英文

英語Guide:Let's have a play with verbs and nouns

【明報專訊】■Brainteasers

◆Question 1: Are entry and gift acceptable in the signs below (photos a&b) ?

◆Question 2: Put the following 16 verbs into two groups:

Group A: Those that are always verbs, e.g., create

Group B: Those that are sometimes used as nouns, e.g., read

Employ, eat, create, learn, replace, appear, expand, seem, think, go, find, listen, try, read, enable, improve

If you wish to try the activity as an interactive task, go to:

https://wordwall.net/resource/8505040

■Commentaries

(1) The word entry in the first sign in Question 1 is a noun. The corresponding verb form is enter.

(2) The sign may be rewritten as:

When you enter (verb) our village, please wear a mask.

or

On entry (noun) to our village, please wear a mask.

(3) In the second sign, although gift is usually used as a noun, it is also a verb:

to give (verb) something to somebody/to give somebody something

to gift (verb) something to somebody/to gift somebody something

(4) While we usually say ''(I/We) give you everything'', we can also say ''(I/We) gift you everything'' to mean ''(I/We) give you everything as gifts.''

(5) Give and gift are of different word classes, have different spellings, and are not totally equivalent in terms of meaning. While give and gift, as well as enter and entry, are easily distinguishable, there are other cases which are not so obvious.

(6) In English, some words are usually recognised as verbs, and they indeed function as verbs only. Examples are those in Group A in Question 2:

create, learn, replace, appear, expand, seem, enable, improve

(7) But some verbs which are usually recognised as verbs can also be used as nouns:

Group B: employ, eat, think, go, find, listen, try, read

(8) Such usages usually take place in less formal contexts:

.''A two-minute read.''

.''Have a listen.''

.''Have a think/Give it a think.''

.''Have a go.''

.''Give it a try.''

.''A good eat.''

(9) Sometimes, the noun usage may be less common but somehow exists:

''It's a find!'' (Referring to something interesting or special that someone has found.)

''In the Government's employ.'' (Referring to someone who is employed by the Government.)

(10) Such ''extended'' usages may or may not become popular. An interesting issue is the potentiality of a verb being turned into a noun. For example, how likely will the verb learn be used as a noun one day, to mean ''something to learn'', or ''something being learnt'', as in ''Have a learn'', or ''An interesting learn''? On the other hand, why is it that while we will all accept a must-see, we will reject ''an interesting see''?

(11) The above examples and scenarios point to one feature of language development: its arbitrariness. Not every usage can be explained away, and hence, the importance of language awareness.

■Before you go

Today we can say ''to email someone'', as well as ''to send someone an email''. Did the word email first occur as a noun or a verb?

̷̷ By Dr Paul Sze •施敏文博士 ̷

a Chartered Linguist and a current honorary professional consultant of the CUHK Faculty of Education

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