That tricky little word "WEL" ... HELP, PLEASE!

The translation provided for ‘wel’ in the Dutch course I am curating is ‘as many as’, which does indeed seem to be ONE of the meanings of ‘wel’, but my question is:

what is/are the most common way(s) “wel” is used?

As the course is an introduction to Dutch, I don’t want to have a mega-long entry (and this doesn’t work well with the memrise format, anyway), but I would like to at least include the most common usages and meanings.

Can anybody familiar with Dutch chime in?

@duaal @xKimka

From my reading (250 pages into a Dutch translation of a Henning Mankell murder mystery), it often seems to be used to emphasise something.

Is the “as many as” meaning a common or uncommon usage?


That is a really tricky word to translate.

Emphasising is common as you’ve already seen. Also confirming something.
It is used as a modal particle which makes it terribly difficult to translate. And sometimes to express a contrast.

Some examples for common usage:

Ga je wel of niet?
Are you going yes or no?

Ik denk het wel.
I think so.

Zij heeft het niet gedaan maar ik kan je vertellen wie wel.
She did not do it but I can tell you who did.

Nee, het gaat wel.
I’m okay. (when offered help)

Er is wel een klein probleem.
There is, however, a small problem.

About the current translation I had to think hard. It is correct in certain sentences but is not that common.
… soms wel duizend per dag.
… sometimes as many as a thousand a day.

There are also lots of combinations with “wel”.
best wel - pretty, quite
straks wel - later
nog wel - sometime later
Lots of fun with a small word.


Bedankt voor je hulp! En voor je tijd!

That is really really helpful!

I shall have a look at your example sentences and other ones I can find and, hopefully, I can find a couple of short ones that I could use as examples for a definition.

I know that Wiktionary has some nice examples too:
The first 3 given definitions at “Etymology 1” are all common.


Those examples are also very helpful!

Bedankt voor je hulp!

Btw, for all speakers of the melodic language of love - German: Very often the German “wohl” is a possible translation of “wel”. “wohl” ain’t as ubiquitous as “wel” in Dutch but is often used in informal speech (or informal “woll”, “wa”). Interestingly enough the English “well”, German “wohl” and Dutch “wel” are related. The usage and meaning of the English “well” is quite different from it’s continental siblings. However sometimes “well” is pretty much used like “wel” - check the Wiktionary entry for “well”.

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Thanks, Robert!

I have noticed a few similarities in usage with Swedish (väl is used emphatically) and German (wohl, like you say, is also used this way).

There are a few usages that seem to be like the English “well”, but I haven’t read enough yet to have collected enough examples.

The most interesting use, I find, is when it is used a bit like the German “doch”, or in English, "oh yes I am, “oh yes I do” and so on.

I came across a good example today, when reading “Moordenaar zonder gezicht”:

p. 258 “Hij heeft nooit iets om me gegeven’, (…)
Natuurlijk wel.” = of course he has.

If I can find a way to get that idea into the definition of “wel”, I will be very happy!

This made me chuckle :rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:

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