Grammar · Uncategorized · Verb

Some Tricks to See the Difference Between Verbs and Nouns

Often, especially when your English gets better, it’ll help you understand a text when you know which words are nouns and which are verbs. And it can also make you a better writer.

invent

Invent or invention?

What I’ve seen with my students is they can guess what the meaning is of a sentence when they know what a noun is and what a verb is. In other words if they know the function of a word. But if they don’t know what the function is of the words, they are unable to work out the correct meaning of the sentence. I’m sure this will work for you too. It’s a skill that is especially useful for exams in which the vocabulary is a little more difficult than what you can handle.

You also need to be able to switch between nouns and verbs to be an effective writer.

First of all, what are nouns and verbs?

Nouns are words that mean a thing, a person, an animal or a feeling.

Verbs are words that describe an action (something that is done).

For instance, you’re a student doing an exam and you read this sentence:

It’s known when gunpowder was first used in a war, but it is not known when gunpowder was invented.

How do I know that invented is a verb?

Easy. It ends in -ed.

-ed is an ending that is used in verbs.

If it were a noun, the word would be invention. –ion is an ending (suffix) that is used in nouns.

Another example:

James Young, a Scottish chemist, died a wealthy man, having amassed a great fortune by successfully marketing paraffin lighting oil.

Amassed is a verb, because it has –ed at the end.

Now with “marketing” we can’t be sure just from the ending. –ing can be a verb and a noun, too. Why is it a verb here? Well, first of all because there is an object, oil. James Young … something with oil. On the dots you can only fill in a verb, can’t you?

Another clue is “successfully.” A word with –ly at the end is an adverb, so that means a word describing a verb. The adverb can come before or after the verb it describes.

So now we are sure, marketing is a verb, and it’s something James Young did.

Last example:

What may be the oldest piece of art in existence is on display in the Israel Museum.

“Existence” can’t be a verb, first of all because verbs don’t usually come after “in” or any other preposition but “to.” So display isn’t a verb, but a noun.

The second sign that “existence” is a noun is because of the ending (suffix) “ence.” In other words we can also find “ance.” -Ence and -ance words are always nouns.

Here are some more typical endings of nouns:

-ity as in popularity, propensity, longevity.

-ness as in wellness, fullness, prettiness.

-ist are scientists or other professionals, such as biologist, psychologist, anaesthetist (or anesthesist in American spelling).

-er or –or are also people. Examples: writer, author, painter, doctor.

-ment as in government, firmament, document, parliament.

-our or –or in American spelling. Examples: behaviour, colour, odour, parlour. In American spelling you write these: behaviour, color, odor and parlor.

There are some more typical noun endings, but these are the most important ones.

 

Remember that the aim is not to know all the words in the text, but to be able to guess their meaning. When you’re still learning English, it’s impossible to know all the words.

Some other time we’ll do adjectives. Now first let’s practise.

 

Practice

Please read the following sentences taken from a real and pleasantly (?) dull University entrance exam and decide whether the underlined words are nouns or verbs:

1 Punctuation marks are used to clarify the meaning of written language.

punctuation: noun or verb? I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

clarify: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

2 The marble carvings on the Ludovisi sarcophagus depict a Roman battle scene.

carvings: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

depict: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

3 International banks are sometimes forced to close some of their branches because of political unrest in host countries.

forced: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

unrest: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

4 The rise in popularity of the English novel was largely due to the success of two nineteenth-century novelists: Dickens and Hardy.

rise: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

success: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

novelists: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

5 Throughout history there have been many different notions about which types of behaviour constitute insanity.

behaviour: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

insanity: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

6 Whether people’s appreciation of beauty is innate or acquired is a question addressed in Plato’s philosophical works.

appreciation: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

addressed: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

works: I think this is a ___________, because ____________________________________________________________.

For the answers, scroll down to the bottom of this page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers:

1 Punctuation marks are used to clarify the meaning of written language.

punctuation: noun or verb? I think this is a _noun__________, because it ends in –ion.

clarify: I think this is a __verb_________, because it doesn’t have a noun ending and it comes after “to” so it’s an infinitive (the basic form of the verb).

2 The marble carvings on the Ludovisi sarcophagus depict a Roman battle scene.

carvings: I think this is a __noun_________, because it’s something made of marble.

depict: I think this is a ____verb_______, because I don’t see another word that could be a verb, and English sentences have to have a verb.

3 International banks are sometimes forced to close some of their branches because of political unrest in host countries.

forced: I think this is a _verb__________, because it ends in –ed.

unrest: I think this is a __noun_________, because it’s the cause of something (“because of”) and we said we don’t put a verb after “of.”

4 The rise in popularity of the English novel was largely due to the success of two nineteenth-century novelists: Dickens and Hardy.

rise: I think this is a __noun_________, because it says “the rise.” “The” doesn’t go with a verb.

success: I think this is a __noun_________, because it’s another word with “the,” and they’re always nouns.

novelists: I think this is a ___noun________, because words with –ist are always people, so nouns.

5 Throughout history there have been many different notions about which types of behaviour constitute insanity.

behaviour: I think this is a __noun_________, because of the ending –our.

insanity: I think this is a _noun__________, because of the ending –ity.

6 Whether people’s appreciation of beauty is innate or acquired is a question addressed in Plato’s philosophical works.

appreciation: I think this is a ____noun_______, because of the ending –ion and also because it’s something that belongs to the people (“people’s”).

addressed: I think this is a __verb_________, because it ends in –ed.

works: I think this is a ___noun________, because it’s something that is philosophical and belongs to Plato (“Plato’s philosophical something”).

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