3 Dutch discourse markers: Zeg… Nou… Joh!

Have you ever looked up the Dutch words zeg, nou or joh? If you have, you probably did not find a satisfying definition. That is because these words are discourse markers: a type of words used to structure conversation or to give emphasis. You will hear them at the start of a sentence, to draw the listeners attention, or at the end of a sentence, to express a certain attitude. In this blog we will discuss three Dutch discourse markers, which will make your Dutch… more Dutch!

How to use zeg in a sentence

Dutch speakers use zeg at the beginning of a sentence in order to start a new conversation topic, in a similar way that ‘so’ is used in English. Zeg is often followed by a question: Zeg, hoe gaat het eigenlijk met Paolo?So, how is Paolo doing? Here, the word zeg gives emphasis to the question and encourages the other person to answer. Zeg, ga jij nog iets doen dit weekend?So, do you have any plans this weekend?

How to use nou in a sentence

Like zeg, the word nou is used for emphasis at the beginning of the sentence. Nou usually encourages action: Nou, zeg eens wat!Come on, say something! Nou is also used to change the course of a conversation:  – Well, if you ask meDutch speakers also use nou to express surprise: Nou, dat had ik niet gedacht!Well, that was unexpected! Wat doe je nou! What are you doing!

How to use joh in a sentence

Joh is used informally for emphasis at the end of a sentence. For instance when you try to convince someone of something: Probeer het ook eens. Het is hartstikke leuk, joh!You should try it out, its real fun! Due to its informal nature, when used towards someone in a position of authority, the word joh can undermine their authority and be taken as an insult. For instance when someone who is given a parking ticket says to the police: Ga toch lekker boeven vangen, joh!Why dont you go catch some real thieves? 

Zeg: https://www.dbnl.org/tekst/_voo004200701_01/_voo004200701_01_0011.php
Nou: https://neerlandistiek.nl/2017/12/nou-nu/
Joh: https://neerlandistiek.nl/2017/03/joh-2/ 

Written by Eveline Mineur
Ellipsis Text and Translation