According to Wikipedia, the iterative aspect "expresses the repetition of an event", and the frequentative aspect "indicates repeated action".

Is there a difference or are they synonyms?

1 Answer 1


Bybee, Pagliuca and Perkins 1996 put it very nicely. Here's what they wrote.

Iterative "signals that an action is repeated on a single occasion and differs from the habitual and frequentative, which both signal the repetition occurred on different occasions" (p. 160). Here are the two examples they use:

He searched for his keys all morning. iterative

He searched for his brother in every city he visited. frequentative

Naturally, there is a lot of variation in linguistic terminology, esp. in aspect studies. Comrie 1976 argues for the importance of the iterative vs. habitual distinction; thus, the frequentative is viewed as a subclass of the habitual. Carslon 2012 does mention Van Geenhoven 2004, who views the frequentative as a subclass of the iterative; however, Carlson insists that Van Geenhoven 2004 terminology is not general usage.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.