Careful with Words Used as Noun and Verb

By Maeve Maddox

English has numerous word pairs that are spelled alike, but pronounced differently according to whether the word is being used as a noun or as a verb.

Some examples are conduct, digest, escort, insult, produce, and record. With each of these words, and others like them, the accent shifts according to the part of speech. Here are some examples:

I do not approve of his cónduct. John Williams will condúct the symphony .

He subscribes to the Congressional Dígest. Some food is difficult to digést.

Charlie will be her éscort. He will escórt her to the Prom.

That last remark was an ínsult. How dare you insúlt your father?

Celery and tomatoes are fresh próduce. These factories prodúce the finest widgets.

That’s his fifth platinum récord. Let’s recórd the baby’s first word.

You will notice that for the noun the accent falls on the first syllable; for the verb, on the second.

Some noun/verb pairs shift in pronunciation and in spelling. These are the ones writers need to be aware of. Here are a few that I’ve seen misused :

Take his advice with a grain of salt. Who will advise the king?

He likes a warm bath. They bathe in the river.

It’s cold enough to see our breath. Don’t breathe the chemical fumes.

The shoes are made of cloth. Feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

He felt grief at the death of the child. He must be allowed time to grieve.

Here, I’ll give you half. The new invention will halve production costs.

What is the proof of your contention? He worked night and day to prove his innocence.

A prophecy of Merlin foretold the Maid. Prophesy unto the wind, for the wind will listen.

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24 Responses to “Careful with Words Used as Noun and Verb”

  • Daniel

    Great post. I used to mess up the usage of many of them, like bath and bathe and proof and prove.

  • Tips Supremo

    Thanks guys, you’re doing a great job. I’m quite bad in my English and used to wonder when to use “advice” and “advise”.

  • Eric

    Is Choose and Chose in the same category? I always have trouble with those two… When do I use those?

  • Maeve

    Eric,
    “Choose” and “chose” are both verb forms. The noun associated with this verb is “choice.”

    I’ve made my choice and will stand by it. (noun)
    Today I choose to do nothing. (present tense verb)
    Yesterday I chose to work 12 hours. (simple past))
    I have chosen to live on the moon. (past perfect with past participle form of the verb)

  • Eric

    Thanks so much! This is really a wonderful site.

  • Andy

    This site makes me realise how hard it must be to learn English as a second language.

    Thank god all of this comes to me naturally!

  • Roshawn

    It’s a shame that English is the only language I speak, yet I don’t know how to use it effectively (I’ll work on efficiency later 🙂 ).

    Definitely worth bookmarking. Better yet I’ll just subscribe to the rss feed.

  • joan ellis

    I love your examples but am floored by our culture’s now constant use of “impact” as a verb. Can you clear this up.

    The growth of the economy will have an impact on millions of people

    that sounds right to me whereas

    The growth of the economy will impact millions of people sounds just plain wrong. Help! Joan Ellis

  • Maeve

    Joan,
    Alas, it’s not the culture, it’s the language. I don’t know about other languages, but in English, it seems that ANY word can be used as a verb.

    Shakespeare’s Duke of York uses “uncle” as a verb in Richard II:
    Tut, tut!
    Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle

    That’s not to say that’s a good thing.

    I share your annoyance regarding the practice of using the noun”impact” as a verb, but the only “explanation” I can come up with is that it’s possible, so people do it.

    I dislike other verb-related messing abouts, for example, using the intransitive verb “disappear” transitively as in Uzbek police disappear torture victim.

    And it still sets my teeth on edge when people talk about “growing the economy,” or “growing a business.” As far as I’m concerned, people grow corn and other crops. They develop or expand businesses.

    I suppose that all one can do is observe one’s own standards, and try to shed a little light on the usage of one’s nearest and dearest.

  • Jensita

    Regarding “growing a business”, I think it’s used more as a metaphor than a literal phrase. In its early stages, a young plant, child or other living thing is usually very fragile and requires special needs. In that sense, a business must be treated in the same fashion in order to expand or “grow”.

    Thinking of it in those terms makes me less inclined to cringe at the phrase “growing a business”.

    Additionally, one of Merriam-Webster’s definitions for grow is “to promote the development of ”

    By the way, thanks for these great posts. I learn something new every day. Keep it up!

  • Sourav Ghosal

    I want more words used as both noun and verb. This help me in the forthcoming civil service exam

  • Swathi Govind

    something special

  • rogie

    this serves as good activity..thank you for the infornation

  • Rupa

    nice.
    good things to learn.

  • mhenalyn Cando

    Excellent! This would help me in teaching grade 5…..

  • vanessa

    this dont help i want a noun to became a verb what is authority into a verb

  • vanessa

    this dont help i want a noun to became a verb what is the verb of authority ha you dont work.

  • Brian

    I realize that this is an old thread, but regarding “impact” as a verb: I believe this came into common usage because many people could not determine whether to write “affect” (usually a verb) or “effect” (usually a noun) in a given situation, so “impact” became a catch-all.

    Some defend its use by saying that “affect” doesn’t have the same … um … impact 😉

  • yo yo yo

    what is the answer????????????

  • Juliet

    this post is really great. it helped me a lot on my assignment. 🙂

  • Kibet

    Iam very pleased with this intellectual lesson. Iam a high school teacher and this material has provided me with today’s lesson notes. Good work. Can we also follow this on facebook? And do we say on facebook or in facebook ?

  • maribel steel

    This post has been great food for thought – I feel as i have been browsing in a writer’s supermarket filling up my trolley with wonderful packets and boxes of nutritional brain food! Thanks – can’t leave this blog…Maribel

  • Robert de Krieger

    Thank you so much for sending me this link and I wish to add my appreciation of your daily poke. I just want to mention that I am similarly irritated by boners in other languages (I still read and speak Dutch, French and German) and I am sick of hearing “but it has entered the language and therefore is not wrong any longer”. Consider me stubborn…

  • Timmy

    I always have trouble with bureau (as in a division or sector) and bureau (as in a chester draws.)

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