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’S Ochtends or in De Ochtend?

Wat betekent de 's? (What does the 's mean?) That's a question my students often ask me in my Dutch courses. You don't see it that often. It only exists in some city names and when telling the time in Dutch.


AM and PM in Dutch

As you probably know we don't have AM and PM in Dutch. Instead we use a 24h clock when writing and a 12h clock when speaking. So when speaking, how do we make clear a certain time is in which part of the day. I mean sometimes it's pretty clear, if you want to go to the cinema and you set an appointment for seven o'clock then it's okay to assume that's not in the morning. But there are also cases where the part of the day really matters. For this we use the words "in de" + part of the day.


  • In de ochtend

  • In de middag

  • In de avond

  • In de nacht


But we can also say:

  • 's ochtends

  • 's middags

  • 's avonds

  • 's nachts


Note how 's replaces "in de" and also note the attached "s" at the end of the word.


Old Dutch Language

The 's is one of the remains of old Dutch. Back in the days, before the year 1850 we did not only have "de" and "het". We had more articles and one of them was "des". 'S is short for "des". So what we're actually saying is:


  • Des ochtends

  • Des middags

  • Des avonds

  • Des nachts


Why Do We Still Use This?

Then why are so many Dutch people still using the old way?

Well, that's because 's ochtends is so much easier to say then "in de ochtend". We can call it lazy but I rather call it efficiënt ;) But note that both forms mean the same and are equally correct. There's not one more correct than the other.


Wat zeg jij liever?

  • in de ochtend

  • 's ochtends



Examples

Let's say I'm asking you to do groceries together at eight o'clock in the morning. I can say:

Zullen we morgen om acht uur 's ochtends samen boodschappen doen?


Or maybe we're going to shop some new clothes:

Zullen we om twee uur 's middags kleding gaan kopen?