Active Things


In the course of secondary language education all manner of intriguing points come up because of differences in language and culture. Many people over the past year or so have been shocked to discover that English nouns are also often verbs. Japanese language allows for turning one part of speech into another; however, something is always added to it in order to signify the change. Whereas, in English we can just use the word as it is.

Some people are so shocked by the discovery that they can’t fathom how the meanings are associated, but others start to grasp the connections after a little explanation. When the conversation comes up, I generally give them a number of examples from things visible in their immediate surroundings.

  • Let’s table this issue for now.
  • Who will chair the meeting if you are absent.
  • If I tell you this news, I’m sure it will floor you.
  • When you hold the hamster cup your hands carefully.

At this point, it seems to them that every noun is a verb, so they start throwing out words to test it and are shocked: plate, spoon, fork, tree, dog, cap, shoe, …

Naturally there are many nouns we don’t yet use as verbs, but there are quite a few. Some are very special or rare, but some are very common. Still I search for a similar occurrence in Japanese, but there is always some particle or verb ending added to change parts of speech. Anyhow, I first was surprised that people found this strange, but now I am wondering why we always thought it was normal.



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2 Responses to “Active Things”

  1. Christy Says:

    It’s mostly because of language evolution. I like to look at it as language-whimsy. People just decide to employ a noun as an action word until it’s common. Troubling for a learner, I guess, but fun to me. 🙂

  2. びっくり Says:

    Language-whimsy? I like your term. There is certainly an abundance of that around.

    In Japanese they also use nouns as verbs sometimes, but they have to add a ‘ru’ or ‘suru’ or ‘o suru’ to the end, so they can conjugate it like a verb. Some of them are quite whimsical as well.

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