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PAST: het — When we talked about tenses, we mentioned helping verbs. It is a word added to work with the verb. To flag the past tense, you use het  and ge- (prefix) attached to the verb.  Example: Golden Holdings investeer in die projek.  > Golden Holdings het in die projek geïnvesteer.

FUTURE: sal — When a present tense sentence is made future, the sal or gaan takes that all important second position where the verb was, and the 'real' verb goes to the end of the sentence.  Example: Golden Holdings investeer in die projek.  > Golden Holdings sal in die projek investeer.


Modals are helping verbs too. When adding a modal to a present tense sentence, it takes the second position from the verb and the verb goes to the end of the sentence. And yes, you can get two helping verbs in a sentence, one to indicate the tense, and then a modal helping verb to indicate the 'mood'

Afrikaans modals are regular and English ones are not. In the lessons on modals, you will see what I mean. The modals are KAN (can), WIL (want to), MAG (may), MOET (have to). In case you were wondering, if you have tense and mood helping verbs in the same sentence, the tense goes first, and mood goes to the end with the real verb. Past tense is similar to other Germanic languages in that a modal is slightly changed to indicate both mood and tense. kan > kon; wil > wou, etc.

What is a Modal Helping Verb?

Often I say 'modals', but 'modal helping verbs' would be more proper.

A helping verb helps the main verb in the sentence. In Afrikaans you have HET and SAL as helping verbs to indicate past and future tenses.

Modal helping verbs give a mood and they can be used in present, future or past tense sentences. Here are the modals we use in Afrikaans:

  • wil     — being willing, having desire
  • moet — being compelled, have to, must
  • mag  — being allowed, may
  • kan  — being able, can,

Here is an example of two modals, one for time (SAL) and one for mood (WIL) in one sentence. Ek sal wil werk. (I will want to work.)

Past Tense: In English CAN becomes COULD. An Afrikaans KAN becomes KON. So does MAG become MOG, and MOET becomes MOES, and WIL becomes WOU.