Verbal noun
In linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, the verbal noun turns a verb into a noun and corresponds to the infinitive
In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual description of English, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives...

 in English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 usage. In English the infinitive form of the verb is formed when preceded by to, e.g. to sell; but Natural languages may have one or more grammatical process
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

 for forming
Word formation
In linguistics, word formation is the creation of a new word. Word formation is sometimes contrasted with semantic change, which is a change in a single word's meaning...

 a noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

 from a verb
A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...


In many languages that have an infinitive
In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual description of English, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives...

, such as English, the infinitive form of a verb can be used as a noun; in English, this use is known as the "supine
In grammar a supine is a form of verbal noun used in some languages.-In Latin:In Latin there are two supines, I and II . They are originally the accusative and dative or ablative forms of a verbal noun in the fourth declension, respectively. The first supine ends in -um. It has two uses. The first...

" or "to-infinitive", in which the bare infinitive is preceded by the particle to:
"To err is human, to forgive divine."

In English, the supine functions as a mass noun
Mass noun
In linguistics, a mass noun is a noun that refers to some entity as an undifferentiated unit rather than as something with discrete subsets. Non-count nouns are best identified by their syntactic properties, and especially in contrast with count nouns. The semantics of mass nouns are highly...

. The English supine is a non-finite verb
Non-finite verb
In linguistics, a non-finite verb is a verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not fully inflected by categories that are marked inflectionally in language, such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person...

, that is, it cannot be inflected to mark person or tense. While it cannot have a grammatical subject, it may take an object
Object (grammar)
An object in grammar is part of a sentence, and often part of the predicate. It denotes somebody or something involved in the subject's "performance" of the verb. Basically, it is what or whom the verb is acting upon...

: "His greatest desire was to serve his country."

When languages have a second grammatical process for forming verbal nouns, it is often called the gerund
In linguistics* As applied to English, it refers to the usage of a verb as a noun ....

. In English, the gerund is formed by the ending -ing:
"Speaking is silver, silence is golden."

This form is more flexible in its use; for example, it can be used as a count noun
Count noun
In linguistics, a count noun is a common noun that can be modified by a numeral and that occurs in both singular and plural form, as well as co-occurring with quantificational determiners like every, each, several, etc. A mass noun has none of these properties...

: "Most verses of the psalm have multiple readings." Like the supine, the English gerund is a non-finite verb.

The terms "supine" and "gerund" are taken from Latin grammar
Latin grammar
The grammar of Latin, like that of other ancient Indo-European languages, is highly inflected; consequently, it allows for a large degree of flexibility in choosing word order...

, in which they also denote verbal nouns, which however differ in many aspects from the correspondingly named English constructions. The variety of verbal nouns across languages does not allow for a unified treatment.

Other nouns derived from verbs

Many nouns that are derived from verbs do not fall under the category of verbal nouns. For example, although the noun "discovery" was formed from the verb "discover", it is not generally classified as a verbal noun. The reason is that its formation is not productive
Productivity (linguistics)
In linguistics, productivity is the degree to which native speakers use a particular grammatical process, especially in word formation. Since use to produce novel structures is the clearest proof of usage of a grammatical process, the evidence most often appealed to as establishing productivity is...

; that is, it is not an instance of a general grammatical process, as shown by the fact that there is no noun "uncovery" formed from the verb "uncover".

Other languages

In other languages (e.g. Latin), a broader concept of verbal noun is used:
A verbal noun is any noun that is derived from a verb and that still can have a subject and/or an object.

With this definition, "discovery" is a verbal noun as its subject and object might be "the discovery of America by Columbus".
In Latin, the nouns "Columbus" and "America" would be in the genitive case to emphasize the fact that they are subject and object of another noun.

With this rule also, nouns like "love" are verbal nouns (e.g. the love for nature) even though the formation from "to love" cannot generally be applied to all nouns (e.g. there is no such word as "a *discover").
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