In grammar, a frequentative form (abbreviated FREQ or FR) of a word is one that indicates repeated action, but is not to be confused with iterative aspect.[1] 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 still is in some language groups, such as Finno-Ugric, Balto-Slavic, Turkic, etc.


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., coo-cooing, cf. 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.)

hagglehag = hew, hack-le
puckerpock, poke-er
swindleswindan (Old English cognate, 'to waste away')-le
tousletease (apart)-le
tumbletumben (Middle English)-le

The present tense in English usually has a frequentative meaning. For example, "I walk to work." means "I walk to work most days.", and would be true even if the speaker was not on their way to work there at the time.


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:[2]

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".

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

Adjectives can similarly receive frequentative markers: iso — isotella "big — to talk big", or feikkailla < English fake "to be fake, blatantly and consistently".


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.[3]

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


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

Frequentative verbs are formed with the suffix –gat (–get after a front vowel; see vowel harmony). Also there is a so-called Template rule, which forces another vowel in between the base verb and the affix resulting in a word containing at least three syllables. Verbal prefixes (coverbs) do not count as a syllable.

Some verbs' frequentative forms have acquired an independent non-frequentative meaning. In these cases the three syllables rule is not applied as the form is not 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.


frequentativeroottranslation of roottranslation of –gat formexplanation
fizetgetfizetto paypaying for a longer period with probably less intensitythe vowel harmony forced -GAT to take form of -get
kéregetkérto askbegging for a livingbecause the resulting word must be at least three syllables long a new vowel is added to the word: kér-e-get
kiütöget(ki)üthit (out)hit out sg. multiple timesthe prefixed coverb "ki" (out) doesn't count as a syllable so an extra vowel is added: (ki)üt-ö-get
hallgatgathallgatto listento listen multiple times but with possibly less intensitythe original verb "hallgat" (to listen) is a syntactically imperfect frequentative form of "hall" (to hear)
rángatrántto hitchto touslethis 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"
jajgatjajouch (a shout)to shout "jaj" multiple times, probably because of painthe original word is not a verb, so the three syllable rule is not applied
bégetbeebaa (onomatopoeia for a sheep)to shout baa multiple timessame as above
mosogatmosto washto do the dishesthe frequentative form (mos-o-gat) has an own non-frequentative meaning
mosogatgatmosogatto do the dishesto do the dishes slowly and effortlesslyas the frequentative "mosogat" has a non frequentative meaning, it can be affixed by -GAT to make it frequentative
dolgozgatdolgozikto workto 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 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’ (< iacere, ‘throw, cast’)

The deponent verb minārī (‘threaten’) has frequentatives of both deponent and active form: minitārī and minitāre.


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

The past iterative does not exist as a morphological tense in Latvian and in the Samogitian dialect of Lithuanian. In Latvian, the corresponding construction can be expressed periphrastically using the verb "mēgt" which is a conjugatable verb. In Samogitian, the corresponding verb is "liuobėti". Compare Latvian: Mēs mēdzām daudz lasīt, Lithuanian: Mes daug skaitydavome, Samogitian: Mes liuobiam daug skaitītė, English: We used to read a lot.

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 the Polish language, certain imperfective verbs ending in -ać denote repeated or habitual action.

  • jeść (to eat) → jadać (to eat habitually)
  • iść (to walk) → chadzać.
  • widzieć (to see) → widywać
  • pisać (to write) → pisywać
  • czytać (to read) → czytywać

The interfix -yw- used to form many frequentative verbs has a different function for prefixed perfective verbs: it serves to create their imperfective equivalents. For instance, rozczytywać (to try to read something barely legible) is simply an imperfective equivalent of rozczytać (to succeed at reading something barely legible).


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".


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


  1. Bhat, D.N.S. (1999). The prominence of tense, aspect and mood. John Benjamins. pp. 53–56. ISBN 9781556199356. OCLC 909078918.
  2. "ctl104mh.shtml". Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  3. Greek Grammar, par. 495: iterative imperfects and aorists.


  • Gildersleeve, B. L. (1895). Gildersleeve's Latin Grammar. Bolchazy-Carducci. ISBN 0-86516-477-0.
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