.

Example: het verhaal (the story)

het gezicht (the face)

  • Guideline #2 - Nouns ending in -ing, -ij, -er, -aar, -heid, and -ie often have de Article de.

Example: de verzekering (the insurance)

de overheid (the government)

  • Guideline #3 - Nouns ending in "er" or "el" often have the Article de.

Example: de kamer (the room)

de kabel (the cable)

  • Guideline #4 - Nouns ending in -isme, -ment, -sel, or -um often have the article het.

Example: het moment (the moment)

het veganisme (the veganism)

  • Guideline #5 - Nouns referring to a profession often get the Article de.

Example: de bakker (the baker)

de leraar (the teacher)

  • Guideline #6 - Words of Trees and Plants always have the Article de.

Example: de boom (the tree)