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Title: Frequentative  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Grammatical aspect, Momentane, Arabic verbs, Reduplication in the Russian language, Vedic Sanskrit grammar
Collection: Finnish Grammar, Grammatical Aspects, Lithuanian Grammar, Turkish Grammar, Verb Types
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In grammar, a frequentative form (abbreviated FREQ or FR) of a word is one which indicates repeated action. The frequentative form can be considered a separate, but not completely independent word, called a frequentative. The frequentative is no longer productive in English, but in some languages, such as Finno-Ugric languages (Finnish or Hungarian), Balto-Slavic (Lithuanian or Russian and Polish), Turkic etc., it is.


  • English 1
  • Finnish 2
  • Hungarian 3
  • Lithuanian 4
  • Latin 5
  • Greek 6
  • Russian 7
  • Turkish 8
  • Reduplication 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11


English has -le and -er as frequentative suffixes. Some frequentative verbs surviving in English and their parent verbs are listed below. Additionally, some frequentative verbs are formed by reduplication of a monosyllable (e.g., English coo-cooing, Latin murmur). Frequentative nouns are often formed by combining two different vowel grades of the same word (as in teeter-totter, pitter-patter, chitchat, etc.)

frequentative original
batter bat
blabber blab
bobble bob
burble burp
chatter chat
chuckle chuck
clamber climb
crackle crack
crumble crumb
curdle curd
dabble dab
dribble drip
dazzle daze
flicker flick
flitter flit
flutter float
fondle fond
glimmer gleam
gobble gob
gruntle grunt
haggle hag = hew, hack
jiggle jig
jostle joust
muddle mud
nestle nest
nuzzle nose
patter pat
piddle piss
prattle prate
prickle prick
pucker pock, poke
puddle pool
rustle rouse
scuffle scuff
scuttle scud
slither slide
sniffle sniff
snuggle snug
spackle speck
sparkle spark
spatter spit
speckle speck
straddle stride
suckle suck
swaddle swathe
tickle tick
topple top
trample tramp
twitter tweet
waddle wade
waggle wag
wiggle wag
wrestle wrest


In Finnish, a frequentative verb signifies a single action repeated, "around the place" both spatially and temporally. The complete translation would be "go — around aimlessly". There is a large array of different frequentatives, indicated by lexical agglutinative markers. In general, one frequentative is -:i-, and another -ele-, but it is almost always combined with something else. Some forms:

  • sataa — sadella — satelee "to rain — to rain occasionally — it rains occasionally"
  • ampua — ammuskella — ammuskelen "to shoot — go shooting around — I go shooting around"
  • juosta — juoksennella — juoksentelen "to run — to run around (to and fro) — I run around"
  • kirjoittaa — kirjoitella — kirjoittelen "to write — to write (something short) occasionally — I write "around""
  • järjestää — järjestellä — järjestelen "to put in order — to arrange continuously, to play around — I play around (with them) in order to put them in order"
  • heittää — heittelehtiä — heittelehdit "to throw — to swerve — you swerve"
  • loikata — loikkia — loikin "to jump once — to jump (again and again) — I jump (again and again)"
  • istua — istuksia — istuksit "to sit — to sit (randomly somewhere), loiter — you loiter there by sitting"

There are several frequentative morphemes, underlined above; these are affected by consonant gradation as indicated. Their meanings are slightly different; see the list, arranged infinitive~personal:

  • -ella~-ele-: bare frequentative.
  • -skella~-skele-: frequentative unergative verb, where the action is wanton (arbitrary)
  • -stella~-stele-: frequentative causative, where the subject causes something indicated in the root, as "order" vs. "to continuously try to put something in order".
  • -nnella~-ntele-: a frequentative, where an actor is required. The marker -nt- indicates a continuing effort, therefore -ntele- indicates a series of such efforts.
  • -elehtia~-elehdi-: movement that is random and compulsive, as in under pain, e.g. vääntelehtiä "writhe in pain", or heittelehtiä "to swerve"
  • -:ia-~-i-: a continuing action definitely at a point in time, where the action or effort is repeated.
  • -ksia~-ksi-: same as -i-, but wanton, cf. -skella

Frequentatives may be combined with momentanes, that is, to indicate the repetition of a short, sudden action. The momentane -ahta- can be prefixed with the frequentative -ele- to produce the morpheme -ahtele-, as in täristä "to shake (continuously)" → tärähtää "to shake suddenly once" → tärähdellä "to shake, such that a single, sudden shaking is repeated". For example, the contrast between these is that ground shakes (maa tärisee) continuously when a large truck goes by, the ground shakes once (maa tärähtää) when a cannon fires, and the ground shakes suddenly but repeatedly (maa tärähtelee) when a battery of cannons is firing.

Since the frequentative is a lexical, not a grammatical contrast, considerable semantic drift may have occurred.

For a list of different real and hypothetical forms, see: [1].

Loanwords are put into the frequentative form, if the action is such. If the action can be nothing else but frequentative, the "basic form" doesn't even exist, such as with "to go shopping".

  • surfata — surfailla "to surf — to surf (around in the net)"
  • *shopata — shoppailla "*to shop once — to go shopping"

That's also the case with an adjective: iso — isotella "big — to talk big", or feikkailla < English fake "to be fake, blatantly and consistently".


In Hungarian it is quite common and everyday to use frequentative.

Frequentative verbs are made up of base verb and -GAT affix. The -GAT affix has two forms: -gat and -get from among always the one is used which matches the vowel harmony of the base verb. Also there is a so-called Template rule which force an other vowel in between the base verb and the affix to result in a word containing at least three syllables. Verbal prefixes (coverbs) do not count as a syllable. In special cases the frequentative form has lost it's frequentative meaning and gained a new. In these cases the three syllables rule is not applied as the form isn't considered a frequentative. These words can be affixed with -GAT again to create a frequentative meaning. In rare cases non-verbs can be affixed by -GAT to give them similar modification in meaning as to verbs. In most cases these non-verbs are obviously related to some actions, like a typical outcome or object. The resulting word basically has the same meaning as if the related verb were affixed with -GAT.

The change in meaning of a frequentative compared to the base can be different depending on the base: The -GAT affix can modify the occurrences or the intensity or both of an action. Occasionally it produces a specific meaning which is related but distinct from the original form's.

frequentative original original in English meaning effect by -GAT affix explanation
fizetget fizet to pay paying for a longer period with probably less intensity the vowel harmony forced -GAT to take form of -get
kéreget kér to ask begging for a living because the resulting word must be at least three syllables long a new vowel is added to the word: kér-e-get
kiütöget (ki)üt hit (out) hit out sg. multiple times the prefixed coverb "ki" (out) doesn't count as a syllable so an extra vowel is added: (ki)üt-ö-get
hallgatgat hallgat to listen to listen multiple times but with possibly less intensity the original verb "hallgat" (to listen) is a syntactically imperfect frequentative form of "hall" (to hear)
rángat ránt to hitch to tousle this one is kind of an exception for the three syllable rule, however "rántogat" (ránt-o-gat) is uncommon but valid, and has a slightly bigger emphasis on the separate nature of each pull rather than a continuous shaking as in "rángat"
jajjgat jajj ouch (a shout) to shout "jajj" multiple times, probably because of pain the original word is not a verb, so the three syllable rule is not applied
béget bee baa (onomatopoeia for a sheep) to shout baa multiple times same as above
mosogat mos to wash to do the dishes the frequentative form (mos-o-gat) has an own non-frequentative meaning
mosogatgat mosogat to do the dishes to do the dishes slowly and effortlessly as the frequentative "mosogat" has a non frequentative meaning, it can be affixed by -GAT to make it frequentative
dolgozgat dolgozik to work to work with less effort and intensity, as in: "Ők fizetgetnek, én dolgozgatok" (They pretend to pay me, I pretend to work.) the "-ik" at the end of "dolgozik" is an irregular ending which is only effective in third person singular, so -GAT sticks to "dolgoz" which is the root of the word


In Lithuanian, the past iterative or frequentative signifies a single action repeated in the past.

The past iterative does not exist in Latvian and its construction is different in the Samogitian dialect of Lithuanian.

It is created from the infinitive without the infinitive suffix -ti + dav + suffix for frequentative.

For example:

  • dirbti — dirbau — dirbdavau "to work — to work occasionally — to work regularly (repeated action in the past)"
  dirbti = to work norėti = to want skaityti = to read
1. sg. dirb-dav-au norė-dav-au skaity-dav-au
2. sg. dirb-dav-ai norė-dav-ai skaity-dav-ai
3. sg. dirb-dav-o norė-dav-o skaity-dav-o
1. pl. dirb-dav-ome norė-dav-ome skaity-dav-ome
2. pl. dirb-dav-ote norė-dav-ote skaity-dav-ote
3. pl dirb-dav-o norė-dav-o skaity-dav-o


In Latin, frequentative verbs show repeated or intense action. They are formed from the supine stem with -tāre/-sāre, -itāre, -titāre/-sitāre added.

  • ventitāre, 'come frequently or repeatedly' (< venio, 'come'; see Catullus 8, l. 4)
  • cantāre, '(continue to) sing' (< canere, 'sing a song')
  • cursāre, 'run around' (< currere, 'run')
  • dictāre, 'dictate' (< dīcere, 'speak, say')
  • āctitāre, 'zealously agitate' and agitāre, 'put into motion' (< agere, 'do, drive')
  • pulsāre, 'push/beat around' (< pellere, 'push (once), beat')
  • iactāre, 'shake, disturb'(< iacio, 'throw, cast')

Notice also deponent frequentatives -

minitari (+ dative) (


In Homer and Herodotus, there is a past frequentative, usually called "past iterative", formed like the imperfect, but with an additional -sk- suffix before the endings.[1]

  • ékhe-sk-on "I used to have" (imperfect ékh-on)

The same suffix is used in inchoative verbs in both Ancient Greek and Latin.


In the Russian language, the frequentative form of verbs to denote a repeated or customary action is produced by inserting the suffix -ив/-ыв, often accompanied with a change in the root of the word (vowel alternation, change of the last root consonant).

  • видеть (to see) → видывать (to see repeatedly)
  • сидеть (to sit) → сиживать
  • ходить (to walk) → хаживать
  • носить (to wear) → нашивать
  • гладить (to stroke) → поглаживать
  • писать (to write) → пописывать
  • An interesting example is with the word брать (to take); an archaic usage recorded among hunters, normally used in the past tense, in hunter's boasting: бирал, бирывал meaning "used to take (quite a few) trophies".


Turkish also has a similar form. The 'helping verbs' ( 'yardımcı eylem' / 'yardımcı fiil' ) are used as suffixes to denote ability ( '-ebilmek' ), imminence ('-ivermek'), close miss (narrow escape) situation ('-eyazmak'), and repetition ('-egelmek' or '-edurmak').

  • anlat- (to recite) → anlatagelmek (to be reciting repetitively.)

For other helping verbs, see Helping verbs section under Turkish grammar.


The simplest way to produce a frequentative is reduplication, either of the entire word or of one of its phonemes. This is common in Austronesian languages, although reduplication also serves to pluralize and intensify nouns and adjectives. Examples in Niuean are available here.

See also


  • Gildersleeve, B. L. (1895). Gildersleeve's Latin Grammar. Bolchazy-Carducci.  
  1. ^ Greek Grammar, par. 495: iterative imperfects and aorists.
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