Semelfactive Verbs

Today, working through a text on Russian grammar, I ran across a linguistics term I had not previously encountered.

Other semelfactives include…

Terence Wade A Comprehensive Russian grammar

It turns out that a semelfactive is a type of verbal aspect that describes a particular kind of action that is incorporated into the verb’s root, not by inflection of the verb. Semelfactives have the following characteristics:

  • Punctuality - The action is instantaneous, requiring only a moment of time.
  • Perfective - The action being described is complete; and the focus is on completion.
  • Atelic1 - There is no end of the action.

In Russian, semelfactives include: крикнуть , махнуть , and плюнуть .


  1. Telicity itself an interesting concept. It’s not completely clear how to distinguish between telicity and the concept of verbal aspect, which is so important in Russian. An atelic verb, like a perfective verb, describes an action that has been completed. [return]