Frisian Grammar



Frisian has two definite articles (“the” in English), which are ‘’de’’ and ‘’it’’.
In order to make a Frisian word mean a smaller version of itself, therefore you should apply the following rules: 1. Words which end with m, p, f, r, s or w. You must put -ke behind the word. Example: glês -> gleske (glass -> small glass) 2. Words which end with l, n, t or d. You must put -tsje behind the word. Words which end with d or t already, you only need to use -sje. Example: peal -> pealtsje (pole -> little pole) – bêd -> bedsje (bed –> small bed) 3. Words which end with k, ng, ch or ge. You have to put -je behind. Exeption for words which end with ng, those change to nk + -je. Example: seage -> seachje (saw – small saw) & wang -> wankje (cheek –> little cheek)

The rule of the Subject and Verb

In many Germanic languages, including Frisian, the subject and verb of the independent clause switch places a lot. Here are rules to understand when you can switch the subject and verb: 1. If a subordinate clause comes before the independent clause, then the subject and verb must switch places. The verb of the subordinate clause must also be placed at then end of its clause. Example: “As wy yn skoalle binne, moatte wy studearje.” The independent clause on its own would be “Wy moatte studearje” but because of the subordinate clause, we must switch the subject and verb. 2. If an adverb or prepositional phrase comes before the subject, then the subject and verb must switch places. Example: “Hjoed wurkje ik mei myn freon.” The adverb “today” (hjoed) forces the subject and verb to switch while without the adverb, it would be “Ik wurkje mei myn freon.”

Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses are subordinate clauses that describe the noun it is attached to. For example: “I have a book that is interesting.” The adjective clause here is “that is interesting” because it is describing the noun “book. In Frisian, there are two types of adjectives clauses: Common gender and Neuter. Knowing the gender of a word will dictate the usage of the word “that.” When writing adjective clauses in Frisian, there are two “that” words which are “dy(‘t)” (Common) and “dat” (Neuter). The other rule about Frisian adjective clauses is that the verb of the adjective clause must be moved to the end. Common Gender Example: Ik ken in man dy’t freonlik is. (I know a man that is friendly). Neuter Gender Example: Ik haw in boek dat nijsgjirrich is. (I have a book that is interesting) As you can see, the gender of the word will dictate which “that” you would use when you write or speak Frisian.

When and how to use “net” (not) in Frisian

The negator adverb “net” is most commonly used directly after the verb of the subject. 1: “Hy is net lilk.” (He is not angry) 2: “Ik lês net.” (I don’t read) The only other places this adverb can appear are after a direct object or indirect object if it is present. 1 (with direct object): “Ik lês it boek net.” (I do not read the book) 2 (with direct and indirect object): “Ik kin dy it boek net jaan.” (I cannot give you the book) Remember: Infinitive phrases attached to an auxiliary verb go at the end of the clause. The negator adverb “net” does not go after prepositional phrases. Example: Ik kin net mei myn freon prate.If you want to use the negator adverb for indefinite articles like “in” (a), then you must use “gjin.” 1: Ik haw gjin apel (I don’t have an apple) (Literally: I have no apple) 2: Ik sjoch gjin man (I don’t see a man) (Literally: I see no man.)

Infinitive phrases in Frisian

The syntax of infinitives that are connected to an auxiliary verb is that it goes at the end of the clause. Here is an example with the auxiliary verb “kin” (can) and the infinitive “ferbetterje” (improve): Example: “Ik kin myn Frysk ferbetterje.” (I can improve my Frisian). As you can see the infinitive (ferbetterje) is moved to the end of the clause. The second case of infinitives is when an infinitive is used WITHOUT an auxiliary verb. When there is no auxiliary verb, you must add “to” and “-n” to the infinitive phrase. 1: “Ik besykje myn Frysk te ferbetterjen.” (I try to improve my Frisian) 2: “Ik beloof hjoed te studearjen.” (I promise to study today)

The Imperative

The imperative mood of a verb is defined as a command. In English, examples include “Listen to me.” and “Read the book, please.” The imperative is the verb commanding. In the Frisian language, the majority of the imperative mood verbs are conjugated in the same way as the first person singular present tense verbs are conjugated. 1: “Harkje nei my.” (Listen to me) 2: “Lês it boek, asjebleaft.” (Read the book, please) 3: “Kom hjir en help my.” (Come here and help me)

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions such as “Om’t” (because) and “Whylst” (while) act as critical markers for adverbial subordinate clauses. The critical rules for using these include moving the verb of the adverbial clause with subordinating conjunction at the end of the clause. If the subordinate clause as a whole is before the independent clause, the subject and verb of the independent clause must switch. Example 1: Ik bin stil whylst de learaar mei my oer de les praat. (I am quiet while the teacher talks to me about the lesson) Example 2: Ik lês dit boek om’t it hiel nijsgjirrich is. (I read this book because it is very interesting)

The Present Perfect Tense

There are two different ways to conjugate the present perfect tense in many Germanic languages and Western Frisian is no exception. There are certain participles that correspond to which auxiliary verb can be used in a present perfect tense. First Type: “hawwe + participle” This version of the present perfect is used for potential transitive action, in other words, where a direct object may be present. This can also be used to label a change overtime, rather than an immediate moment. Example 1: Ik haw de man sjoen. (I have seen the man) Example 2: Wy hawwe it spultsje ferlern. (We have lost the game) Second type: “wêze + participle” This version is mostly used to denote a change in location, or it can be used with intransitive verbs to specify a current change in condition. Example 1: Ik bin nei de winkel gien. (I have gone to the store) Example 2: Hy is nei Fryslân reizge. (He has traveled to Frisia)

-Written by an enthousiastic German Frisian learner.