• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
Particle verbs

Certain verbs form fixed collocations with other word-like elements, which are regarded as particles attached to the verb. These particles are separated from the verb and placed in the verb-final position when the verb itself occurs in the second (or first) position of the clause, but form a compound with the verb if the verb occurs in the final position as well. In the verb-final position of the main clause, particle verbs are non-finite verbs, thus either an infinitive or a past participle. In dependent clauses, where all verbs are in the verb-final position, particles also attach to the stem if it is a finite verb, resulting in a form that is morphologically identical to infinitives. When a past participle is formed, the prefix ge- attaches to the left of the verb stem, and the particle to the left of the prefix ge-. The three formal realisations of particle verbs, and their syntactic positions, are illustrated in example (1).

a. Ons neem die roosbome weg.
[(CI) ons] [(V2) neem] [(MF) die roosbome] [(VF) weg]
we take.PRS the rosebushes away.PTCL
We take the rosebushes away.
b. Ons moes die roosbome weg+neem.
[(CI) ons] [(V2) moes] [(MF) die roosbome] [(VF) wegneem]
we must.AUX.MOD.PST the rosebushes away+take.INF
We had to take the rosebushes away.
c. Ons moes die roosbome weg+ge·neem het.
[(CI) ons] [(V2) moes] [(MF) die roosbome] [(VF) weggeneem het]
we must.PST the rosebushes away+PST·take have.AUX
We had to have taken the rosebushes away.
TK, adjusted

Particles resemble a range of word classes, including adpositions, adverbs, adjectives and nouns, but also preposition phrases. A new lexical verb comes into being when a particle verb is used, and therefore even the transitivity features of the verb may be different from the transitivity of the verb stem used independently. Some particle verbs consists of stems that are not even verbs if not used in combination with the particle, e.g. afsonder to set apart, where the stem sonder is only used as verb in the particle verb construction, but otherwise functions as preposition or subordinator when used as an independent word.

[+]Syntactic types of the particle

The particle in a particle verb construction can usually be regarded as a member of another word class that fuses with the verb stem to create the particle verb. However, in becoming a new lexical verb, some of the properties that the particle may have had, when used as an independent word, are bleached out or completely lost. The particle can be derived from adpositions, adverbs, adjectives and nouns, as well as from preposition phrases. The exposition below relies mainly on Ponelis (1979:233-234), with examples also coming from his exposition, as well as the most frequent items from the Taalkommissiekorpus.

Adpositions can be used as particles very productively, for instance:

  • aan on/to: aanbied to offer, aandurf to attempt, aangluur to stare
  • af off: afbaken to demarcate, afdroog to wipe (dry), afkeur to reject
  • agter after/behind: agterhaal to come to know, agterlaat to leave behind
  • by at: bydam to hit/strike, bydra to contribute, bykom to reach
  • deur through: deurhaal to strike out, deurslaap to sleep through the night, deurvoer to carry to the end
  • heen away: heengaan to leave/pass away, heenwys to point to
  • in in: inlig to inform, insluit to include, inspan to harness, instel to set/tune, instem to agree, inval to invade, invoer to import
  • mee together/with: meedeel to inform, meegee to make way/yield
  • na to/after: naboots to imitate, nalaat to omit/fail, naslaan to look up
  • om around: omgee to care (for), omkoop to bribe, omspit to dig up
  • onder under: ondergaan to undergo, onderkry to get the better of
  • oor over: oorbly to stay over, oordra to carry over, oorleun to lean over, oorplaas to transfer
  • op up: opdaag to pitch up, opneem to take up/absorb, oppomp to inflate, opstel to set up, optree to act/perform
  • saam with/together: saambring to bring along, saamneem to take along, saamstel to compile/put together, saamvat to take along
  • teen/teë against: teëkom to encounter, teëpraat to protest/counter, teenstaan to oppose, teenwerk to work against
  • toe closed/to/towards: toeken to award, toelaat to permit, toelê to dedicate, toeneem to increase, toepas to apply
  • uit out: uitbrei to expand, uitleef to live (to the fullest), uitput to exhaust, uitreik to reach out, uitspreek to pronounce/express, uitstel to delay, uitvoer to export
  • verby over/past: verbygaan to pass/go past, verbykom to come by, verbysteek to overtake

The other kinds of origins for the particles are less productive and frequent than adpositions, but are nevertheless widely attested in Afrikaans. Adverb origins appear to overlap in some cases with adpositions, since a number of forms, like binne inside, buite outside, in in, and uit out can be used as adverbs or as adpositions. For these forms, it is arbitrary to draw a line to distinguish the two word classes, since they behave in identical fashion once they become verbal particles. The following examples are cases where the adverbial rather than propositional quality is the more obvious one as far as the particle is concerned.

  • agteroor backward: agteroorbuig to bend backwards, agteroorleun to recline/lie back
  • agteruit backward: agteruitboer to move back/fall behind, agteruitgaan to go back/deteriorate
  • binne in/inside: binnedring to penetrate, binnegaan to enter/go in, binnekom to enter/come in, binnestorm to storm in
  • neer downward: neerdaal to descend, neerlê to lie down, neersit to put down, neerskryf to write down
  • rond around: rondloop to wander/walk around, rondry to drive around, rondstaan to stand around (idly)
  • terug back: terugbring to return/bring back, teruggee to return/give back, terugkeer to return/come back, terugkom to return/come back, terugtrek to withdraw/move back
  • tuis home: tuisbring to bring home, tuisgaan to stay over, tuiskom to come home, tuismaak to make (at) home
  • vooruit ahead/forward: vooruitgaan to move on/progress, vooruitkyk to look ahead, vooruitloop to get ahead of
  • weg away: weggooi to throw away, wegjaag to chase away, wegneem to take away, wegstap to walk away, wegsteek to hide (away)

Particles can also derive from nouns. Such nouns are bare nouns that are used non-referentially in the particle verb construction. Unlike prepositional and adverbial particles, there are very few nouns that combine with multiple verbs. Most combinations are unique combinations and the patterns have limited productivity. Where combinations between verbs and preposition-like or adverb-like particles are consistently written as one word in the orthography, the situation is variable for nouns, with some consistently written as two words when they occur together in the verb-final position, such as klavier speel to play piano, but others are written as one word, such as fietsry to ride bicycle. Some Afrikaans examples, from Ponelis (1979:234) are:

  • egbreuk to commit adultery, handgee to lend a hand, kleitrap to flounder, spoorsny to track, stokkiesdraai to play truant, hokslaan to contain, paalspring to pole vault, skyfskiet to shoot (at) targets, vuisslaan to fist fight

Particles can be derived from adjectives, where the pattern is quite similar to noun-derived particle verbs. There is limited productivity and the orthographic conventions also vary between the spelling as one or two words when the particle occurs adjacent to the verb in the verb-final cluster. There is some productivity with the verb maak to make, which combines with adjectives like dood dead, groot big/large, heel whole, klaar finished, skoon clean or vas tight, to yield particle verbs like:

  • doodmaak to kill, grootmaak to raise/rear, heelmaak to restore/make whole (again), klaarmaak to finish/wear down, skoonmaak to clean or vasmaak to tighten.

Some further Afrikaans examples, from Ponelis (1979:234) are:

  • besighou to keep busy/occupy, bontstaan to scurry, flouval to faint, gevange neem to capture/arrest, klaarkom to get by, kleinkry to understand, lastig val to bother, liefhê to love, nodig hê to need, skeefloop to go awry, slegsê to insult, wakkerskrik to wake up, welkom heet to welcome

Finally, it is even possible to have a preposition phrase as basis for the particle, which combines with the verb in idiomatic expressions that allow very limited variation, and should be regarded as fixed expressions in Afrikaans. Orthographically, they are consistently spelled as multiple words. Examples from Ponelis (1979:234-235) are:
  • aan die hand doen to propose/suggest, in die hande kry to lay one's hands on, in hegtenis neem to take into custody, aan die pen ry to suffer the consequences, te boek stel to put in writing.
[+]Unity of particle and verb

A few of these particle verbs have fused completely, to function as non-transparent compounds. In many cases, these forms were inherited from Dutch and are not productive compounds in Afrikaans anymore, as illustrated in example (2). The word redekawel to argue is derived from Dutch rede reason and kavelen to order, but contemporary Afrikaans does not use a verb like kavelen anymore. The word seëvier to win is a bit more transparent, a compound of sege victory and vier to celebrate, but the loss of the intervocalic /x/ in the first stem already suggests that the link to its constituent parts has weakened.

a. Hulle redekawel die hele dag lank.
They argue the whole day long
a.' Hulle het die hele dag lank geredekawel.
They argued the whole day long.
a.'' Hulle wil net heeltyd met ons redekawel.
They just want to argue with us all the time.
b. Die waarheid seëvier oor alles.
Truth conquers all.
b.' Die waarheid het nog altyd geseëvier.
Truth has always conquered all.
b.'' Die waarheid sal seëvier.
The truth will conquer.

While particles derived from nouns, adjectives and preposition phrases show similar behaviour to those derived from adverbs and prepositions, they do not always form an orthographic word. Afrikaans usage is variable in the way these forms are spelled when the particle and verb occur adjacent to each other in the verb-final position, either as an infinitive or a past particle verb form. A Google search for the expressions "het fiets gery" and "het fietsgery", alongside "het stokkies gedraai" and "het stokkiesgedraai" show that the form with two orthographic words is about twice as prevalent as the form that is spelled as a single orthographic word. By contrast "het klavier gespeel" is reasonable frequent (more than 100 hits), but "het klaviergespeel" occurs only in two valid cases. A further complication to the unit status of particle verbs with noun-derived particles is that some forms hardly ever occur in the simple present tense in main clauses, with the verb in the second position and the particle separated from the verb in the verb-final position. This is particularly evident with forms like paalspring pole vault, verspring long jump and hoogspring high jump,where the infinitive and past participle forms are widely used, but little evidence can be found in Afrikaans corpora or in a Google search for the main clause use. What rather happens, is that speakers rephrase the expression to use a light verb like doen to do, and then nominalise the particle verb and incorporate that as an indefinite object to the light verb, e.g. Arend en Lenieke doen paalspring. Arend and Lenieke do pole vaulting. These complications are illustrated by the examples in (3).

a. Ons ry fiets vir die pret daarvan.
We ride bicycle for the fun thereof.
a.' Ek het net gaan fietsry vir oefening.
I have just gone cycling for practice.
a.'' Ek het veel erger geval toe ek geleer fiets ry het.
I fell much harder when I leart to cycle.
a.''' As jy so ver fietsgery het...
If you have cycled so far...
a.'''' Pretorius het wel fiets gery en geswem in die tyd...
Pretorius did cycle and swem in that period...
b. ?Hy spring paal by die atletiekbyeenkoms.
He does polevaulting at the athletics meeting.
b.' Hy sal hierdie seisoen nie kan paalspring nie.
He won't be ably to (participate in) polevault this season.
I. Bester, Pasmaats, 2014
b.'' By geleentheid het hy vir sy universiteit paalgespring.
On occastion, he polevaulted for his university.
b.''' In die ou Olimpiese Spele het die Grieke kaal paal gespring...
In the old Olympic Games, the Greek did polevaulting naked.
    printreport errorcite