January 15, 2018

A Brief Look At Frisian Contractions - 'T, 'E, etc.

This post is from a question that came up on the Fun With Frisian Facebook group. To start off the year, let's look into contractions in Frisian. What do all those 't and 'e abbreviations mean? We'll try to find out.

I'll be referencing Pieter Meijes Tiersma's (R.I.P.) excellent "Frisian Reference Grammar" for major parts of this lesson. The book is out of print and often unreasonably priced, but if you check a site like addall.com periodically, sooner or later you might find a copy for under $50 (it's a thin paperback of 157 pages including the index).


't - sometimes, this is a reduced form of the pronoun it meaning "it," which is normally pronounced with a schwa in Frisian [UHT], but can be shortened. For example: 't wie in lange dei - it was a long day. And another example:

't is tiid
it is time
[tIHs TEEt]

't - at other times, 't is short for "the."

Frisian has two definite articles where English has only "the": de and it. Both are said with a schwa in Frisian: [DUH] and [UHT]. On the bright side, Frisian is not as complex as German this way, but it is still more work than English. All plural nouns take de where we'd use "the." However, singular Frisian nouns vary between it and de:

  • 't - the Frisian it (singular "the") may be shortened this way before a vowel. Exampleby 't âld folk, "by the old folk" from the anthem of Friesland.

  • 't - fan 't - the contraction gets some unusual use in certain phrases related to the year and the four seasons. Even seasons that normally are de, like de winter, take 't in this odd phrase. It looks like it means "from the..." but it is a way of saying "this winter" or "in the winter."
fan 't jier
this year

fan 't maitiid / fan 't winter / fan 't hjerst / fan 't simmer...
this spring / this winter / this autumn / this summer...

't - the 't contraction also shows up a lot after other words, often as a shortening of dat which means "that" and is normally pronounced like English "dot." [DAWT]

dy't - who, which, that - [DEEt]
wa't - who (that) - [VAHt]


in dream dy't útkomt
a dream which has come true

wa't ik bin 
who I am

Generally, when you see -'t as an ending, look to the main word to get the meaning:

dêr't ... there...
doe't ...when...
hoe't ...how...
wannear't ... when / at the time that...
hoenear't ... when / at the time that...


Now, onward to the shortened form for de, the other singular "the" in Frisian.

'e - shows up after the very common prepositions yn, op, and om.

yn 'e wei 
in the way

'e - optional after the common prepositions oer, oantroch, and foar.

oan 'e kant
to the side

'e - certain phrases involving hûs (house), which normally would be it hûs.

Examples: yn 'e hûs (inside) and út 'e hûs (out of the house).


sa'n - "such a" - short for sa in.

Wy hawwe der net ien sa'n by.
We have only one such as that.

Ik ha sa'n sin oan...
I wish for / I have such a desire for...


-sto - shortened forms with the informal you, do, said like the English word "doe" the female deer. Despite the spelling, you still hear do.

bisto - bist do - are you?
hasto - hast do - do you have?
tinksto - do you think that?
datsto - that you


Of course, there are many other contractions in Frisian. You will get more and more used to them as you read the language. Hopefully, this article has demystified a few of the more prevalent Frisian contractions.