10 common French verbs that are also nouns

Posted by Josh on 27th Jan 2023 in the blog in the learning french category

You may have noticed how some verbs in French can be treated as a noun, even though the spelling doesn't change. These are verbs which have undergone a process known as nominalisation. Nominalisation refers to the process whereby a verb or adjective becomes a noun. (Remember, the word for 'noun' in French is 'nom'.) Usually it involves adding a suffix to the verb or adjective (you can see a full list of the different suffixes on the support guide here). For instance, the verb 'informer' becomes 'l'information' as a noun, whle the adjective 'beau' becomes 'la beauté'.

But in some cases the form of the word doesn't change at all.

At first sight, this can prove a little confusing. However, you can usually tell whether a word is a verb or noun by the presence — or lack — of a masculine article before it. (In the sentence 'Le devenir de la ville reste incertain', for example, the 'le' makes it quite clear that 'devenir' is the subject) And once you know which verbs remain the same when they're used as a noun, it becomes a lot easier to use them both ways, as you don't need to remember to add a suffix or change the form of the word.

Let's take a look at some of the most common French verbs that stay the same when used as a noun.

Verb Noun
manger (to eat) le manger (food, foodstuff)
pouvoir (to be able to) le pouvoir (power)
savoir (to know) le savoir (the knowledge)
sourire (to smile) le sourire (the smile)
rire (to laugh) le rire (the laughter)
vouloir (to want) le vouloir (the will)
toucher (to touch) le toucher (the act of touching, the sense of touch)
sortir (to leave) le sortir (the end) — used in the expression 'au sortir de'
devenir (to become) le devenir (the future)
être (to be) l'être (the creature, the state of being)

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