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Constructions with verbs and verb clusters

Verbs may show up in various syntactic constructions, where constructions are defined in terms of their constituent elements.

All agreement information shows up on the tensed verb. The odd one out in the agreement systeem is the 2SG. It is found both on the tensed verb and on the complementiser, and it licenses pro-drop, unlike the other agreement forms.

Infinitival verb forms are associated with their own construction, although here bare infinitives are the odd one out, showing different word order, different (fewer) possibilities with respect to extraction, preposing and so on. Ordinary infinitives, gerunds and to-infinitives are quite similar. All three are final in the clause, they pattern similarly with respect to extraction, preposing, object incorporation and so on. The presence of an overt subject is characteristically associated with gerundial infinitives, though only with gerundials selected by verbs of perception. Special reference must be made to the verb cluster, the clustering of verbs at the end of the middle field.


The ordering of to-infinitives inside the verb cluster is a complex matter (see types of to-infinitival clauses and predication and noun incorporation). The ordering of perfect participles, ordinary infinitives and gerundial infinitives is relatively straightforward. Verb clusters consisting of these elements are built up in a head-final fashion. That means, that if a verb A selects another verb B, verb B precedes verb A. To illustrate, consider the following cluster of two verbs:

Example 1

a. As de duvelbanner it fanke mei de bibel op it boarst slein hat
when the exorcist the girl with the bible on the chest hit has
After the exorcist hit the girl on the chest with the bible
b. *As de duvelbanner it fanke mei de bibel op it boarst hat slein
when the exorcist the girl with the bible on the chest has hit
After the exorcist hit the girl on the chest with the bible

The auxiliary of the perfect selects the perfect participle. The order is head-final: the participle precedes the auxiliary. The reverse order in ungrammatical in Standard Frisian and absent from the Frisian Language Corpus, but it may be heard nowadays in spoken Frisian as an interference, especially in the speech of young speakers and older speakers who are less proficient in Frisian . Here and elsewhere, we refer to the facts of Standard Frisian, while noting in passing divergent facts due to Dutch interference or ongoing change in the Frisian language. The pattern inside the verb cluster given above is found in all clusters of two verbs (barring, as mentioned to-infinitives). Another example is given below, again involving two verbs:

Example 2

Doe't de prinses him fan syn goudskimmel springen seach
when the princess him from his grey.horse.with.blaze jump saw
When the princess saw him jump from his grey horse with a blaze

Here the nontensed verb is a gerundial infinitive. The gerundial infinitive is selected by verbs of perception, in the example above by sjen see. The order in the cluster is again consistently headfinal. The same applies to clusters of three verbs (and more), which similarly display head-final order. An example is given below:

Example 3

Dy't er út 'e âlderlingebank wei sitten sjoen hat
who he from the churchwarden.bench sit.GI seen has
Whom he had seen sitting from his point of view in the churchwarden's bench

This example also illustrates that Frisian does not have the Infinitivus-pro-participio (IPP), which verb clusters of Dutch obligatorily display. The IPP effect involves the replacement of a perfect participle with an infinitive in case it is selected by the auxiliary of the perfect, and in case it itself selects another verb. So the IPP-effects shows up in Dutch on auxiliary verbs which are selected by the auxiliary of the perfect. Irrealis clusters of three or more verbs may display various interesting phenomena (see the expression of irrealis in nineteenth-century Frisian and in Modern Frisian).