I have verbs and I would like to find their corresponding noun for either subject or object.

e.g. run:subject -> runner kill:subject -> killer kill:object -> dead

I also would have groups of them e.g. kill:object, shoot:object, attack:object -> victim

is there any why or resource that would help me to construct such a mapping?


3 Answers 3


I recommend that you look into Lexical Functions1. They are used in specialized dictionaries called Explanatory Combinatorial Dictionaries2 and describe semantic relationships between lexical units. Specifically, what you want is the Si function:

S1(to teach) = teacher
S2(to kill) = victim

Where S1 returns the agent noun and S2 the patient noun.

I don't think an exhaustive ECD has been constructed for English. However it's not clear whether you are looking for an existing tool that returns actantial nouns or trying to build your own.

[1] Mel’čuk, I. (1998). Collocations and lexical functions. In A. P. Cowie (Ed.), Phraseology: Theory, analysis, and applications (pp. 23-53). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

[2] Mel’čuk, I. (2006). Explanatory combinatorial dictionary. In G. Sica (Ed.), Open problems in linguistics and lexicography (pp. 225-355). Monza: Polimetrica.

  • Thanks! I am looking for an existing tool. Let me know if you have something in mind
    – etzourid
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 15:57
  • You could get in touch with the ETAP-3 team. I don't know that they'll give you access to their dictionary though.
    – fenceop
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 13:39

First, subject or object do not enter into this in any way. It looks like you're looking for nouns corresponding semantically to verbs. Once you have the nouns, they can be subject or object.

There is no such one to one mapping. Verbs that describe actions or states can have corresponding nouns that describe those actions or states as concepts. However, each of these can describe different perspectives of those verbs. For example:

to run = a run (one act of running), running (the act of running) to kill = a kill (one act of killing), a killing / killing (the act of killing) to teach = teaching (the activity of teaching), *a teach (one act of teaching - does not exist other than in idioms like 'a teach in')

However, these can work in different ways through idioms and metaphoric extension. So you have sentences like:

  • She made a killing on the stock market.
  • The killing of civilians is unacceptable.
  • The sniper made 5 kills that day.

There are many other suffixes used for various other semantic purposes: translate > translation, agree > agreement, etc.

Your examples, teach > teacher, and kill > killer make actors out of the verbs. This is a very productive method that works on any English verb (even though you won't always get an idiomatically straightforward result, e.g. inspector v. inspecter).

If you have agent nouns, you can also have patient nouns. E.g. the taught, the killed. Or a special, more limited, case train > trainer > trainee but not teach > teacher > *teachee. There are a slew of other suffixes used for Latinate roots. E.g. officiate > officiant, translate > translator, etc.

It could also be that you're actually looking for morphological derivatives of verbs which are called deverbatives or deverbals. These can be either nouns or adjectives, and in English, they're simply the participle or infinitive forms of the verb used as nouns or adjective. That is very simple both morphologically and syntactically. But you need to be careful about the semantics. There's also a subtle semantic and syntactic distinction between sentences like 'the running of a company is hard' and 'running a company is hard'. But that would probably just complicate things.

This article will show you some of the complexities.

  • 1
    You seem to be talking about straightforward nominalizations of verbs, which is what I thought the question was going to be about too. But on reading the question it does seem what the OP wants is semantic collocations of which subjects and objects occur with which verbs. Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 21:26
  • 1
    Yes, you're right I completely misread the question. Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 18:30
  • Thanks for the answer but I am looking for actors and patients of verbs which may or may not be nominalizations
    – etzourid
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 15:56

Wordnet might be helpful. Not Wordnet proper but one of the "standoff files", the Morphosemantic Links database.

From the Wordnet home page:

The majority of the WordNet’s relations connect words from the same part of speech (POS). Thus, WordNet really consists of four sub-nets, one each for nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, with few cross-POS pointers. Cross-POS relations include the “morphosemantic” links that hold among semantically similar words sharing a stem with the same meaning: observe (verb), observant (adjective) observation, observatory (nouns). In many of the noun-verb pairs the semantic role of the noun with respect to the verb has been specified: {sleeper, sleeping_car} is the LOCATION for {sleep} and {painter}is the AGENT of {paint}, while {painting, picture} is its RESULT.

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