Kan/Ken je Nederlands?

Dalieux

Member
Portuguese - Brazil
I've seen people pose this simple question, and I know it's meant to ask if you speak dutch.
What I can't quite work out is whether they use kunnen or kennen, since both make logical sense to me.

Are both gebruikelijk? :)

Kan je Nederlands?
Ken je Nederlands?
 
  • marrish

    Senior Member
    اُردو Urdu
    According to the standard prescription:

    Ken je Nederlands? :tick:
    Kan je Nederlands? :cross:

    Kan je Nederlands spreken/ schrijven/ begrijpen...? :tick:

    Still it comes natural for many speakers to say kan in all these above examples because they see kan- and ken- as full synonyms.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    If it’s like German, it’s “kan” and never “ken.”
    because they see kan- and ken- as full synonyms
    No way.

    Again, assuming it’s like German, “kan” is used because the infinitive is elided, and it has nothing to do with “ken.”
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    That can’t be because they consider them synonyms. That’s what my “No way” was in response to.
     

    Dalieux

    Member
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Thanks guys! Recently I've seen an instagram post written like "kan je nederlands", and it got me confused since I was sure it should be "ken". And it was a language learning profile... :rolleyes:
     

    marrish

    Senior Member
    اُردو Urdu
    Still it comes natural for many speakers to say kan in all these above examples because they see kan- and ken- as full synonyms [EDIT: in the above examples].

    No way.

    To the contrary, here's a source which corroborates what I said (and goes into some detail Re the question from the OP):

    Nederlands kennen / kunnen - Genootschap Onze Taal

    Al eeuwenlang door elkaar gebruikt​

    Kunnen en kennen komen eigenlijk van hetzelfde woord. De stam kann-/kunn- kwam al voor in de taal die de voorloper is van de huidige Germaanse talen (zoals het Nederlands). Het is dus niet vreemd dat kennen en kunnen van oudsher door elkaar werden gebruikt. Pas in de zeventiende eeuw ontstond de taalnorm die voorschreef dat je deze werkwoorden van elkaar moet onderscheiden. Het Etymologisch Woordenboek van het Nederlands noemt Christiaen van Heule als een belangrijke voorvechter van dit onderscheid. Desondanks is een groot deel van de taalgebruikers kennen en kunnen als synoniemen blijven zien.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Sorry, I don’t buy that. Even though the words come from the same root, they have vastly different meanings today and I just can’t see a native speaker considering them synonymous.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Nederlands (België)
    These sound the best, in my opinion:

    Kan/kun je Nederlands praten/spreken?
    Spreek je Nederlands?
    Praat je Nederlands?
    Begrijp je Nederlands?
    Versta je Nederlands?

    Ken sounds wrong to me, personally. The Dutch language is not a person or an object. And indeed, I might drop praten/spreken in casual speech: Kun je Nederlands?
    _________________________

    Kunnen - to be able to do something (French: pouvoir, savoir)

    Kennen - to know a person or a thing (French: connaitre)

    Weten - to know a fact (French: savoir)

    Kunnen has a second meaning in combination with the verb zouden: "Dat zou kunnen" = It's possible (French: Ça pourrait)

    I don't know the Portuguese equivalents, but French might help.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Ken sounds wrong to me, personally. The Dutch language is not a person or an object. And indeed, I might drop praten/spreken in casual speech: Kun je Nederlands?
    This is exactly the way it works in German:

    Kannst du Deutsch? :tick:
    Kennst du Deutsch? :cross:

    "Kannst du Deutsch?" is convenient because it doesn't specify a specific skill (speaking, understanding,...), so it's just like "Do you know English?" in English. I'm realizing now that English uses "know" but English doesn't have the kennen/weten (können/wissen) distinction so it doesn't sound like English is a person. This is the "know" that's used in "I know how to play to piano" or "I know how to change a tire" (which also use "kann" in German).
    I don't know the Portuguese equivalents
    kunnen = poder
    kennen = conhecer
    weten = saber
     

    Dalieux

    Member
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Now I'm somewhat confused I have to say, there seems to be a disagreement over which one is correct. :confused:
    One group says it's "kan je Nederlands", the other "ken je Nederlands". The source cited by Peterdg did vouch for the verb "kennen" though...
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    there seems to be a disagreement over which one is correct. :confused:
    Maybe both are correct. ;) There may be regional differences and/or differences in personal preferences from speaker to speaker.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Nederlands (België)
    Now I'm somewhat confused I have to say, there seems to be a disagreement over which one is correct. :confused:
    One group says it's "kan je Nederlands", the other "ken je Nederlands". The source cited by Peterdg did vouch for the verb "kennen" though...
    Kennen is considered standard Dutch, although it sounds wrong to me, personally. "Kun je Nederlands spreken?" is also Standard Dutch, as long as you include the verb.
     

    Hitchhiker

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I was in Belgium for four years as a student at a Flemish university in Ghent.

    Neither short expression sounds natural or common to me, but later I spent ten years in Namibia and when they would find out I was American, they would ask in Afrikaans, "Ken jy die taal?"

    Afrikaans is full of short expression though.

    Since they were asking in Afrikaans, they didn't have to state which language it was that they were asking about.

    I remember at the airport in Belgium, when Flemish people would ask for assistance there, they would always first ask, "Spreekt u Nederlands?, because the person might be a French-speaking employee.
     

    GraVin

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    There is a strange similarity in this discussion to the French discussion between "pouvoir" (kunnen) and "savoir" (strictly, weten, by extension, kennen), and that is perhaps not without its relevance, at least, insofar as Dutch is spoken in tri-lingual Belgium. The strict French understanding of "savoir" is "to know (mentally) how to do something", whereas the Belgian understanding is "to have the (physical) ability to do it" or "you can/could". Even in English, "can" is a subject of discussion, invoking such pedantic reactions as "Can you pass me the salt?" - "Yes, I can; the question is 'Will I?'." Thus, in France, savoir would be used in a phrase such as "Tu sais jouer du piano?" (Can you play the piano?) but not, as you might say in Belgium, "Tu sais me passer le sel?" (Can you pass the salt?). Whilst German and Dutch would be unlikely to resort to "wissen" or "weten" in phrases such as "Kannst/Könntest du mir den Salz geben" or "Kan je me het zout geven/Zou je me het zout kunnen geven", Belgian Dutch is otherwise frequently influenced by French usage, so that I wouldn't rule out the possibility that "kennen" and "kunnen" get melded in this particular usage of "being able to speak a language". Perhaps if for for no other reason than that the ability to speak a language (kunnen) is not per se a physical one (unless impeded by physical disability) but rather a state of knowledge, thus according more with the idea of "kennen". Even in English, it's not outrageous to say, instead of "Can you speak Dutch?", rather "Do you know Dutch?"
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Sorry, I don’t buy that. Even though the words come from the same root, they have vastly different meanings today and I just can’t see a native speaker considering them synonymous.
    Well, there is pragmatics, I think. Just like the variation: "Kan ik u helpen?/ Mag ik u helpen?" For some people those are interchangeable. Also: "Mag ik/ Kan ik nu vertrekken?" To me there is some difference in meaning strictly speaking but in practice "kan ik" is an informal variant of "mag ik?".

    "Ik kan Nederlands" might be considered elliptical: "... [spreken]" and thus reminds me of "Ik moet naar de winkel [gaan]é. No? µ
     

    GraVin

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    You, Titus, / Must to Corioli back: send us to Rome
    The best, with whom we may articulate,
    For their own good and ours.
    William Shakespeare: Coriolanus.
    I know the lines, because I have spoken them on stage. They show a similarity with current usage of "moeten" in Dutch and indeed "müssen" German. ThomasK raises an interesting point, and one that I believe is valid for the Germanic languages that I know: Ich muss dahin - I need to go there (German), and his own example of the shop. However, the question is whether this is a tendency followed by ALL modal verbs, including "kunnen", or simply this one. Pause for thought. Input from native speakers of Dutch appreciated.
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Well, as for Dutch: "ik kan er niet naar naartoe" - "Ik moet ernaartoe" - "Nee, je mag er niet naartoe" --- "IMaar ik wil ernaartoe" - "Ik durf er niet meer naartoe" [whereas durven is not considered a real Modal, I think].
     

    GraVin

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Well, as for Dutch: "ik kan er niet naar naartoe" - "Ik moet ernaartoe" - "Nee, je mag er niet naartoe" --- "IMaar ik wil ernaartoe" - "Ik durf er niet meer naartoe" [whereas durven is not considered a real Modal, I think].
    Yes, good. If durven isn't a real modal, what is the substantive idea that it conveys? Hm? "To be daring"? If so, "kunnen" isn't a real modal - "to be able", nor "moeten" - to be under an obligation. I think it's a modal, "real" or otherwise.
     
    Top