I believe that each main verb has (at least) one corresponding noun with the same meaning that is formed from gerund and derivation. For examples, discovery is from discover; reading is from read; addition is from add; and simply zero derivation like love for love.

The converse is not true, i.e. nouns generally do not have verbs with the same meaning. I'd like this to be verified. Any thought is welcome.

  • 3
    You can always use the present participle of a verb as a kind of noun: Running/Swimming/Reading maths is a lot of fun. But there is no corresponding inflectional form of nouns that verbs them; however, zero derivation is very common, like Verbing nouns weirds language.
    – jlawler
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 0:00
  • I don't share JL's views. The first two of his examples are strictly speaking ambiguous, but verb preferred: "to run/swim is fun". Noun interpretation can be forced by adjectival premodification, as in "Occasional running/swimming is fun". His third example, however, is not ambiguous: it can only be verb since it has the direct object "maths".
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 11:05

1 Answer 1


(This was revised after some great feedback.)

Your assertion is largely true, but not universally true.

Strong candidates:

  • modal verbs (could, should, ...),
  • compound verbs (spread-eagle, roll-in-the-hay, ...),

There are also tricky ones like 'manhandling' where many dictionaries won't recognize a noun variant, while others will.

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    being,having, sponging-off, hunkering-down, eagle-spreading, rolling-in the-hay. No gerund for could, and other preterit forms, but for the perfect, having could. All these nouns fit my <noun>. You may argue they're still verb like, and I'd argue that half of them were adverbial, because they can never stand without a finite verb that they modify. In fact, since sponge. spread (or eagle), and roll are nouns, they don't need to nominalize anymore. Bam! What a shake-down. Sorry for my butt-in, but's a real butt-kick. Maybe it appears easier to me,.an L2 learner. than it really is.
    – vectory
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 22:58
  • 1
    @Vectory: I accept some of yours, but not "eagle-spreading". I might be able to guess by context what you meant by "He was eagle-spreading on the floor", but I'm not sure that I would. It simply does not exist as a nominalisation - probably because spread in the original phrase is not a verb base but a past participle (not a noun). I don't know what you meant by having could: it's not grammatical in any version of English that I recognise.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 11:46
  • @ColinFine I've never heard eagle-spread in context, I just know what it means because German has similarly den Adler machen, "to do the eagle". Your "He was eagle-spreading" would be a past continuous, if an active verb, or, more importantly, a passive past participle. I was rather thinking of "Your <gerund> is ...". For could, I messed up badly. There is no past perfect of can that I know of, I was thinking of "could have" instead. At best there is a paradigm, in which "ability" is the noun to can, and e.g. potential to could, just like be, am, exist have different roots.
    – vectory
    Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 22:33
  • Never the less, your having missed my allusion to phrases like this here is perhaps more telling of my appropriation of the English language, but I did not make it up. Searching "your having could", I'm met with loads of cases where "your"="you're". So much for appropriation.
    – vectory
    Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 22:38
  • This answer is wrong regarding auxiliary and phrasal verbs (they both have gerund forms); modals should not even be called verbs; and the compound verbs seem to depend on whether they use a verb or a participle.
    – amI
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 10:32

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