Sentence structure

Nominalisation is the process of turning verbs, adjectives or clauses into nouns. It is used to formalise writing from spoken to written form and is a strategy for making your meaning more concise.

Norminalisation changes the focus onto the result rather than the action itself. For example, turning an action(s) (verb) into a ‘thing’ (noun) helps your writing become more conceptual as it develops meaning by turning an action into an idea which can be explored.


Science and geography explicitly teach nominalisation where:

processes are explained as verbs become nouns (nominalised verbs)
to weather weathering
to erode erosion

Mathematics also use nominalisation where:

processes explained as verbs become nouns (nominalised verbs)
multiplying multiplication
adding addition
changing rate of change

It is important to express to students that nominalisation has its place but should not be overused as too much can detract from the text and make it difficult for the reader to comprehend.

Activity 1

Brainstorm verbs/actions related to topic and where possible complete another branch with results for this action.

The students write an initial sentence with the information they have to show action and result. Looking at their original sentence, students identify the verb and try to change it into a noun/noun group to nominalise their sentence. This should allow them to create a sentence that places more emphasis on the result of the action.
Discuss when they would be used depending on the purpose of the sentence, for example, ask the students “do you want to focus on the action or the result?”

Activity 2: actions speak louder than words

For students to get a clear understanding of the differences between spoken, written and formal language they are to consciously work through the steps of transferring between each stage. This can be completed individually or in pairs.

Step 1: dictate ideas and transcribe

Students are to dictate and record a conversation or their thoughts in relation to a current topic. This might be a summary of information they have learnt or a reflection of how they have completed a task, for example, accountability in group assessment tasks. Using a dictation app or a voice recorder and then typing, students are to transcribe their spoken words into written, exactly as they are.

Step 2: spoken to written

Taking the important aspects from the transcription, students are to turn their work into more appropriate written language. For example, remove the slang and conjunctions such as ‘um’.

Step 3: nominalise to emphasise the result

Students to discuss which sentence(s) should be focusing on the result and attempt to nominalise it.

Teachers are to verify the process at each stage and provide ongoing prompting to assist where needed. Questions such as 'What was the action?', 'What was the result of this?' and 'Can you make the action a thing?' will assist to progress students through the nominalisation process.


Australian curriculum

ACELA1546: Expressing and developing ideas: Understand the effect of nominalisation in the writing of informative and persuasive texts.

NSW syllabus

EN5-3B: Outcome 3: selects and uses language forms, features and structures of texts appropriate to a range of purposes, audiences and contexts, describing and explaining their effects on meaning (EN5-3B) - Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features: analyse how higher order concepts are developed in complex texts through language features including nominalisation, clause combinations, technicality and abstraction.

Return to top of page Back to top