In grammar, a frequentative form 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. English frequentative is no longer productive, but in some languages, such as Finnish, it is.


English has -le or geminate-er as a suffix. Some frequentative verbs surviving in English are listed below. Additionally, English will occasionally form a frequentative verb by reduplication of a monosyllable (e.g., murmur, coo-cooing). Frequentative nouns are often formed by combining two different vowel grades of the same word (as in teeter-tot, pitter-patter, chitchat, etc.)

  • batter (bat)
  • blabber (blab)
  • bobble (bob)
  • crackle (crack)
  • curdle (curd)
  • dazzle (daze)
  • flicker (flick)
  • flitter (flit)
  • flutter (float)
  • haggle (hag, =to hew)
  • jiggle (jig)
  • patter (pat)
  • prattle (prate)
  • prickle (prick)
  • scuffle (scuff)
  • slither (slide)
  • sniffle (sniff)
  • snuggle (snug)
  • sparkle (spark)
  • straddle (<'stride')
  • swaddle (swathe)
  • trample (tramp)
  • waddle (wade)
  • waggle (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"
  • ajattaa - ajatella — ajattelen "to make someone drive — to think — I think"

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, as in the case of ajaa "to drive": regularly we have ajella "to drive around", ajattaa "to make someone drive", but irregularly ajatella "to think".

For a list of different real and hypothetical forms, see:

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

  • cantāre, sing (
  • cursāre, run about (
  • dictāre, dictate (
  • āctitāre, zealously agitate, agitāre, put into motion (

Notice also deponent frequentatives -

minitari (+ dative) (Russian

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 phonemes called 'helping verbs' ('yardımcı eylem' / 'yardımcı fiil' ) are used as suffixes to denote ability ('-ebilmek' ), close space situation ('-eyazmak'), and repetition ('-egelmek').

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

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

See also


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