Verbs like animate become a noun animation, and others like graduate become graduation. But then there are verbs that are just straight converted into nouns, like capture the verb and a capture the noun. You can't say Let's create an animate, you say Let's create an animation. Likewise, you don't say Let's go to the graduate, you say Let's go to the graduation.

Still others are converted into -ing nouns like the verb render is converted into a rendering rather than a renderation. Just as that is awkward, you don't have generate become a generating, it is a generation.

Finally, the last one I can think of is adding -er, as in scavenge becoming scavenger, but that seems different, where -er makes the verb into an actor performing the action. Whereas -tion and -ing convert the verb into the action itself.

Wondering what the rules are for determining if a verb becomes a noun action by:

  1. leaving it as is.
  2. appending -tion
  3. appending -ing

Also wondering if there are any other straightforward examples of suffixes to verbs that make them nouns, in addition to -tion and -ing, or if these 3 above are the only cases.

Also wondering why it's not just one system, like every verb gets suffixed with -tion. Would be good to know if this is just because of the fact that English is messy, or there is some other reason.

  • 1
    Note that this is the way Derivational morphology behaves; inconsistency is one of its characteristics. It's Inflectional morphology where every verb gets suffixed with something; paradigms are involved. English has almost no inflections left, so most of our morphology is derivational, and therefore quite irregular. BTW, changing part of speech is another characteristic of derivational morphology; as A.M. Bittingmayer says, it's the same in every language.
    – jlawler
    Sep 22, 2018 at 2:23
  • Related question: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/2786/… Sep 26, 2018 at 10:27

2 Answers 2


Would be good to know if this is just because of the fact that English is messy, or there is some other reason.

Yes and yes.

Yes, because English is messy. The -tion examples are of course all Romance, although there are a few native English words with -tion and other Romance suffixes.

Yes, even without the mess (messiness?) there are different types of derivational morphemes to the same part of speech - -ness, -er, -ling, -dom... - for different purposes.

It's like this in all languages.


It's worth noting that there are a number of well known patterns. They're not perfect, but they usually work.

Morphology Patterns

There's likely 50 common patterns and another 150 that are less common.

  • 1
    Where's that chart from? This is a good answer, but a link might make it more useful for others in the future.
    – Draconis
    Sep 27, 2018 at 5:18

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