Today’s English Grammar: Action nouns vs. Gerunds

Hey guys!

One of my higher level students gave me a really tough question last year.

Some English learners may notice that English has both gerunds (verbs with the “-ing” suffix) and action nouns.  Sometimes, one word can take on both forms!  Here are some examples:


Gerunds Action Nouns
Arriving Arrival
Inspecting Inspection

There are many, many more!

Both of them function as nouns, but both describe actions or things happening.  So what’s the difference.

It’s actually very simple!

  • Gerunds are not countable, so they refer to the action in general!
  • Action nouns are (usually) countable, so they refer to a specific action or event.

Here are some examples:

“We are waiting for his arriving.” X

“We are waiting for his arrival.”  O

“There was attacking on Gaza recently.”  X

“There was an attack on Gaza recently.” O

Editing newspapers is hard work.” O

The edit of a newspaper is hard work.” X

Evaluating students’ work is important.” O

The evaluation of students’ work is important.” X

That’s it!  Hope that helps, and hit me up if you have any questions!


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