Eventually

Most Dutch writers are aware that eventual means uiteindelijk (“in the end”), but they’re still often unsure how to deal with the faux-ami “eventueel”.

The Dutch word that looks like eventual is more about expressing a possible scenario. So that’s how it should be expressed:

  • Alternatives that can be used for a single word are e.g. possible, potential, conceivable. Though they’re often slightly over-blown if you’re trying to write easily accessible texts.
  • In practice, the natural solution is often just any (e.g. een eventueel openstaand bedrag => any sum still outstanding)
  • Or a short phrase such as “if that happens” (e.g. de eventuele kwalificatie van de ploeg => when the team qualifies, if it does, … )

There are similar issues with related words in other European languages. It is in fact English that’s the odd one out.

Prevalence: moderate. The error of mistranslating as the valse vriend is known: that mistake is rare. Clumsy alternatives aren’t, though.
Frequency: moderate. Eventueel is a common word in Dutch – much more so than eventual – and it appears in all kinds of documents.
Native: no. As is generally the case with faux-amis, of course.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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