• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents

-ing [Iŋ] is an unstressed, productive, cohering Germanic suffix found in nouns of common gender derived from verbs. -ing formations typically are names of the activity denoted by the base verb, or the result of that activity. Input verbs may be simplex or complex, native or non-native, with a certain preference for complex ones. Being of common gender, -ing derivations take the singular definite article de. Plural of -ing formations is in -en. A few -ing formations have (only or also) a more concrete meaning.


  • the activity denoted by V
  • the result of the activity denoted by V

Table 1
uitvinding invention < uitvinden to invent
wending turn < wenden to turn
verhoging increase, platform < verhogen to increase

[+]Morphosyntactic properties

The suffix -ing [Iŋ] is a nominalizing Germanic suffix. It attaches mainly to transitive bases, but occasionally one also finds ergative inputs, as in ontploffing explosion < ontploffen to explode, or unergative ones, as in neiging tendency < neigen to tend(De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 243). Nouns with the suffix -ing are of common gender, selecting the singular definite article de.

[hide extra information]

Booij (2002: 37-8) and others have noted that all nouns ending in –ing are of common gender, whether they are simplex or complex nouns. This applies, for instance, to the following words: 'haring herring, 'koning king, 'paling eel, ring ring, se'ring lilac. The only exception is the noun ding thing, which is neuter. This state of affairs has brought some linguists (e.g. Trommelen (1984)) to assume a suffix –ing in all polysyllabic nouns in -ing with penultimate stress, in parallel to the deverbal suffix -ing: both deverbal -ing and the alleged suffix always create de- nouns, and always select the diminutive allomorph -etje. According to Booij, this cannot be accepted as an adequate analysis, since there is no independent evidence for the suffix status of the ending –ing in these nouns. Instead, the phonological form of nouns may play a role in gender assignment.

Historically, there is ground in assuming noun-forming suffixes -ing that took non-verbal bases, e.g. in fish names like paling eelwijting whiting, bokking smoked herring (also found in reduced plus assimilated form as bokkem /'bɔ-kəm/), houting houting, whitefishspiering smelt, etc., in object names like heining fence, schutting fence and zoldering loft, ceiling and in person's names like edeling member of the nobility < edel noble (A) and hemeling someone from heavens < hemel heaven(Instituut voor Nederlandse Lexicologie 1995). These suffixes are no longer productive.

[+]Input restrictions

-ing attaches productively to verbs denoting a process or an achievement, both native and nonnative, simplex or complex. It is particularly productive for complex verbs; for simplex verbs, ing- derivation is either blocked by the existence of a nominalisation derived in other ways (e.g., conversion or the infinitival form), or there is a semantic or other difference between the two nominalisations (Van Haeringen 1971), (Booij 2002: 125):

Table 2
Base verb Noun derived with -ing Noun otherwise derived
beleven to live to see, to experience beleving experiencing belevenis experience
bestrijden to fight bestrijding fight against *bestrijd
betogen to argue, to demonstrate betoging (public) demonstration, rally betoog argument, speech
bidden to pray *bidding gebed prayer
aanbidden to worship aanbidding worship *aangebed
komen to come *koming komst coming
ontkomen to escape ontkoming escape *ontkomst
roepen to call roeping vocation roep call
spelen to play speling freak of nature spel play
strijden to fight *strijding strijd fight
bestrijden to fight, to oppose bestrijding fight, control *bestrijd
demonstreren to demonstrate *demonstrering demonstratie demonstration
reserveren to reservate reservering reservation reservatie reservation

[hide extra information]

Both reservering reservation and reservatie reservation are attested, but the latter is much less frequent, and is found mainly in Belgium.

Various verbs occur only with -ing in synthetic compounds, e.g. *geving < geven to give is impossible, but zingeving sense giving legitimation, justification is fine (just like ingeving idea which is derived from the particle verb ingeven). Another case in point is komen to come: *koming does not exist, but we do find nouns like totstandkoming to stand coming realization, tegemoetkoming advance, concession, allowance (< scvtegemoetkomen to meet, to accomodate) and tekortkoming shortcoming, failure. The same is found in the few verbs with a monosyllabic infinitive that can be suffixed with -ing, and then only if the verb is either prefixed, or in a synthetic compound: bedoening affair (< *bedoen?), genoegdoening satisfaction, *doening (< doen to do); herziening revision, but no *ziening (< zien to see).

The suffix -ing appears to have a preference for transitive verbs.

[hide extra information]

De Haas and Trommelen (1993) suggest that it is no coincidence that -ing prefers complex verbs, noting that verbal prefixation often involves transitivization: according to them, a verb like drijven to drive, to conduct is unergative which explains the impossibility of *drijving. On the other hand, prefixed forms like verdrijven to expel and aandrijven to drive on, to propel are transitive, and the corresponding -ing formations verdrijving expulsion and aandrijving propulsion, instigation are fine.

The restriction of -ing to transitive bases is not absolute, as shown by the existence of forms like ontploffing explosion (< ergative ontploffen to explode) and neiging tendency (< unergative neigen to tend). De Haas and Trommelen (1993) note that it is hard to interpret these forms as nomina actionis.

[+]Phonological properties

The suffix -ing [Iŋ] is a Germanic suffix that does not carry main stress, nor does it change the stress pattern of the word it attaches to: ont'hechten to detach > onthechting /ɔnt-'hɛχ-tɪŋ/ detachment, 'ademhalen to breathe > ademhaling /'a-dəm-ha-lɪŋ/ breath; the suffix may carry secondary stress, witness the selection of the -etje diminutive allomorph in words like wandelingetje small stroll (< wandelen to walk). It is a cohering suffix: syllabification does not respect the morphological boundary, as shown in the examples just given.

[+]Inflectional properties

The plural form of -ing formations, if applicable, is in –en: uitvindingen inventions, kapingen hijackings, pogingen efforts, bekeringen conversions.

[hide extra information]

Loans from English in -ing usually have plural forms in -s: dancings piercings briefings leggings parkings healings mailings shillings etc. These data shows once again that foreign words can be borrowed with plural forms - cf. Latin such as loans museum, plural form musea (next to regular musea) and crisis, plural form crises (next to regular crisissen).

[+]Semantic properties

Formations with the suffix -ing denote primarily actions and processes, but systematically also the result of these actions/processes.

Example 1

a. de uitvinding van dynamiet door Nobel vond plaats rond het jaar 1860
The invention of dynamite by Nobel took place around the year 1860
b. de uitvinding van Nobel ligt op tafel
The invention by Nobel is on the table

In addition, -ing derivations may also denote objects (e.g. storting deposit < storten to shed, to dump, to deposit ), means (voeding food < voeden to feed), locations (woning house < wonen to live), or collective agents (e.g. beweging popular movement < bewegen to move).

[hide extra information]

According to Booij (2002: 106) this is a pattern found across different morphological classes, as illustrated by the following examples (all these morphological types have a primary action interpretation):

  • result: gedicht poem (< dichten to make poetry), schilder-ij painting (< schilderen to paint)
  • object: bijsluiter package insert (< bijsluiten to enclose), verzin-sel fiction (< verzinnen to invent)
  • means: smeersel ointment (< smeren to smear, to rub), verzacht-er softener (< verzachten to soften)
  • location: gebouw building (< bouwen to build), optrekje cottage (< optrekken to raise)
  • collective: gehoor audience (horen to hear)

[+]Syntactic properties

-ing derivations may inherit argument structure and subcategorization properties of the base verb. In derivations of transitive base verbs, the direct object may be realized as the lefthand part of a compound or as a prepositional phrase with van whereas the Agent role can be expressed by means of a prepositional phrase headed by door: afvalscheiding door bedrijven waste separation by companies, de scheiding van afval door bedrijven the separation of waste by companies (see also Broekhuis et al. on inheritance of argument structure and subcategorization properties).

[hide extra information]

Booij (2002: 194 vv) notes that if  a thematic role is not expressed, the relevant entity that bears this role will be reconstructed on the basis of knowledge of the context and situation, and knowledge of the world. In this respect nouns differ systematically from verbs because normally, the thematic roles of a verb must be expressed as indicated in their Predicated Argument Structure. For instance, since the verb verwoesten to destroy is obligatorily transitive, both roles must be expressed, and a sentence like *De vijand verwoest The enemy destroys is ungrammatical, whereas NPs with the deverbal noun verwoesting destruction as their head do not need to express the Patient-role if it is clear which entity has that role: De verwoesting door de vijand duurde weken The destruction by the enemy went on for weeks.

These observations suggest that the LCS-roles of a verb are semantically still active in the corresponding deverbal noun, but can also be identified in other ways than by means of overt syntactic expression. Both Hoeksema (1984) and Mackenzie (1985) express this generalization in terms of a rule of optional argument reduction for deverbal nouns. The deverbal nouns then still differ from simplex ones in that the latter do not have specific semantic roles associated with them. For instance, the use of a door-PP requires the presence at LCS of an Agent-role, and hence there is difference in wellformedness between the ungrammatical *het boek door Jelle the book by Jelle and the grammatical de publicatie door Jelle the publication by Jelle: the latter allows for an event interpretation with an Agent. Note, however, that event nouns can also acquire a result meaning; in the latter case, the event reading and the associated thematic roles are no longer available, as shown by the contrast between De publicatie door Jelle was een moedige stap The publication by Jelle was a courageous step and *Die gele publicatie door Jelle was belangrijk That yellow publication by Jelle was important. In the second example, the use of the colour adjective geel yellow implies a result interpretation of publicatie. Hence, the Agent role that comes with the event interpretation is not available for being linked to the door-PP.


The suffix –ing competes with the prefix ge-, in particular for verbs belonging to the informal register, with the suffix -erij (cf. Hüning (1999)Hüning (1992), and with -sel for the result reading. The suffix -ing also competes with -atie in the domains of verbs in -eren. However, in this case both forms are often possible, without a difference in meaning, as in redenering - redenatie reasoning, both derived from the verb redeneren to reason. Sometimes, the noun in -atie is more common in southern Dutch, whereas the north prefers the formation in -ering. A case in point is reservatie reservation versus reservering reservation, both derived from the verb reserveren to reserve. Both forms are attested in both parts of the Dutch language area, but the former variant is more frequent in southern Dutch, whereas the latter is preferred in northern Dutch.

[+]Morphological potential

-ing derivations are input to regular diminutive formation in -kje or -etje, depending on the stress pattern of the base: if the last syllable (in -ing) carries secondary stress, the allomorph -etje appears (verzekeringetje insurance-DIM 'insignificant insurance), if not, we find -kje (overtredinkje small offense). Further suffixation is rare, although we do find occasional adjectives with suffixes like -loos (e.g. bewegingsloos motionless) and -achtig (klantenserviceafdelingachtig customer support section like).

[hide extra information]

The restriction on further suffixation of -ing formations is not caused by the phonological make-up of the suffix, as comparison with the suffix -ling makes clear: formations with -ling can be input to new derivations, e.g. with the nominalizing suffix -schap, as in nakomelingschap after-come-er-ship offspring.

Formations with -ing easily enter into NN-compounds. If they function as lefthand members, they often get a linking element /s/ (verwachtingshorizon expect.ing.s.horizon horizon of expectation, verzekeringsagent insure.ing.s.agent insurance agent). If the -ing formation is the righthand part, the lefthand part gets an argument reading, if posssible: noodverordening emergency ordinance, reisverzekering travel insurance, voedselverspilling food wastage, stroomstoring power failure.

  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haeringen, Coenraad B. van1971Het achtervoegsel -ing, mogelijkheden en beperkingenDe Nieuwe Taalgids64449-68
  • Hoeksema, Jack1984Categorial morphologyGroningenPh. D. dissertation, University of Groningen
  • Hüning, Matthias1992De concurrentie tussen deverbale nomina met <i>ge</i>- en op -<i>erij</i>Spektator21161-172
  • Hüning, Matthias1999Woordensmederij. De geschiedenis van het suffix -erijUtrechtLOT
  • Instituut voor Nederlandse Lexicologie1995Het Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal (WNT)
  • Mackenzie, Lachlan1985GenominaliseerValentie in Functionele Grammatica. Interdisciplinair Tijdschrift voor Taal- en Tekstwetenschap5177-198
  • Trommelen, Mieke1984The Syllable in DutchDordrechtForis