Transgressive (linguistics)

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Transgressive is a term of linguistic morphology denoting a special form of verb. It expresses a coincidentally proceeding or following action. It is considered to be a kind of infinitive, or participle. It is often used in Balto-Slavic languages.

Czech and Slovak language[edit]

The transgressive (transgresiv, přechodník) is an archaic form of the verb in the Czech and Slovak language. Nowadays it is used only occasionally for artistic purposes and in set phrases and idioms. Transgressives were still used quite widely in the literary language at the beginning of 20th century. For example, Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk contains many of them.

The Czech language recognizes present and past transgressives. Present transgressive can express present or future action depending on the aspect of the verb from which it is derived.


  • Usednuvši u okna, začala plakat. (Having sat down at a window, she began to cry.) — past transgressive
  • Děti, vidouce babičku, vyběhly ven. (The children, seeing grandma, ran out.) — present transgressive

Polish language[edit]

In Polish, transgressives are usually called "adverbial participles" (imiesłowy przysłówkowe) and inflect neither for gender nor for number. There are two kinds of such participles: anterior (only from perfective verbs) and contemporary (only from imperfective verbs). The anterior participle (related to the Czech past transgressive) expresses an event earlier than the event described by the main clause, while the contemporary adverbial participle expresses an event simultaneous with the event described by the main clause. Nowadays, especially the anterior participle is unused in the spoken language and rare in the written language.

The contemporary adverbial participle can be derived by adding the ending -c to the 3rd person plural present form of an imperfective verb (or by adding the ending -ąc to the present stem of an imperfective verb):

jeść "to eat (imperf.)" > 3pl jedzą "[they] are eating" > jedząc "(while) eating"
nieść "to carry (imperf.)" > 3pl niosą "[they] are carrying" > niosąc "(while) carrying"
czytać "to read (imperf.)" > 3pl czytają "[they] are reading" > czytając "(while) reading"
kupować "to buy (imperf.)" > 3pl kupują "[they] are buying" > kupując "(while) buying"

The verb być "to be" is the only exception - its contemporary adverbial participle is będąc and corresponds to its future form będą "[they] will be" rather than to its present form "[they] are".

The anterior adverbial participle can be derived by replacing of the ending in the 3rd person singular masculine past form of a perfective verb with the suffix -wszy (after a vowel) or -łszy (after a consonant):

zjeść "to eat (perf.)" > zjadł "[he] ate" > zjadłszy "having eaten"
przynieść "to bring (perf.)" > przyniósł "[he] brought" > przyniósłszy "having carried"
przeczytać "to read (perf.)" > przeczytał "[he] read" > przeczytawszy "having read"
kupić "to buy (perf.)" > kupił "[he] bought" > kupiwszy "having bought"
pchnąć "to push (perf.)" > pchnął "[he] pushed" > pchnąwszy "having pushed"

Serbo-Croatian language[edit]

In all varieties of Serbo-Croatian, the transgressive forms are called "verbal adverbs" (glagolski prilozi, singular: glagolski prilog). They are common in literature and other written works, while in spoken language simple present or past tense constructions are usually used instead. They are formed similarly to the Czech and Polish transgressives. Examples are given in Gaj's Latin alphabet and Ijekavian pronunciation.

The present verbal adverb (glagolski prilog sadašnji) is formed by adding the ending -ći to the 3rd person plural present form of an imperfective verb:

pjevati "to sing" (imperf.) > 3pl pjevaju "[they] sing/are singing" > pjevajući "(while) singing"
ljubiti "to kiss" (imperf.) > 3pl ljube "[they] kiss/are kissing" > ljubeći "(while) kissing"

The past verbal adverb (glagolski prilog prošli) is formed by adding the ending -vši to the infinitive stem of a perfective verb:

otpjevati "to sing" (perf.) > otpjeva- infinitive stem > otpjevavši "having sung"
poljubiti "to kiss" (perf.) > poljubi- infinitive stem > poljubivši "having kissed"

Some perfective verbs have irregular past verbal adverbs, for example doći "to come (perf.) > došavši "having come".

The auxiliary verbs can be both perfective and imperfective. The verb biti "to be" has the present verbal adverb budući and the past verbal adverb bivši, and the verb htjeti "to want" has the present verbal adverb htijući or hoteći and the past verbal adverb htjevši or hotjevši.

Lithuanian language[edit]

In Lithuanian, there's a transgressive form called "the adverbial participle", or "the half participle" (Lith. "pusdalyvis"). It is used with verbs in all tenses to render an action taking place simultaneously with the action of the main verb:


  • Dainuodamas jis nieko negirdi. (while singing, he doesn't hear anything)
  • Rašydama laišką, ji visiškai pamiršo apie verdančią sriubą. (while writing a letter, she totally forgot about the boiling soup)

The transgressive form is formed by removing the infinitive ending "-ti" and adding the suffix "-dam-", as well as endings marking gender and number:

  • -damas, refl. -damasis
  • -dama, refl. -damasi
  • -dami, refl. -damiesi
  • -damos, refl. -damosi

See also[edit]