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V > N

Frisian verbs can rather easily be converted into a noun. For example, from the verb skoppe to kick we can derive the noun skop kick. We also find residues of historical ablaut, e.g. sjonge to sing > sang song. Semantically, rather than referring to the action itself, these nouns in the majority of cases denote a more concrete aspect of it, for example the result of the action, or the means to perform it. In addition, there is a modal use. The converted nouns show a remarkable division in gender. Normally, they have common gender, but those derived from a prefixed verb are neuter. Compare for instance de fal the fall with it ferfal the decline, both related to the verb falle to fall. Converted nouns often occur in combination with light verbs and/or fixed prepositions.

For completenesss' sake, it is worth mentioning that the nominal infinitive is sometimes also considered as being an instance of conversion. The nominal character of such forms is, among others, revealed by the use of an article. The verb rinne to walk, for example, then transposes to it rinnen the walking, where the neuter definite article it is selected. As these nominal infinitives always require an overt suffix, i.e. -en, we deal with them in the section on nominal suffixes, under the suffix -en. Information on the ending from an inflectional point of view can be found in the section on infinitives of the topic about general categories of verbal inflection.

[+]General properties

Conversion of verbs into nouns only seems to occur in the native stock of the Frisian lexicon. With respect to the input, it is useful to distinguish between simplex verbs and complex verbs, since a sub-category of the complex verbs results in a different gender of the output noun.

In the case of simplex verbs, all converted nouns have common gender, i.e. they take the definite article de the. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 1
Base Verb Converted Noun
falle to fall de fal the fall
bite to bite de byt the bite
gjalpe to gush de gjalp the gush
skoppe to kick de skop the kick
stompe to punch de stomp the punch, the knock
waskje to wash de wask the wash
hâlde to hold de hâld the hold
keapje to buy de keap the purchase
rinne to walk de rin the walk
flokke to curse de flok the curse
hate to hate de haat the hatred
streame to stream de stream the stream
rinne to walk de rin the walk, the course
sliepe to sleep de sliep the sleep
roppe to call de rop the call
stekke to sting de stek the sting
dreame to dream de dream the dream

Striking exceptions are regearje to govern, which results in neuter it regear the government, and soldearje to solder and its converted noun it soldear solder. Moreover, these input verbs are also exceptional in that they are non-native. See also the Extra on Gender and Stress below.

In other cases the connection with the base verb is less clear, due to a historical vowel change (ablaut). Sometimes, we also see differences in the consonantism. Such deviations especially occur if the input belongs to the strong or otherwise irregular verbs. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 2
Base Verb Converted Noun
ride to skate de reed the skate
springe to jump de sprong the jump
hingje to hang de hang the hang
sjonge to sing de sang the song
helje to pull de haal the pull
rûke to smell de rook the smell
gean to go de gong the corridor; the going
feie to brush de feech the brush
slaan to hit de slach the blow, stroke

As can be seen, all resulting nouns again take the article de the. An exception is the neuter noun bod offer, connected to the strong verb biede to offer.

As to complex verbs serving as input for nominal conversion, we have to draw a sharp division between particle verbs and prefixed verbs. Particle verbs just behave like simplex verbs:

Table 3
Base Verb Converted Noun
ôfleare to unlearn de ôflear the unlearning
neiklappe to afterpain de neiklap the afterpain
ynfiere to import de ynfier the import
oantrúne to stimulate de oantrún the stimulation
trochsette to persevere de trochset perseverance
útlizze to explain de útlis the explanation
opstappe to go away de opstap the step
wjerakselje to struggle de wjeraksel the struggle
oanfalle to attack de oanfal the attack

The output nouns all have common gender, with the exception of útstelle to postpone; to propose > it útstel the postponement; the proposal.

The situation is different with prefixed verbs, i.e. those that take the prefixes be-, fer- and ûnt-. In this case, the output nouns have neuter gender, that is, they are accompanied by the definite article it the. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 4
Base Verb Converted Noun
begripe to understand it begryp the understanding
besprekke to discuss it besprek the discussion
beweegje to move it beweech the movement
behelpe to manage it behelp the aix
ferjitte to forget it ferjit the oblivion
fersinne to be mistaken it fersin the mistake
fersette to resist it ferset the resistance
ferfalle to fall into disrepair it ferfal the decline
ûnthjitte to promise it ûnthyt the promise
ûnthâlde to remember it ûnthâld the memory
ûntwerpe to design it ûntwerp the design

The exception is ferkeapje to sell > de ferkeap the sale. Possibly, this is influenced by the high frequency of the common simplex de keap the purchase.

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Gender and stress

The distribution of the gender of converted nouns suggests that stress might be a factor. If the stress is on the first syllable, then the converted noun has common gender. This is the case with most simplex verbs and with the particle verbs, for example in leare to learn > de lear the doctrine and ôfleare to unlearn > deôflear the unlearning. Prefixed verbs, not having stress on the first syllable, result in neuter nouns. So, it begryp the understanding is converted from begripe to understand. The two exceptions in the realm of the simplex verbs follow this pattern: regearje to govern > it regear the government and soldearje to solder > it soldear the solder.


In principle, it seems possible that the converted noun denotes every aspect of the input verb. In de bou fan it hûs the build of the house the building of the house, for instance, is referred to the action of building (although it must be conceded that the nominal infinitive, as in it bouwen fan it hûs, is more common in Frisian). Far more often, however, the content of the noun is fairly concrete and specialized, with a special emphasis on the result of the verbal action. Compare it fallen the falling with de fal the fall. The nominalized infinitive in it fallen merely refers to vertical downward movement, whereas de fal is mainly used for falling human beings, in particular in relation to the resulting damage. So, very often the converted noun refers to an object name, as for example in ûntwerp design or rook smell, which both refer to what has been designed or smelled. It also may be the case that an instrumental reading is stressed, as in ûnthâld memory, which is rather a faculty that makes it possible for people to memorize things. But an instrumental interpretation likewise applies to de bou, which may also refer to the construction industry.

Reasoning along these lines, it is conceivable that many punctual verbs in particular have undergone the way of conversion. Such verbs denote actions that do not continue over time, and hence the result and the action itself coincide. Examples are stomp punch, skuor tear, flok curse, sucht sigh, draai turn and klau claw.

Rather special is a modal interpretation, expressing an ability for the type of action to be performed. This use is exemplified below:

Example 1

Ability to {verb}
Der sit wol bûch yn dat hout
there is well movement in that wood
That wood is flexible
Ik ha gjin blaas mear
I have no puff anymore
I'm exhausted
Hy hat wol knyp yn 'e hannen
he has well pinch in the hands
He has a firm grip
Dy hûn hat in bêste rook
that dog has a great smell
That dog has a great sense of smell
De rek is út it ilestyk
the elasticity is out the rubber.band
There's little flexibility left in the rubber band
Dy baan freget in soad trochpak
that job asks a lot boldness
A lot of boldness is necesarry for that job
Der sit gjin trochset yn dat fanke
there is no perseverance in that girl
That girl can't stand the pace
[+]Some syntactic and idiomatic frames

The punctual action nouns in particular can often be combined with light verbs such as dwaan to do, jaan to give and litte to let. This combination of a punctual action noun and a light verb results in a description of a verbal action that is fairly synonymous with the single verb. Compare in stomp jaan to give a punch vs stompe to punch, in flok dwaan to do a curse vs flokke to curse or in sucht litte to let a sigh vs suchtsje to sigh.

In addition, converted nouns often occur in idiomatic expressions with a prepositional phrase, like op 'e ... wêze to be on .... Examples are op 'e kuier wêze to have a walk, op 'e swalk wêze to wander about and op 'e flitter wêze to be out on a spree. The corresponding verbs are kuierje to walk, swalkje to wander and flitterje to flit to and fro. Comparable examples, with other prepositions or verbs, are op 'e hark stean to eavesdrop (cf. harkje to listen), yn 'e weef stean to be unsteady (cf. wifkje to waver), immen op 'e tok hâlde to keep someone dangling (cf. tokje to tempt) and immen yn 't ferlied bringe to tempt someone (cf. ferliede to tempt).

Furthermore, converted verbs are typically used in an expression with in hiele ... a much/big/large/long etc., in order to describe an exhausting or energetic action. Examples are in hiele tôch a large burden, in hiele til a heavy lift up, in hiele traap a long and heavy cycling tour and in hiele sit a long sit. The connected verbs are tôgje to lug, tille to lift, traapje to step and sitte to sit, respectively.

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Comparison with Dutch

It is often the case that where Frisian shows conversion, Dutch has a derivation in -ing, and sometimes also other means of overt word formation are chosen. Compare the examples in the table below:

Table 5
Dutch Frisian
de regering (<regeren) the government (<to govern) it regear (<regearje) the government (<to govern)
de wandeling (<wandelen) the walk (<to walk) de kuier (<kuierje) the walk (<to walk)
de aansporing (<aansporen) the stimulation (<to stimulate) de oantrún (<oantrúnje) the stimulation (<to stimulate)
de vergissing (<vergissen) to be mistaken (<the mistake) it fersin (<fersinne) to be mistaken (<the mistake)
de bespreking (<bespreken) the discussion (<to discuss) it besprek (<besprekke) the discussion (<to discuss)
de aanhaling (<aanhalen) the quotation (<to quote) de oanhaal (<oanhelje) the quotation (<to quote)
in verleiding komen (<verleiden) to be tempted to (<to tempt) yn 't ferlied komme (<ferliede) to be tempted to (<to tempt)
het geheugen (<heugen) the memory (<to be remembered) it ûnthâld (ûnthâlde) the memory (<to be remembered)
de belofte (<beloven) the promise (<to promise) it ûnthjit (<ûnthjitte) the promise (<to promise)
het doorzettingsvermogen (<doorzetten) the perseverance (<to persevere) de trochset (<trochsette) the perseverance (<to persevere)
de schuilplaats (<schuilen) the hiding-place (<hiding) it ferskûl (<ferskûlje) the hiding-place (<hiding)

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This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:123-124) and Hoekstra (1992). More details, especially on language use and idiomaticity, can be found in Tamminga (1963:46-48).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1992In hiele sitFriesch Dagblad19-09Taalsnipels 236
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga