Inchoative verb

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An inchoative verb, sometimes called an "inceptive" verb, shows a process of beginning or becoming. Productive inchoative infixes exist in several languages, including Latin and Ancient Greek, and consequently some Romance languages. Not all verbs with inchoative infixes have retained their inceptive meaning. In Italian, for example, present indicative finisco 'I finish' contains the form of the infix, while present indicative finiamo 'we finish' does not, yet the only difference in meaning is that of person subject; the infix is now semantically inert.


The Latin language uses the infix -sc- to show inchoative force. The infix is normally seen in the present tense stem, and is not present in the third and fourth principal parts.

  • apiscor, apiscī, aptus sum reach
  • crescō, crescere, crēvī, crētus come into being, grow up
  • convalescō, convalescere, convaluī recover, grow strong
  • discō, discere, didicī learn
  • īrascor, īrascī, īrātus sum be in a rage
  • lapidescō, lapidescere become stone
  • nanciscor, nanciscī, nactus/nanctus sum get
  • nascor, nasci, natus sum to be begotten, to be generated, to be born, as nascent life
  • noscō, noscere, nōvī, nōtus get to know
  • obdormiscō, obdormiscere, obdormīvī, obdormītus sum fall asleep
  • poscō, poscere, poposcī demand
  • proficiscor, proficiscī, profectus sum set out
  • rubescō, rubescere, rubuī to grow red, redden

Ancient Greek[edit]

Greek also uses the inchoative suffix -sk-, although it does not always indicate inchoative meaning. -sk- is added to verb-stems ending in vowels, -isk- to consonant stems.[1]

Past iterative verb forms in Homer and Herodotus use the same suffix.


Finnish inchoatives may be marked with -nt- (which undergoes consonant gradation to -nn- in weak form).

  • vaalentua "to go paler" < vaalea "pale"
  • hiljentyä "to go silent" < hiljainen "silent"

An alternative form is of this vaaleta, hiljetä, etc.

Not all inchoatives are marked like this, however, e.g.

  • kuolla "to die"

The translative case marks "becoming something" on the noun. Thus, if a target state is specific, it is placed in the translative case (-ksi), e.g. lehti vaalenee keltaiseksi "the leaf pales to yellow". The transformation from a state is marked with the elative case (-sta). For example, lehti vaalenee tummanvihreästä keltaiseksi "the leaf pales from dark green to yellow". In eastern Karelian dialects the exessive case (-nta) is found; it specifically refers to inchoative changes.


In Swedish, inchoative verbs end in -na. Some examples and their non-inchoative counterparts:

  • att blekna, to go pale; att bleka, to bleach
  • att tystna, to fall silent; att tysta, to silence
  • att fastna, to get stuck; att fästa, to attach
  • att hårdna, to be hardened; att härda, to harden
  • att kallna, to become cold; att kyla, to cool
  • att ruttna, to rot; att röta, to cause something to rot

This class of verbs is today not productive, and the umlaut relationship between some inchoative verbs and their non-inchoative counterparts indicates that they in fact are quite old.


  1. ^ Smyth, Greek Grammar, par. 526: suffix of fifth type of present stem

See also[edit]