Learn Dutch: 'graag'

How to be polite in Dutch. When do you use 'graag'. 3 ways of using the word 'graag'

 How to use ‘graag’


“Graag! Grrrrr …. Oh dear, why did the Dutch invent this word? It’s so hard to pronounce… and they use it an awful lot.”
“I’m sorry guys. Yes we do. Not only that, but you can also use it in three different ways.
Let’s have a look.”


1. Wil je een kopje koffie? – Would you like a coffee?

Ja, graag! – Yes, please

Nee, dank je – No, thanks



These are the two social reactions you need to know when someone offers you something. The questions may be:IMG_6080

Wil je een biertje? (a beer)
Wil je een glas wijn? Ja, graag. Rood of wit? Wit, graag. (a glass of wine, red or white)
Wil je een koekje? (a cookie)

It is both a formal and informal way of reacting. Informal you could also react with: Ja, lekker!


2. The next version of ‘graag’ is used for saying you like to do something; you do it with pleasure. It’s a preference and often used to answer such questions as: What do you like to do/drink/eat? or Which product do you like?



Welke wijn vind je lekker? Ik drink graag Cabernet Sauvignon. (Which wine do you like? I like (prefer) Cabernet ..)
Wat doe je graag in de vakantie? Ik zwem graag. (What do you like to do in your vacation? I like to go swimming.)
Welke sport vind je leuk? Ik fiets graag. (Which sport do you like? I like to go cycling.)
Welke stad in Nederland vind je leuk? Ik ga graag naar Amsterdam. (Which Dutch town do you like? I like to go to Amsterdam.)

The structure you use =

verb + ‘graag’

e.g. ik fiets graag,  ik zwem graag, ik ga graag …
(so it is very different from the English structure ‘ I like to …’)


3. The third use of graag, used in combination with ‘wil’ to express wanting something, is also often confusing for English speakers. Therefore, first I will explain something about the difference between the verb ‘to will’ in English and the Dutch verb ‘willen. We call it a false friend. A false friend is a word that is similar in English and Dutch but has a different meaning.

‘Will’ is  used as a future tense in English. This is not the case in Dutch!!!, where  the verb

‘willen + graag’

means ‘to want’. So If you want to order something or make a request (I would like to have), you say ‘Ik wil graag …
(notice that you leave out the verb ‘hebben’/ to have).

In a shop: ik wil graag 2 kilo appels (I would like to have/I want 2 kilo of apples)
In a bar: ik wil graag een biertje (I would like/ I want a beer)
In the office: ik wil graag een vrije dag (I would like to have a day off (literally in Dutch= a free day)
(again: notice that you leave out the verb ‘hebben’/ to have).

Other constructions: Ik wil graag + verb
Ik wil graag horen … (I would like to hear ../I want to hear)
Ik wil graag weten of(I would like to know if../ I want to know)
Ik wil graag iets zeggen … (I would like to say something/ I want to say something)
Ik wil jullie graag bedanken. (I would like to thank you all/ I want to thank you all)
Ik wil graag beginnen met … (I would like to start with)
Ik wil graag mijn mening geven … (I would like to give my opinion)
Ik wil graag reageren op … (I would like to react on …)”IMG_2045

Ik wil .. ik wil … ik wil … Kindertjes die willen krijgen een klap op hun billen*!

Note* This is an old fashioned Dutch phrase translating into “I want I want I want. Wanting kids are asking for a slap on the behind.” Not very politically correct… but it does demonstrate how demanding and rude ‘ik wil’ can be without ‘graag’!

It’s just one of those weird sayings we have in Dutch. It’s not said as a real threat but more as ‘education’. Oh well it’s hard to explain …

3 responses on “Learn Dutch: ‘graag’

  1. Lili Shemesh says:

    Oh you’re a star. Thanks for this. I’ve just started learning a Dutch and I absolutely love it but sometimes it gets s bit complicated 🙂

    What happens in questions. Would you say for example: kom jij graag naar de les? Or kom graag jij nar de les?

    Dank u

  2. Agnieszka says:

    I totally agree! You are awesome, thanks for this. Yours explanations are clear and helpful. Danke well!

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