Turning verbs into nouns (nominalisation)
Last month I wrote about verbing (turning nouns into verbs) and an e-newsletter reader pointed out that we also turn verbs and adjectives into nouns.
The process of turning verbs and adjectives into nouns is known as nominalisation (nominalization if you use American spelling!). It’s also sometimes called ‘nouning’.
There are two types of nominalisation:
- Some nominalisations are formed with the addition of a suffix, such as -ment, -ion, -ance (judgement, consideration, deliverance).
- Other nominalisations are formed without a suffix (invite, take-away, hope as nouns). They are known as zero-change, zero-derivation or zero-conversion nominalisations.
Read the rest of the blog.
Do you say napkin or serviette?
Someone asked Richard Cornish in the Sydney Morning Herald what the difference is between napkin and serviette. His response was:
‘”About $36,000 in school fees,” a dreadful snob I know once uttered. “Serviette” is a French word that was introduced into English in the late 1700s via Scotland, once a staunch ally of France. It is used to describe paper napery and is considered by some gauche. The word “napkin” comes to us by combining an old word for tablecloth, nap, and the archaic suffix -kin, a diminutive (think bumpkin, catkin, munchkin). As an aside, it is interesting to note the person in a household responsible for washing, ironing and storing the tablecloths and napkins was called the naperer. The person responsible for water was the ewer, from the French eau. The head of cutlery was the cutler and the person in charge of bottles was the butler, from the Old French boteille, meaning wine vessel or bottle.’
Readers’ comments and questions
In response to an article in last month’s e-newsletter about words that don’t translate into English, a reader told me about lagom.
She said it means ‘just right, not too much, not too little’.
‘Some centuries ago, it really meant to be within the limits of the law (the Swedish word for law is lag), but now it is used in just about any context.’
What is it about the word the?
Question: Many people with English as second language have trouble using the. What are the rules for it?
Answer: We use the to refer to specific people or things (the cat on the blanket) and a or an for generic references (a cat on a blanket.)
Learn more with my online course Grammar Basics.
Decision making or decision-making
Someone visiting my website kindly pointed out that I made an incorrect reference to The Chicago Manual of Style when I wrote that it recommended hyphenating decision-making in noun and adjective form.
My immediate reaction was that I had made a mistake and I quickly changed my post. (I hope that isn’t your default reaction!).
I did further research and found the 17th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style does hyphenate decision-making in both noun and adjective form.
In the 16th edition, it didn’t hyphenate the noun form. For example:
We all took part in the decision making. (now decision-making)
The decision-making process was painful.
Hyphens! Learn more about them with my online Grammar, Punctuation and Usage course.
Interesting articles about writing
Bring back these Aussie sayings. They’re fresh, brilliant and ours
Reminds me that I’m a Kiwi by origin as most were new to me. See if you know them.
Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries
Read this essay in pictures.
Is cursive a curse?
What are the implications of cursive writing not being taught?
Google Docs will soon get a grammar checking feature
Find out more.
The new reading environment
‘Have editors ever known so much about their readers? And known, in particular, how little and how badly they read?’ Read more.
Quote of the month
‘A word after a word after a word is power.’
Author Margaret Atwood