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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, unlike in some language groups, such as Finno-Ugric, Balto-Slavic, and Turkic.


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.)

frequentative original suffix
blabber blab -er
bobble bob -le
clamber climb -er
clutter clot -er
crackle crack -le
crumble crumb -le
cuddle couth (ME. cudde, cuþþed, OE. cúð) -le
curdle curd -le
dabble dab -le
dribble drip -le
draggle, bedraggled drag -le
dazzle daze -le
fizzle fizz -le
flitter flit -er
flutter float -er
fondle fond -le
glimmer gleam -er
gobble gob -le
gruntle, disgruntled grunt -le
haggle hag = hew, hack -le
jiggle jig -le
jostle joust -le
muddle mud -le
nestle nest -le
nuzzle nose -le
paddle pad -le
patter pat -er
prattle prate -le
prickle prick -le
pucker pock, poke -er
putter put -er
scuffle scuff -le
scuttle scud -le
slither slide -er
sniffle sniff -le
snuffle snuff -le
snuggle snug -le
sparkle spark -le
spatter spit -er
speckle speck -le
straddle stride -le
suckle suck -le
swaddle swathe -le
swagger swag -er
swindle swindan (OE. cognate, 'to waste away') -le
tickle tick -le
topple top -le
tousle tease (apart) -le
trample tramp -le
toggle tug -le
tumble tumben (Middle English) -le
twinkle twink -le
waddle wade -le
waggle wag -le
wrangle wring -le
wrestle wrest -le


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:

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:

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".

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", with an additional -sk- suffix before the endings.[3]

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

The infix may occur in the forms -σκ-, -ασκ-, and -εσκ-. Homer regularly omits the augment. The iterative occurs most often in the imperfect, but also in the aorist.


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.


frequentative root translation of root translation of –gat form 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"
jajgat jaj ouch (a shout) to shout "jaj" 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 its 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 Latin, frequentative verbs indicate repeated or intense action.[4] They are usually formed from the supine stem with -āre added.

The following, exceptionally, is 3rd conjugation:

Occasionally, however, they are formed not from the supine but from the present stem with -itāre.

The following is irregular since the supine of nāre is nātum with a long ā:

A frequentative verb can be made doubly frequentative by adding -itāre to a supine:

Some frequentative verbs have no simple form:


Lithuanian has a past frequentative (or iterative), which serves to express a single action repeated in the past. Starting from the infinitive without –ti, it is formed by adding the invariant morpheme –dav– followed by the regular past tense suffix of the first conjugation. For instance, dirb·ti ("to work", a first-conjugation verb), whose plain past tense is dirb·au ("I worked" or "I have worked"), has a past iterative of dirb·dav·au ("I used to work"). The six intersections of person and number map onto five distinct frequentative endings; there is no morphological distinction of number in the third person, nor of conjugation class in general.

dirbti ("to work") norėti ("to want") skaityti ("to read")
1st person singular dirb·dav·au norė·dav·au skaity·dav·au
plural dirb·dav·ome norė·dav·ome skaity·dav·ome
2nd person singular dirb·dav·ai norė·dav·ai skaity·dav·ai
plural dirb·dav·ote norė·dav·ote skaity·dav·ote
3rd person dirb·dav·o norė·dav·o skaity·dav·o

The closest relative of Lithuanian, Latvian, as well as the Samogitian dialect of the language, has no separate past tense to mark iterative aspect; in its place, however, both may express it by means of periphrasis. An auxiliary verb – mēgt in Latvian and liuobėti in Samogitian – will then occupy the syntactic centre of the verb phrase (subject to conjugation), relegating the main verb to trail it as an (invariant) infinitive complement.

Consider the following three translations of the English sentence "We used to read a lot."


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

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 suffixes -ива-/-ыва-, -ва- or -а́-, often accompanied with a change in the root of the word (vowel alternation, change of the last root consonant) and stress shift.

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 such as Niuean, although reduplication also serves to pluralize and intensify nouns and adjectives.

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". Archived from the original on 2005-12-12. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  3. ^ Greek Grammar, par. 495: iterative imperfects and aorists.
  4. ^ B. L. Gildersleeve and Gonzalez Lodge (1895), Gildersleeve's Latin Grammar, §191 A.
  5. ^ WEBER, CLIFFORD. "Three Notes on Habeo and Ac in the "Itinerarium Egeriae"." Illinois Classical Studies 10, no. 2 (1985): 285-94. Accessed March 6, 2021.