A process for forming nouns from verbs (for example, reaction from react or departure from depart) or adjectives (for example, length from long, or eagerness from eager). Also a process for forming noun phrases from clauses (for example, their destruction of the city from ‘they destroyed the city’). Nominalisation is often a feature of texts that contain abstract ideas and concepts.


Explicit teaching

In the process of nominalisation whole clauses (verb groups) are collapsed into noun groups. What were once ‘activities’ have now become ‘things’ represented by dense noun groups:

‘human beings keep butting in and mucking up the environment’ – more spoken-like (verb groups)
‘irresponsible human intervention in the natural environment’ – more written-like (noun group)

One can see how language has been compacted in the shift from spoken to written. The compacting has been brought about by a shift from verb groups to noun groups (activities and processes to abstract ideas)

Derewianka, B. (2011) A new grammar companion for teachers. Newtown, Sydney: E: lit Primary English Teaching Association pp 161

General strategies

Students in Stage 3 begin to understand nominalisation through spelling activities which change verbs (actions or processes) into abstract nouns.

For example:

  • populate – population.
  • decide – decision.
  • pollute – pollution.

Students in stages 4-5 need to begin exploring the idea of compacting verb groups into an abstract noun phrase thus rendering writing more dense and formal sounding than spoken like language. See example above. They need to explore sections of academic and technical texts and analyse the use of abstract nouns to compact and distil information, structure argument and summarise preceding explanations.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: adding suffixes to words

Students form words from target vocabulary by adding appropriate suffixes. Students choose a word card and see how many endings they can add. The endings sometimes need to be dropped before a suffix is added. Discuss how adding the suffixes may change the usage of a word, from verb to noun or adjective to noun.

Students can work in pairs to use the some of the words in sentences.

Activity 2: base words

Given a group of words from a word family students work out the base word. For example, decontaminate, contamination, contaminated, contaminating – contaminate.


Australian curriculum

ACELA1508: Expressing and developing ideas: Understand how noun groups/phrases and adjective groups/phrases can be expanded in a variety of ways to provide a fuller description of the person, place, thing or idea.

NSW syllabus

EN3-6B: Outcome 6: uses knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to respond to and compose clear and cohesive texts in different media and technologies (EN3-6B) - Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features: experiment using a range of language features, for example, connectives, topic sentences, active and passive voice and nominalisation.

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