CPE :: Lesson 30



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Forming a noun from a verb or adjective (or using noun phrases instead of verbs) is known as nominalisation and this function helps you to create variety in your writing and prevents you from repeating the same verb/word over and over again.

To nominalise means: (a) to convert (another part of speech) into a noun, as in changing the verb legalize into legalization; (b) to convert (an underlying clause) into a noun phrase, as in changing he drinks to his drinking. Example: I am worried about his drinking.


Some nominalisations are useful, but others make our writing unnecessarily wordy. Some nominalisations that don’t work well, but are easy to fix are:

1) When the nominalisation follows a verb with little specific meaning:

We undertook an investigation  =  We investigated

2) When the nominalisation follows There is or There are:

There was a committee agreement  =  The committee agreed

3) When the nominalisation is the subject of an ‘empty’ verb:

Our discussion concerned a bonus  =  We discussed a bonus


Check this example of verb-to-noun nominalisation:

Monica has improved in Geography. Her father is happy.
Her father is happy at Monica's improvement in Geography.


Check this example of adjective-to-noun nominalisation:

The scene was so beautiful that it took her breath away.
The beauty of the scene took her breath away.


Besides being able to create phrasal verbs by adding different particles to commonly-used verbs (take over, take in, etc.), we can often also use in other combinations the elements of the phrasal verbs themselves:
take over (verb) — overtake (noun).

There are two different ways in which the elements of phrasal verbs may be combined. The verb and particle may be placed in reverse order to form a compound verb or noun:
take overovertake (verb); put out output (noun).

Check these examples:

The Argentinian runner soon overtook the other competitors.
Output at the factory has now risen considerably.

Also, the verb and particle may simply be joined, sometimes with a hyphen, to form a compound noun: break downbreakdown; make upmake-up:

Our car had a breakdown.
His girl friend uses a lot of make-up.

In some cases, both types of compound may be made from the same phrasal verb:

take over (phrasal verb) — overtake (verb) — take-over (noun)

Compounds formed from phrasal verbs are not necessarily related in meaning to the original verb:

A new manager took over last week. (= assumed control)
The runner overtook three competitors.
(= caught up with and passed)

In some cases, two different compounds may be formed, corresponding to two different meanings of the original verb:

War broke out in 1914. (verb = began)
He was born at the outbreak of the war.
(noun = beginning)
Three criminals broke out of the prison.
(verb = escape)
There was a break-out at the prison.
(noun = escape of prisoners)

NOTE: British and American people make full use of this "nominalisation" facility for forming new compounds, and the exercises on the next page can give only a small selection of those in current use.

On the next page you will be able to practise this grammar.


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