Lithuanian: Verb prefixes

Discussion in 'Other Languages' started by Orenas, Nov 10, 2013.

  1. Orenas New Member


    Currently in my Lithuanian learnings, I've been having a very difficult time with verb prefixes and their actual function. For a good example, let's say I search for the Lithuanian equivalent of "to share" - what comes up is pasidalyti, dalytis, and dalyti. With these I have no idea which one to use where. What does the pa- prefix actually mean anyway? It has probably been the most common one (that I don't understand) thus far, yet it's super confusing.

    Another good example would be something like this: "Pažiūrėkite į paveikslėlį ir parašykite, kas kur gyvena ir kas iš kur yra."

    I already know the verbs žieūrėti and rašyti, yet these ones have the pa- prefix confusing me as to how the words differ. Can anyone help here?

    Labai ačiū!
  2. Orenas New Member

    Furthermore, we also have things like "pabaigti" and "baigti" which seem to mean the same thing, or "skaityti" and "perskaityti". For example, in a book that I'm using, it has written "perskaitykite dialogą ir pažymėkite, kurie teiginiai teisingi, o kurie - neteisingi" - why is perskaitykite used here instead of simply "skaitykite"?

    Any help would be so appreciated!
  3. Semiarty New Member

    Lithuanian, Russian.
    hey, use google: wiktionary pa-, first link and scroll down to Lithuanian language. It's a prefix. The difference here is that "perskaitykite" would mean that you have to read it just once. If you remove the prefix "per-", then it means that you should be reading it continuously.

    Perskaitykite kokį nors laikraštį. (Read any news paper, once [like for homework or some other reason])
    Skaitykite kokį nors laikraštį. (Read any news paper from time to time [could be a suggestion to read paper occasionally for your benefit]) Basically without a prefix it means an action that can be/should be done more than one time (teacher tells you to read news paper unspecified number of times a week so you progress with the language faster) or continuously (i.e. teacher tells you to read a paper while she is gone for 10 minutes)

    In short, Per- prefix will be added to mean a single action, no per- prefix will mean a continuous or a repetitive action.
    Other examples:
    Dainuokite / Padainuokite (sing)
    Šokite / Pašokite (dance) and etc.

    Hope it helps. (If you need some more help or curious about Lithuanian language, feel free to leave me a pm)
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2013
  4. Murke New Member

    castellano, España
    I understand you perfectly well, Orenas. I lived in Lithuania for almost four years and learned the language, and the story with the preffixes is really crazy. I understand their function, but sometimes I'm completely lost about whether to use "pa" or not use it. Semiarty's explanation is very good, but it does not cover everything about it.

    I see it for example with the sentence: "Einam parukyt", let's go to smoke, this once, one cigarette, but you would say "as nerukau", I don't smoke, not talking about this one time, but generally speaking.

    But what about the sentence "žiūrėk", when you are pointing at something for someone to look at, shouldn't it be "pažiūrėk", since you are referring to this one thing at this one moment?

    Anyway, thank you for the explanation, Semiarty, and good luck, Orenas! :)
  5. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    The Baltic prefix usage in verbs is largely parallel to that in Slavic, and e. g. all the examples in this thread are perfectly valid in Russian. It may be worth checking some Slavic grammars if explanations in the available Lithuanian manuals are not clear enough.
  6. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    Not exactly your question, but just to illustrate how close the Baltic and Slavic verbal prefixes are, let's compare two sets of Lithuanian and Russian forms.

    "to bring" nešti (Lithuanian) — nesti (Russian)
    atnešti — otnesti
    apnešti — obnesti
    panešti — ponesti
    pranešti — pronesti
    prinešti — prinesti
    užnešti — voznesti
    pernešti — perenesti
    nunešti — nanesti
    (danešti) — donesti

    (Prefixes in each line are etymologically identical, though the resulting verbs may have different meanings).
  7. itsacatfish Member

    London - UK
    English - UK
    As a Russian speaker I have noticed the similarity, although I find it strange that in no Lithuanian grammars I've come across has there been a mention of the concept of "imperfective" and "perfective" verbs, which they go on about in Slavic languages.

    Is the concept exactly the same? Does pa- (as with po-) mean to do something either once or for a short period of time?

    Also, since this is confusing in Russian, it would be quite nice if someone could explain when to use the "perfective" (prefixed) imperative in Lithuanian and when to use the non-prefixed form (as Murke mentioned)
  8. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    The Baltic verbal aspects are developing in the same direction as the Slavic ones, but with a lag of, say, 15 centuries: both living Baltic languages have a concept of a biaspectual opposition and the prefixes to form perfective verbs, but still have not developed a system to create secondary imperfectives from the perfective verbs. Without this, the opposition of perfective/imperfective verbs remains part of the vocabulary rather than of the grammar. Lithuanian has a suffix -inė- and is in principle able to form such threefold sets as rašytiperrašytiperrašinėti (identical in structure and meaning to the Russian писатьпереписатьпереписывать), but such secondary imperfectives are still available for a rather small number of verbs.

    You can read about the Lithuanian aspects in these two grammars:

    Ambrazas V, Geniušienė E, Girdenis A и др. · 2006 · Lithuanian grammar: 234–237 (

    Mathiassen T · 1996 · A short grammar of Lithuanian: 119–122 (

    Interestingly, the usage of Lithuanian aspects after negation is the same as in Russian: negalima įeiti = нельзя войти ("it is impossible to enter") vs. negalima eiti = нельзя входить ("it is prohibited to enter").

    Since Lithuanian has preserved a richer system of tenses, the connection between aspect and tense is not as close there as in the devastated North Slavic system.

    Like in Slavic, this is one of the meanings, e. g. sėdėtipasėdėti (сидетьпосидеть).

    I am afraid we should wait for a native speaker. I have an impression that the Lithuanian and Russian usages are largely parallel, hence žiūrėk is смотри and pažiūrėk is посмотри.
  9. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    I have an impression that in Russian we can speak of a basic form of the Imperative, which conveys an order, and a supplementary form, which has a subdued meaning. In terminative verbs the basic form is perfective (сядь, встань, ляг, ударь, поставь, дай vs. the subdued садись, вставай, ложись, ударяй, ставь, давай), whereas in non-terminative verbs the situation is opposite (сиди, смотри, лежи, думай vs. the subdued посиди, посмотри, полежи, подумай). This may be connected with the fact that in the terminative verbs the perfective forms are almost always etymologically older, whereas in the non-terminatives older are the imperfectives, thus the original imperatives (perfective in terminative verbs and imperfective in non-terminative ones) continue to be used in their imperative sense, whereas imperatives from the newer aspect were specialized for a less strict meaning.

  10. itsacatfish Member

    London - UK
    English - UK
    Thank you ahvalj, you make some very interesting observations, thanks for the info. It's very interesting what you said about terminative verbs, which is a distinction I've never really thought about in terms of the Russian verb system, definitely food for thought!

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