Return PolishForums LIVE   /   Archives [3]
  PolishForums Archive :
Archives - 2005-2009 / Language  % width 37

Iterative and semelfactive verbs

25 Mar 2009 /  #1
In Polish, there are perfective and imperfective verbs. Got the hang of it yet?
Well, there are also iterative verbs and semelfactive verbs.

Iterative verbs (don't make me reiterate) denote an action that is repeated (or iterated) many times.

iść - to go (usually meaning on foot)
chodzić - to go, similar to iść, but in an iterative sense

Idę do sklepów - I'm going to the shops. (That is what I am doing).
Chodze do pracy - I go to work. (This happens time and time again).

When talking about going or carrying, there are several ways we can pair-up words. Iść and jechać are corresponding verbs for going on foot or by transport. These two words also correspond with nieść and wieźć, which mean to carry. But we also have iterative verbs for each of these four verbs.

iść > chodzić
nieść > nosić

jechać > jeździć
wieźć > wozić

pisać - to write
pisywać - to write (iteratively)

On pisze do mnie - He is writing to me
On pisuje swoje wspomnienia - He writes his memoirs. (I'm thinking of Moomin Papa).
Pisywałem do do rodziców co dwa tygodnie - I used to write to my parents every fortnight.

cztać - to read
czytywać - to read (iteratively)

Ona czyta teraz to pismo - She is reading the paper now.
Ona czytuje wszystkie pisma w sklepie - She always reads all the newspapers in the shop.

If you have just read all this, be sure to read any comments anyone else adds beneath because I am bound to have made at least one tiny little mistake somewhere (or the whole lot is actually a big pile of rubbish). I'll say something about semelfactive verbs when I've got my strength back. This has been tiring.
25 Mar 2009 /  #2
Looks pretty darn accurate thus far, Osioł. You might also include in "round two"
"być"/"bywać" = to be vs. to frequent, i.e. be at/with regularly:

BY£EM wczoraj wieczorem u moich rodziców. = I was with my parents yesterday evening

BYWA£EM każdej niedzieli wieczorem u moich rodziców. = I used to be with my parents/at my parents' house every Sunday evening.
26 Mar 2009 /  #3
the only thing I would add the iterative thing is called frequentative in linguistics

you can look it up in wikipedia for instance
OP osiol  
26 Mar 2009 /  #4
Thanks Gumishu and Marek.

Now it is time for semelfactive verbs. I'd actually like someone else to try to explain these because it seems like a slightly trickier subject. Semelfactive verbs describe something that happens once and once only. I think the infinitives all end in -nąć, although not all -nąć verbs are semelfactive.

kopać - to kick or to dig
kopnąć - to give a kick (semelfactive)

błyszczeć - to shine, to glitter
błysnąć - to flash (semelfactive)

Other semelfactive verbs I have found (please find me more):
jęknąć - to groan
krzyknąć - to cry out

Kopnie piłkę - I give the ball a kick
Kopniął piłkę - He gave the ball a kick
Kopnij piłkę! - Kick the ball

Not semelfactive:
Kopię piłkę - I am kicking the ball (not just one kick)
Kopał piłkę - He kicked the ball, he kicked the ball (around)
Kop piłkę - Kick the ball (not necessarily just one single kick)

Światło błysnęło - The light flashed.
Światło błyszczał - The light shone, the light was shining.

I'm not very good with -ąć / -nąć verbs, so I could do with a bit of help and a bit more time.
26 Mar 2009 /  #5
jęknąć - to groan
krzyknąć - to cry out

Are you sure? These semelfactive verbs sound a bit like 'punctive' verbs - where the start and the end of the action occur almost simultaneously and cannot be separated. Kick and flash would fit as punctive but I'm not sure about groan...
26 Mar 2009 /  #6
jęczeć - iterative or prolonged
jęknąć - one time action (short)

i understand English groan may not have the meaning(flavour) of a one-time action
27 Mar 2009 /  #7
Correct, Gumishu! Polish aspects RARELY correlate easily with English 'tenses'-)))!!!
OP osiol  
29 Mar 2009 /  #8
Can anyone give me any more iterative or semelfactive verbs? So far, I think this thread has only taught me one - one very useful one, but still only one.
29 Mar 2009 /  #9
stuknąć - stukać (to knock)
machnąć - machać (to wave (hands etc))
krzyknąć - krzyczeć (to shout, to cry)
ryknąć - ryczeć (to moo but not only don't know other English counterparts)
warknąć - warczeć (to growl, to snarl (similar to bark innit)
walnąć - walić (to hit)
pchnąć - pchać (to push)
tknąć or more often dotknąć - dotykać (to touch)
połknąć - połykać (to swallow)
kucnąć - kucać (to crouch)
and many many others

there are also verbs that don't have iterative(frequentative) form like:
palnąć - to hit; to say bullshit
runąć - to fall down
przycupnąć - to crouch, to sit down
tchnąć - rare literary only in compounds - to fill with (hope, spirit)
natchnąć - to inspire
golnąć (sobie) - to have a shot (of vodka or similar beverage) (this is slang)
(well there can be created iterative forms but they are not used and look strange to Poles)

there are also verb forms that look like semelfactive (one-time action) with -nąć ending but actually are not such:
płynąć - to swim
frunąć - to fly (of living creatures (suggests moving of the wings) - planes don't fruwają;)
brnąć - hmm? :)
sunąć - to push but also to move (as if pushed or as if pushing itself)
garnąć - to grab,
moknąć - to get wet
schnąć - to dry
chłonąć - to absorb
płonąć - to be on fire/in flames, to burn
łaknąć - to thirst, (to desire)
pragnąć - to desire, to wish for
puchnąć - to swell, to get swollen
więdnąć - to wither
mknąć - to speed

perhaps some more later
29 Mar 2009 /  #10
What's the exact lexical-semantic difference between "pukać" vs."stuknąć - stukać" = to knock? Are they, so to speak, true synomyms??

Ah, the wondrous intricacies of Polish:)))

30 Mar 2009 /  #11
you rather don't do pukanie with a hammer, mostly with a finger (pukanie is say gentler then stukanie) if there is some undefined knocking (not at the door) then it is mostly stukanie
30 Mar 2009 /  #12
As per usual, Polish is far more exact than English! The next time some Yankee-Doodle Dunce starts to tell another "dumb Polak" joke, I swear, I'm gonna say what the late great Ted Knight (nee Kasziński) said in the same situation: "Now, tell it to me in Polish!" LOL

If any tongue, at least European, constantly tests the mental agility of the learner, it's got to be Polish)))))
30 Mar 2009 /  #13
If any tongue, at least European, constantly tests the mental agility of the learner, it's got to be Polish)))))

Makes up for the relatively puny vocabulary I suppose.
30 Mar 2009 /  #14
Puny vocabulary???? (:-

You remind me of a colleague who was learning Turkish and ran across one word with umpteen different uses for English one entry, with the offhanded sigh of the true Brit, "Oh, goshhh, there's that word again!"

Are you somehow equating sameness of vocabulary, i.e. the identical word showing up in multiple contexts, with paultriness of expression??

Don't share your point of view at all, though I can see how one might think so.
Perhaps the very select choice of words in Polish means that those few words used have a depth of significance we native English speakers can only envy:)))))

20 Apr 2009 /  #15
This is really not that difficult, guys. The only problem that it's pretty 'untranslatable' to English. :)

The conjugation seems pretty much regular, even when it's irregular for the frequentative ("iterative") aspect. And the semelfactive ("punctive") aspect is only a sub-aspect of the perfective, so you'll learn that verb anyway...

If you think these are exceptionally difficult, just imagine how hard it is to learn the plethora of English tenses + their continuous + their perfect + their aspects. You don't wanna know.

You remind me of a colleague who was learning Turkish and ran across one word with umpteen different uses for English one entry, with the offhanded sigh of the true Brit, "Oh, goshhh, there's that word again!"

I bet that "one entry" for the English was "get" or "have"... =)
25 Apr 2009 /  #16
Ted Knight must have originally been Kaszyński, not Kasziński!


The po- prefix used with frequentative verbs creates a notion of distributiveness or successivness. So whereas in English we migth say: He poured vodka for his guests, in Polish: Ponalewał gościom wódkę evokes the image of the host filling one glass after another.

Or Krowa stała przy płocie i porykiwała. The cow was standing by the fence of lowing every so often. This is not the kind of frequentative as czytywać or pijąc (to read or drink over a long period of time), but a single occasion (day, morning, several hours) where an action is intermittently repeated.

Is there a special name for such verbs in linguistic terminology?
25 Apr 2009 /  #17
I believe we term it "iterative", e.g. "IDĘ na spacer." (iterative - repearted just once)
vs. "CHODZĘ na spacer." (frequentative - performed ritually, indeed, on a daily basis)
Future (perfective) would of course be "PÓJDĘ na spacer." = I WILL be taking a walk/stroll..... vs. "I take a walk/stroll REGULARLY." or "I'm going for a walk RIGHT NOW."
25 Apr 2009 /  #19
Probably right, Polonius--:))

Presumably the poster was confused about the terminology used in the thread and not the content specifically.

But I could be wrong-:)
28 Apr 2009 /  #20
Hey, lots of tasty verbs here....
I love verbs of motion, especially irregular ones
Present tense-
chodzić, iść
chodzę, idę
Past tense-
chodziłem: I went - determinate, but if you are indeterminate it's szedłem: I was in the process of going but hadn't completed the action.

I love this verb, it's one of my most favourite Polish verbies ;)

Thanks for the verbs guys.
28 Apr 2009 /  #21
....not to mention the verb(s) "to fly"--:)) In Polish apparently, winged creatures take a separate verb from airplane travel; the perfective form "frunąć" vs. "latać"/"lecić"!!! Even German's not as precise as that. LOL

28 Apr 2009 /  #22
it's not perfective - it's actually impertective

perfective is pofrunąć, polecieć

fruwanie has much to do with moving wings
28 Apr 2009 /  #23
Thanks for the correction, gumishu)))!!

Isn't "polecieć" related to the verb for "to recommend", e.g. "polecenie" (recommendation)??? Or am I again imagining roots which don't exist. LOL

28 Apr 2009 /  #24
hmm I actually don't know the origins (etymology) of the verb polecić - to recommend

there is also a simmilar thing zlecić - zlecenie (zlecić komuś zadanie - to charge someone with a task; dać komuś zlecenie namalowania obrazu - to commission a painting from someone)

I am not sure if these verbs have anything to do with lecieć-latać-polecieć


they could have though

they may all come from zalecić - to advise, to recommend
which may come from zaloty ;)

polecić can also mean to order someone to do something
and polecenie is order, command or instruction

there is a polecony kind of letter - it is supposed to get into the hands of the addressee only who should sing a receipt to confirm that he/she had received it.

legal correspondence is usually send as polecony letters (list polecony)
would you be so kind and give me the name and some facts of any similar things in America/UK?
28 Apr 2009 /  #25
A nicely thoughtful answer, gumishu!
Many thanks indeed,

29 Apr 2009 /  #27
Don't mention it! (Nye za shto) That's Russian, but right now, I get so tongue-twisted up, I don't know in which language I'm posting-))))))

30 Apr 2009 /  #28
in Polish its nie ma za co in Portuguese da nada ;)
1 May 2009 /  #29 German "keine Ursache!" I'd forgotten the Polish, thanks:))
22 Jul 2009 /  #30

I want to refer to the "Pisywałem do rodziców co dwa tygodnie" example. I don't know if someone has pointed it out already, but I am a Polish native and I find it a little awkward. I wouldn't use the frequentative form, as you called it, in it. I would rather use the simple past form "Pisalem do rodzicow co dwa tygodnie". This is because in my opinion "pisywalem" denotes not only the fact of repeating the action, but also its irregularity. By irregularity I mean the fact that it occurs in random and generallly uneven intervals, which to me is its main characteristics.

"Pisywalem" means: I sent a letter one day, then I sent the next one two days later, and then another two at two consecutive days the next week, which does not fit with the adverbial "co dwa tygodnie", which determines the times of sending them precisely. While "pisalem" suggests no temporal variation whatsoever. (Actually it suggests nothing at all...).

Archives - 2005-2009 / Language / Iterative and semelfactive verbsArchived