The Dutch have a particular way of (ab)using brackets. I try to make sense of some of the worst offenders in my (Neder)brackets collection. Incidentally, the best explanation of this issue I have found is in ‘Righting English that’s gone Dutch’, by Joy Burrough-Boenisch (in the chapter, ‘Bracket (ab)use’).

In the table below, I have tried to interpret various examples of ‘(Neder)brackets’.

In English, brackets around words have three functions: they enclose material that explains, clarifies, or comments. Their function is thus explanatory, clarificatory, or commentarial. In Dutch, however, brackets (usually) serve to save space. However, sometimes Dutch people actually use brackets following the English language rules, which confuses matters.

Ideally, Dutch authors writing material that will be translated would avoid using them at all, and always spell out exactly what they mean.

(Neder)brackets Meaning ‘unpacked’ in Dutch Dutch-style interpretation English-style interpretation
(aanvullende) vergoeding fee or additional fee; charges or additional charges; remuneration or additional remuneration
(af)leverdatum ??? delivery date; date of delivery
(lever)termijn period and/or delivery period?, delivery period and/or deadline? delivery period
(bank)administratie bank records or other records bank records
(bedrijfs)standaarden corporate and other standards corporate standards
(bepaalde) bezoekers all or specific visitors specific visitors
(bij)bestellen order and/or reorder reorder
(bij)gebouwen outbuildings and other buildings
(bij)scholing training or further training further training
(bio)brandstoffen fuels and/or biofuels biofuels
(blinde) geleidehonden guide dogs
(bouwkundige) kosten construction costs and/or other costs
(brand)risico brandrisico en/or risico
  • fire risk and other risks
fire risk
  • brandverzekering en/of verzekering
  • brandverzekering of andere vorm(en) van vezekering
  • fire and other insurance
  • buildings insurance (including fire cover)
  • fire insurance and/or (form of) insurance
  • insurance (for fire or otherwise)
fire insurance
(brom)fietsers bicycles and motorcycles; bicycles and/or motorcycles
(co-) financieren; (co-) financiering financing and co-financing
(controle)proces audit process or other processes (???)


audit team members and other team members (???)
(deel)betaling payment (or partial payment)
(deel)onderwerp topic and/or sub topic
(deel)product products and/or subproducts
(deel)projecten – projects and/or partial projects

– project and/or subproject

– subproject

– constituent project

(digitaal) personeelsdossier – personnel file (digital or otherwise)

– digital or paper personnel file

– digital or hardcopy personnel file

digital personnel file
(dreigende) terroristische handelingen terrorist acts, or threat of terrorist acts
(druk)fouten printing or other errors printing errors
(een deel van) het totale beschikbare bedrag all or part of the total available amount
(lokale) regelgeving regulations (local or otherwise) local regulations
(electro) technische technical or electrical
(financiële) gegevens financial information and other data
(fiscale) wetgeving tax and other forms of legislation
(gedeeltelijk) kunstgebit kunstgebit of gedeeltelijk kunstgebit partial or full dentures (partial) dentures [i.e., dentures that are partial, rather than full]
(gedeeltelijke) sloop
  • partial and/or complete demolition
  • partial and/or total demolition
partial demolition
(her)configureerbaar configurable or reconfigurable
(her)configureren configure or reconfigure
(her)configureren configure or re-configure
(huis)dieren animals or pets; animals and/or pets
(huur)auto's cars and/or rental cars
(indirecte) aandeelhouders direct and/or indirect shareholders
instel(wens)waarde[2] desired setpoint value[3]
(inter)nationale national and international
(kantoor)interieur home or office interior
(kern)waarden just "core values", something else, like "values (core and otherwise)"?
(kinder)porno pornography and/or child pornography
(klant)inzicht inzicht en/of klantinzicht
  • insight and/or customer insight
  • customer insight and other forms of insight
  • insight (with a specific focus on customer insight)
  • customer insight
(kleuren)inkten black and coloured inks coloured inks
(kunst)geschiedenis history of art or history; history or art history
(laser)lassen welding and/or laser welding
(lever)termijnen termijnen en/of levertermijnen periods and/or delivery periods delivery periods
(milieu-) eisen of maatregelen
  • requirements or measures (environmental or otherwise)
  • environmental requirements or measures and/or other kinds of requirements or measures
environmental requirements or measures
(na)bloeiend ???
(mogelijk) probleem – potential or actual problem

– problem or potential problem

potential problem
(natuur)geweld natural disasters or violence
(non)verbale communicatie verbal and nonverbal communication
(nood)uitgang Exit or emergency exit
(on)belangrijk – important and/or unimportant

– important, unimportant, or both

(on)rechtstreeks either directly or indirectly
(on)veiligheidsgevoel sense of security or insecurity
(oplever)data data and/of opleverdata dates and/or delivery dates delivery dates
(warm) water question (open-ended or otherwise)
(overheids)bevel government order, or order by another body
(petro)chemische industrie chemical and petrochemical industries
(potentiële) (interne) klant internal or external customer (potential or otherwise)
(pre)contractuele relatie contractual or pre-contractual relationship
(rechts)personen legal or natural persons
(rechts)persoon natural or legal person
(roer)bakken frying and/or stir-frying; frying and/or stir-frying
(service)kosten costs, service-related and otherwise
(tijdige) annulering cancellation, within the specified time or otherwise
(toegang tot) effectieve zorg effective care and its access; effective care and access to effective care
(toekomstige) bewoners present and/or future residents
(verdere) dienstverlening services (or further services)
(Ver)Huurder Verhuurder/Huurder Lessor/Lessee Lessor/Lessee
(verpleeg-)adres address or address where the employee is being treated
(warm) water hot or cold water hot water
(zaken-) partner partner (whether business partner or otherwise)
(zonne)brillen glasses or sunglasses
aanstelling(-skeuring) appointment or pre-employment medical examination
arbeids(on)geschikt fit or unfit for work
bij (volledig) bewustzijn either partially or fully conscious
breed (her)inzetbaar versatile and reusable
Indien u werkzaam bent in een (semi-)ambulante functie If your job requires you to travel
medewerk(st)er – male and/or female employee

– employee

– staff (plural and singular)

nabestaande (partner) surviving relative or partner
partij(en) party and/or parties
prijs(wijzigingen) prices and price changes