Ten towar nie bywa wszędzie.

I was wondering if someone could give me more information about how this verb ‘bywa’ (infinitive = bywać) ‘works’?

The information I’ve found so far …

Google translate gives the English translation for ‘bywa’ as ‘sometimes’.

The book ‘301 Polish Verbs’ explains that bywać is related to być. They are stated to both be imperfective forms, of the existentialist ‘to be’ in English. ‘Być’, is described as being ‘Actual’ (seems easy enough to understand at face value), however, ‘bywać’ is decribed as ‘Frequentative’.

Wikipedia defines a frequentitive verb as :-

‘In grammar, a frequentative of a word is one that indicates repeated action, but is not to be confused with iterative aspect. The frequentative form can be considered a separate but not completely independent word called a frequentative. The frequentative is no longer productive in English, but still is in some language groups, such as … Balto-Slavic … etc.’

I’m trying to understand the difference between a ‘normal’ imperfective verb in Polish, compared to a frequentative one. A imperfective verb in Polish will usually describe a habitual action. What is the specialisation of a frequentative, imperfective Polish verb? Does a frequentative verb suggest a habitual action that does habitually happen but only once in a while, rather than being something more continuous/regular?

Some other examples given of frequentative Polish verbs given on Wikipedia are:-

• jadać (jeść)
• widywać (widzieć)
• pisywać (pisać)
• czytywać (czytać)

I have not encountered the frequentative forms of these verbs before. Could someone maybe give me two sentences using one of the verbs (e.g. czytać and czytywać) and show the difference between how the two versions of the verb operate, with the difference in meaning?

Are frequentative verbs commonly used in, everyday, Polish speech?

I’ve taken a look at some of the example sentences on Clozemaster and the closest comparison to English I can make, is that ‘bywać’ would mean ‘to happen’?

E.G. … jak często bywa (As often happens).

Thanks in advance. I appreciate that this might not be easy to explain!

Oh yeah, this is a tricky one!

Bywać is indeed a frequentative variant of być. The frequentative is not very common in Polish, and only applies to a few words. I think bywać plus the four words listed on Wikipedia (jadać, widywać, pisywać, czytywać) are responsible for most of its use, if not all.

How does it work? Compared to the regular form, frequentative verbs such as bywać or jadać suggest that something is only true in certain conditions, or that something only happens sometimes.

An example to illustrate this better:

  • Ich dzieci są niegrzeczne. = “Their children are naughty.” (probably always)
  • Ich dzieci bywają niegrzeczne. = “Their children are sometimes naughty.” / “Their children can be naughty (sometimes).”

Here the difference is quite stark, but it’s not always that clear.

Sometimes it’s very minor, making the choice between the two variants mostly a matter of preference:

  • Często jem pierogi. = “I often eat pierogi.”
  • Często jadam pierogi. = “I often eat pierogi.”

Language purists might say that the latter is more correct (since it better communicates the “habitual” aspect of the sentence), but many people don’t care that much and just say “jem” instead.

As you’ve probably noticed, using both często and jadam (which itself carries the meaning of “sometimes” / “often”) next to each other is a bit redundant, but many fixed expressions are built this way. “Jak często bywa” is a good example of that.

If you take away często, jem pierogi vs. jadam pierogi will have quite different meanings. The default interpretation of the former will be “I am eating pierogi” (though “I eat pierogi” is also probable in certain contexts). The latter will always mean “I (sometimes) eat pierogi”.

I don’t think people often say jadać alone, without supplying it with an adverb of frequency like rzadko, czasami or często. Note that it’s also perfectly okay to say rzadko jadam (“I rarely eat”) or nigdy nie jadam (“I never eat…”), so it’s not like the verbs are restricted to frequent events.

And last, a quick example with widywać:

Widuję go z moją sąsiadką. = “I often/sometimes see him with my [female] neighbor.” (this usually implies a romantic relationship)

All in all, I’d say being aware of the difference is pretty important (especially for “bywać”, “jadać” and “widywać”, the others are used very rarely), but if you can’t get your head around when you should use the frequentative forms, you should be just fine sticking to the regular ones.

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Oh, and there’s one more thing that I’ve forgot to touch upon.

Ten towar nie bywa wszędzie is a very akward sentence in Polish. Admittedly, it’s pretty hard to translate “You can’t find this article everywhere” into something that would sound natural in Polish, but I think Nie wszędzie można znaleźć ten towar would work much better here.

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Thanks! At this stage of my Polish learning, I’m happy to follow your advice of just spotting the difference with Polish frequentative verbs when they arise, rather than trying to use them in writing or speaking yet !!! :slight_smile: