I am milking the cow

He is watering the garden

In English many nouns can be used as verbs.some languages I know , for example, Hindi, does not have this facility.

What is the process of nouns being used as verbs called and which other languages behave this way?

  • 1
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_(word_formation) This may be useful.
    – prash
    Oct 12 '19 at 15:05
  • 6
    What is your basis for claiming that most languages do not do this?
    – user6726
    Oct 12 '19 at 16:01
  • 1
    @JVL Rude comments are not welcome here.
    – prash
    Oct 12 '19 at 18:17
  • 1
    @JVL The problem is, your question is worded in a way that makes it difficult to answer—what does the "resourcefulness" of a language even mean?—and when people ask you to clarify what you mean, you get angry instead. If you edited your question into something like "I've noticed nouns can be used freely as verbs in English, but this isn't the case in Sanskrit/Hindi/[language of choice]. Is English unusual in this regard? What other languages act this way?" I imagine it would attract upvotes instead of downvotes; people are commenting in an attempt to improve the question, so that it can be…
    – Draconis
    Oct 12 '19 at 22:14
  • 2
    @JVL I have reopened your question after your edits. In general, please try to be clearer about what you know, what you believe, and how you have come upon this knowledge or belief. If you make unfounded claims, people tend to focus on addressing that.
    – prash
    Oct 13 '19 at 4:58

This is called zero derivation aka conversion, and happens in various non-English languages too. The trick is that, in English, singular nouns and infinitive verbs have no special ending or marking to show what they are: if I say "water" without context, there's no way to know if that's a noun or a verb.

In Latin, on the other hand, infinitive verbs and singular nouns tend to be easily distinguishable. It's still possible to convert one into the other, like don-um "gift (n)" → don-āre "gift (v)", cur-a "care (n)" → cur-āre "care (v)", laud-s (*) "praise (n)" → laud-āre "praise (v)". But this isn't traditionally called zero derivation, because there's still a change in form, even if the stem itself doesn't change at all.

Most languages with inflectional morphology are more on the Latin side than the English side. In Esperanto, for example, a constructed language with very high levels of regularity, there's a rule that all nouns and verbs can be converted into each other—but singular nouns always end in -o and infinitive verbs in -i, so it's still not a zero derivation. (**) Most Indo-Aryan languages come down on this side too. But languages with less inflection, like Chinese, tend to act like English, using words as nouns or verbs as the situation demands, without any overt marking.

(*) The surface form is laus, but forms like the plural laud-ēs shows that there's an underlying or historical /d/ in the stem.

(**) The difference between zero and non-zero derivation is mostly relevant when it makes it hard to tell algorithmically what part of speech a word is. Fundamentally, it's the same basic process either way, and all known languages have ways to do it.

  • Gosh, nobody's mentioned Calvin's comment that verbing weirds language. There are a lot of different kinds of denominal zero-derived verbs; they fall into categories that sometimes conflict, like seed the lawn vs seed the pepper, or top a sundae vs top a tree (respectively, Provisional vs Privative derived verbs -- 'provide with X' vs 'deprive of X')
    – jlawler
    Oct 12 '19 at 22:42

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