Dutch Sounds

Standard Dutch has about 40 different phonemes. The Dutch sound inventory is therefore medium and consists of consonants, semi-vowels, vowels and diphthongs.

The most hardest thing of Dutch pronunciation are the vowels. These are different than in English. Down here I've listed a table with sounds as closely related as possible to English.
Dutch Sounds


  example+meaning similar sound in English IPA
a kat = cat but (just a bit shorter) ɑ
aa vaas = vase doremi fa so la tido a
e pet = cap that ɛ
ee steeg = ally grain e
i vis = fish this ɪ
ie bier = beer peek i
o pot = pot caught ɔ
oo poot = paw coat o
oe koek = cooky look u

Although many sounds in the Dutch language are to English some are pronounced completely different . To really learn the sounds correctly you should carefully imitate properly spoken Dutch. Recordings are extremely helpful to this end or using a tutor/teacher.

Diphthong Example+ (Meaning) How to Pronounce it IPA
ou/au zout/rauw (salt/raw) In the same way as saying loud but not as long. Begin with having your mouth as wide as possible open. Keep your tongue at the back of your mouth and make sure the lips are rounded. ʌu
ui muis (mouse) This is a hard one. If you happen to speak French, you have to pronounce it like the "eu" in veulent. œy
ij/ei lijn/gein (line/joke) Imagine saying e followed by a short i behind. It sounds a little bit like ay ɛi
eu deur (door) Say the ee sound but while doing it, make sure you round the lips œ
u mug (mosquito) similar sound as the ɵ
uu absoluut (absolute) It's a similar sound as in sewing clothes. Or new but keep your mouth rounded. y

Dutch short vowels are shorter and long vowels are longer than their English equilavent and unfortunately there are also quite a few vowel sounds without English similarities.



The consonants in Dutch generally undergo regressive voiceassimilation. That is, a voiceless consonant under the influence of a subsequent voiced consonant is voiced also often itself. For example, the words ‘zak’ and ‘doen’ combined in the composition ‘zakdoek’, will assimilate the voiceless / k / of “zak” on the voiced / d / of ‘doen’ making the pronunciation to become [zɑgduk]? . Progressive voice assimilation also occurs, that is to say that a voiced consonant, under the influence of a prior voiceless consonant becomes voiceless. Whether assimilation is progressive or regressive, is determined by the sonority scale: consonants with more sonority are assimilated with consonants which are less sonorous.

Final Sound Sharpening

The consonants in Dutch undergo final sound sharpening, a process where voiced consonants at the end of a word or phrase is part voiceless, thus there is no phonemic distinction. The words 'wand' and 'want' for example are pronounced the same. In the case of plural nouns can be heard if a word is written voiced or unvoiced.

Regressive assimilation can moreover reverse this effect again , making the voiceless consonant in compositions voiced again such as leesbril (zb).
However, progressive assimilation can also occur, through which the voice negligence of the final vowel passed to the beginning vowel of the next word, or word part such as: handvat [tf] .
This effect can sometimes give a distinction in ruling in which the spelling does not display it. In weggelopen is the pronunciation [x]? because the word starts with the independant part weg with the final sound [x]? by sharpening, making the  [ɣ]? of the next word voiceless by way of assimilation. But in weggetje is the pronunciation [ɣ]? because there is no seperation of wordparts.

Whether the Dutch language knows any affricates is not answered the same way by all linguists. Some consider the following series as sound sequences of consonants, others see them as affricates.

tsjonge [tʃ]?
tsaar [ts]?


Standard Dutch vowels are usually divided into long and short versions. Since unstressed vowels occur very rarely in an open syllable, they are also covered (closed by a consonant), as opposed to the unsecured tense vowels that do occur frequently at the end of a syllable.
In the overview below you will see two vowels next to each other, the left is the unstressed one and the right one is stressed.

Stressed IPA   Unstressed IPA
kat [ɑ]   kaas [aː]
pet [ɛ]   pees [eː]
pit [ɪ]   Piet [i]
op [ɔ]   hoop [oː]
put [ʏ]   fuut [y]
      reus [øː]
spade [ə]   boek [u]

In the west and north of the Netherlands instead of the long half-open vowels, often a somewhat fitting diphthongs are pronounced: [eɪ] , [øʏ] , [oʊ] .

Also the following is used in words which are borrowed from other languages.

Vowel IPA
scène [ɛː]
freule [œː]
analyse [iː]
centrifuge [yː]
zone [ɔː]
blues [uː]

For / r / is somewhat changed the pronunciation of certain vowels, by extension or diphthongisation and increase or decrease the articulation place:


Diphthongs are highly dynamic sound sequences, which begin in the articulation position of a vowel. However, the articulators do not remain in that position, but stay in place during the utterance to the articulation position of another vowel.

Dutch has the following diphtongs.

Vowel IPA
tijd [ɛi]
huis [œy]    
koud [ʌu]

In the south (mainly Belgium), the diphtongs are achieved in another way, namely mostly as eenklanken [ɛː] [OE], [ɔu]. In The Hague, this also appears, but the latter is pronounced as [ʌː].

In addition, the following  diphtongs still occur but these are rare and occur only in a limited number of words, mostly words borrowed from another language.

Vowel IPA
Detail [ɑi]
hoi [ɔi]


Furthermore, there are the following "improper diphthongs'
These are actually 1 sound in the underlying phonemic structure followed by [j] or [ʋ] , but in pronunciation fused together so that they are realized as a diphthong.

Vowel IPA
haai [aːi]
leeuw [eːu]
nieuw [iu]
mooi [oːi]
moeilijk [ui]