I will attempt to illustrate my question via example. Let's say we have two verbs which are homonyms of eachother: "fleeber" and "fleeber". The first means "to create a soft sound" and the second means "to move in a zig zag pattern" (the definitions themselves are not relevant). However, these two verbs differ in their conjugations: the first's singular past tense is conjugated as "fleebed" and the second as "flobber".

This pair of words, "fleeber" and "fleeber" is an example of a pair I'm looking for. They have the same part of speech, same simplified form (in the case of verbs: the same infinitive, "to fleeber"), but differ in at least one inflection. My question is if such a pair of words exists in any known language.

This is for an application I'm writing that tries to find the base form of a word given its inflected version to help me study a language. The language is Russian, so if you can find an example in Russian that would be serendipitous :)

5 Answers 5



  • граф - graph(math), граф - graf (duke). First is inanimate, second is animate, so, in accusative has ending -а: увидел граф versus увидел графа.

  • график - the same, either plot or drawing artist.

  • дух - spirit. In the sense of moral force, inanimate, in the sense of supernatural creature, animate.

  • лук - either bow or onion. In the sense of onion is uncountable. Килограмм лука versus килограмм луков.

  • свет - light, world. As light, has locative case: на свету

  • пост - post. Either place where people stay on duty or a message on internet forum. In the first meaning has locative case: на посту.

  • писать - "to piss" or "to write" (but difference in the stress). Present tense: писаю vs пишу.

  • считать - to count, to read from a medium. The first meaning has no future tense, the second meaning has no present tense. Future tense of the second meaning coincides with present tense of the first meaning.

Generally, any inanimate noun can be used as animate as metaphor, slur, etc. For inastance, молоток (hammer) is inanimate but if you have a tale about how the tools argue about who of them is more useful, they become animate.


I don't know of an example in Russian, but in English, we have "lie" (be untruthful, past tense is "lied") and "lie" (recline, past tense is "laid" or "lay" depending on dialect).

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    Did you mean past tense is lay? Laid is the past tense of lay – a base form that is itself identical to the past tense of lie, which comes close to being another example of what the asker is looking for, but isn’t quite. Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 9:17
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    @JanusBahsJacquet tbf these days there's sufficient confusion that both "lay" and "laid" are common as the past tense of "lie"
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 10:30
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    @Tristan I’d turn that on its head and say there’s sufficient confusion between the transitive and intransitive verb that it’s common to hear the transitive verb (in all its forms) used intransitively, and even sometimes vice versa. Lots of people don’t distinguish lie/lay, lay/laid or (have) lain/laid at all – but those who do distinguish them would normally have laid as the past tense of lay, not lie; or put differently, if you would only ever say, “he lies on the bed” and never “he lays on the bed”, you’d be unlikely to say, “he laid on the bed” as well. Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 11:34
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    that's not an unreasonable alternate analysis
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 16:38
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Oops. My first edit was to switch to using past participles, and then I didn't undo that properly when I switched to listing the two separately. Fixed.
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 17:13

Japanese has consonant-stem verbs and vowel-stem verbs (and few irregular verbs). If using 終止形 as lemma, then there are some consonant-stem verbs and vowel-stem verbs with the same lemma, but with different most other forms (e.g. negative, perfective ("past tense")). Examples:

  • いる (i-ru, original stem wi-) (居る) (vowel-stem verb) "(original meaning, now obsolete) to sit, to exist", Negative: いない (i-nai, 居ない), Perfective: いた (i-ta, 居た)
  • いる (i-ru) (射る) (vowel-stem verb) "to shoot", Negative: いない (i-nai, 射ない), Perfective: いた (i-ta, 射た)
  • いる (ir-u) (入る) (consonant-stem verb) "to enter, to go in, to come in", Negative: いらない (ir-anai, 入らない), Perfective: いった (it-ta, 入った)
  • いる (ir-u) (要る) (consonant-stem verb) "to be necessary", Negative: いらない (ir-anai, 要らない), Perfective: いった (it-ta, 要った)
  • きる (ki-ru) (着る) (vowel-stem verb) "to put on (cloths)", Negative: きない (ki-nai, 着ない), Perfective: きた (ki-ta, 着た)
  • きる (kir-u) (切る) (consonant-stem verb) "to cut", Negative: きらない (kir-anai, 切らない), Perfective: きった (kit-ta, 切った)
  • ねる (ne-ru) (寝る) (vowel-stem verb) "to sleep", Negative: ねない (ne-nai, 寝ない), Perfective: ねた (ne-ta, 寝た)
  • ねる (ner-u) (練る) (consonant-stem verb) "to knead, to polish, to refine, to elaborate, to train, to exercise", Negative: ねらない (ner-anai, 練らない), Perfective: ねった (net-ta, 練った)
  • しめる (sime-ru) (閉める) (vowel-stem verb) "to close", Negative: しめない (sime-nai, 閉めない), Perfective: しめた (sime-ta, 閉めた)
  • しめる (simer-u) (湿る) (consonant-stem verb) "to be damp, to be wet", Negative: しめらない (simer-anai, 湿らない), Perfective: しめった (simet-ta, 湿った)

A Romanian example:

  • măr: "apple" (neutral) / "apple tree" (masculine); in the singular they are identical, in the plural:
no article definite article
nominative mere / meri merele / merii
genitive mere / meri merelor / merilor
vocative* - merelor / merilor

* I couldn't find an official normative reference to the vocative form. This is my instinct as a native speaker.

In Romanian, neutral nouns act as masculine in the singular, but feminine in the plural.

There are other examples (here only nominative plural, unarticulated):

  • element: as in "four elements" (n) / part of a radiator (m); elemente / elemenți
  • cap: "head" as body part (n) / "head" as leader (m); capete / capi

German: "weak vs. strong" past tense forms

  • schleifen - (past:) schleifte = drag, haul // - (past:) schliff = whet, polish
  • schaffen - schaffte = manage to do, achieve // schaffen - schuf = create
  • senden - sendete = 1. send 2. broadcast // senden - sandte only: send
  • wachsen - wachste = wax // wachsen - wuchs = grow
  • also malen/mahlen (with different partizip ii)?
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 8:39
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    Not worth a separate answer, but there are examples of this in other Germanic languages as well: English has wake/woke ‘awaken from sleep’ vs wake/waked ‘hold a wake for’, slay/slew ‘kill violently’ vs slay/slayed ‘impress, do well’, hide/hid ‘conceal’ vs hide/hided ‘beat with a skin whip’; Danish has lede/ledte ‘search for’ vs lede/ledede ‘lead’ (both weak, but of different types), fare/for ‘rush, travel’ vs fare/farede ‘farrow’, lade/lod ‘let, allow’ vs lade/ladede ‘charge, lade’; etc. It’s actually a fairly common phenomenon in Germanic languages. Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 9:30

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