The word 'classification' - always a noun?

When I look up classification in the dictionary, it says:

Noun - “The act, process, or result of classifying.”

I understand that ‘classification’, the result of classifying, being a noun.
But how is ‘classification’, the act or process of doing something, a noun?

Go easy on me, gammer is not my strong point.

Neither is speling.

Well, “an act” is a noun.

Consider this usage: “The HR department completed its classification of job titles.”

They completed the act of sorting everyone out. They completed the process.

The word that names the activity is a noun . . . the word that indicates you’re performing the activity is a verb. For instance, in the sentence “I think that running is fun”, running is a noun. It must be, because it’s the subject of the clause “running is fun”. (Technically, it’s a gerund – basically, a noun-form of a word that in other forms is a verb.)

However, in the sentince “I run”, run is obviously a verb. Note that here I’m saying that someone (namely myself) performs the action (so it’s a verb), whereas in the above case I was talking about the action as a thing (so it’s a noun).

So far as I know, it’s possible to turn any verb into a noun, so that you can make statements about the act of doing that thing. What’s somewhat weird about “classification” is that you can use either “classification of” or “classifying” to mean practically the same thing. For instance, both can be used in the sentence “The classification of job titles is necessary to clarify various employees’ roles in the company.” – or “Classifying job titles is necessary to clarify various employees’ roles in the company.” If there’s a difference in meaning between these two sentences, it’s subtle enough that I have difficulty identifying it.

As you mention, further confusion is added by the fact that “classification” can also refer to the result of classifying, rather than the act itself.

Thanks tim314 that helps. So, ‘classify’ is a verb, but ‘classification’ is a noun.

The thing that confuses me is the former is the activity and the latter is the name of the activity. Yet, the former is the name of the activity too.

There’s nothing remotely weird about this. It’s perfectly normal.


The rapid transportation of vegetables to market is necessary if they are to be sold while fresh. Transporting vegetable rapidly to market is necessary if they are to be sold while fresh.

Excessive consumption of calories and insufficient exercise leads to obesity. Consuming excessive calories and exercising insufficiently leads to obesity.

Intelligent conversation is one of life’s pleasures. Conversing intelligently is one of life’s pleasures.

Lots of English verbs have a gerund form which differs from the present participle, but can in some contexts subsitute for it.

We are not talking about gerunds (nouns that end in -ing). How about these examples:

Transportation is a noun when you, say, refer to a vehicle - “How do you like my new transportation, Bob.” But it is also a noun when you refer to a process - “The rapid transportation of vegetables …”.

Consumption is a noun when you refer to the disease (TB) - “Bob is suffering from consumption”. But it is also a noun when you refer to a process - “Bob is suffering from indigestion. It must have been due to excessive consumption of Twinkies.”

Conversation: The two forms - “The noise from the conversation was oppressive.” and “We were engaged in conversation.”

Did I get the last one right?

Yes, grammatically. But it’s not really ‘two forms.’ ‘Conversation’ has the same exact meaning in both situations.

In your other example, ‘consumption’ is a noun in both sentences. It has ‘two forms’ only in the sense that it has two meanings: 1) the eating of food; 2) a particular disease (characterized by the eating away of the body).


Yeah, I guess it’s pretty common to have both a “-tion” form and an “-ing” form. Because I had decided to use “run” as my example verb, and there’s no word “runation”, I fooled myself into thinking “classification” was unusual for having these more-or-less redundant forms.

Glad to help. I guess when I’m saying the “name” of the activity, I really mean the noun form. Both are words for what you’re doing, but one seems to me to be a bit more of a “name” for it.

What I mean is, if you were running on a treadmill, and I asked you, what is the name of the activity you’re currently performing, it would be more natural (I think) for you to say:
This is called “running.”

as opposed to saying:
This is called “run.”

So I think when we’re actually identifying something as the activity’s name – as opposed to just the word we use for it – then it’s more standard to use the noun form. But this whole distinction between the “word for doing it” and the “name of it” is basically something I just made up – where as the distinction between nouns and and verbs is a real, clear-cut distinction. Something is either being used as a noun or it’s being used as a verb. If you say “I like running”, “running” is the object of the verb “like”, so it has to be a noun. Likewise, if you say “Running makes me tired”, “running” is the subject of “makes”, so it’s a noun. However, if you say “I run every day”, “run” is the verb, whose subject is “I”. By similarly examining how we use the words “classify” and “classification”, I think we can see that “classification” is always a noun, whereas “classify” is always a verb.

I should have probably just said that to begin with, rather than getting bogged down in “names for actions” vs. “the actions themselves.” Basically, you can always tell whether a word is a noun or a verb by looking at it in a sentence and figuring out what role it plays.

Of course, there are some cases where the same word can be either a noun or a verb. For instance:

In this case, someone might say that “access” can be either a noun or a verb, depending on context. Probably the best thing to say is that there are two related definitions of access, one of which is a verb and one of which is a noun. We can tell which definition of the word we’re using based on how it’s used in the sentence.

In fact, you do find separate noun and verb definitions in the dictionary.

I don’t care, I don’t think you should go around classificationing “classification” as a verb.

You determine a noun by whether it behaves as a noun. For instance, “classification” can be pluralized. The children were sorted into different classifications. Or it can be modified with articles or adjectives: the rapid classification and so forth. The whole “person, place, thing, or idea” definition is a useful idea, but it has no linguistic validity.

Conversely, it doesn’t work as a verb - *We classificationed the students. What qualifies a word as a particular part of speech is its behavior. If it walks like a noun and talks like a noun, it’s a noun. You can draw general principles, like the one that concrete objects are nouns, but that’s only a generality. Many nouns don’t represent objects at all - time, love, childhood, action, function, etc.

I haven’t had exercisification, so I have disshapification, which means that runnation will be the ruination of me.

Maybe this would all be clearer if you used a different word, a noun that is an act, but not a gerund.

Like fornication.

Isn’t ation almost always a noun suffix?

As far as I can thing of - the ones that aren’t being verbs that were made out of nouns, like “function”.

Of course, this does not apply in the business world, where people talk about “actioning” things and such.

This doesnt work for all action/process words.

“Regulation of calcium ion concentration…”. Is there a plural for this process? – “calcium concerntration was modified via regulations of [5-HT] and temperature” Doesnt sound right. And there is:

Anticipations. Fornications. Myelinisations. Salvations. Solvations. Fragmentations…
It might be easier for me if I just think of all “ation words as nouns”.
“Function” doesnt end in ation.

Certainly. And note that I didn’t claim that all nouns may be pluralized - many nouns are rarely or never used in plural forms. Others are rarely used with articles (although none occur to me at the moment that are never so used) - there are several criteria, and while some words match the criteria precisely, others match less precisely.

The idea of being able to select a certain criterion to determine whether a word is a noun, or a verb, or an adjective, or any other part of speech is a risky proposition. Linguistic Categorization: Prototypes in Linguist Theory by John R. Taylor concerns such things - and his argument, which I found quite fascinating, is that not only are categories like “furniture” or “shades of red” or “animals”, rather fuzzy classes in the mind of most speakers, but so are parts of speech. Each category is represented by a prototype or prototypes, and whether something is “furniture” or a “noun” or whatever else is determined by how closely it resembles the prototype. Therefore, some nouns are “nounier” than others.

Nouns that aren’t used much in the plural are less nouny than ones that are; gerunds, which are verb forms that act as nouns (they have an -ing ending - look at a sentence like Walking is good for your health.) are very peripheral examples of nounishness, while nouns that represent concrete objects that can be pluralized, or preceded with “the” or “a”, are the most salient and prototypical varieties of nouns.

I didn’t want to get into this in my post above (though I guess I should have realized that anything less than complete precision is insufficient at the SDMB :)) so I just carefully avoided stating that there were any criteria that were necessary and sufficient to define something as a noun. Instead, it’s a noun if it acts basically like other nouns. “Classification” acts like other nouns; it doesn’t act much like verbs.

“-tion” words are largely nouns, but I’m rather certain there are some which are also used as verbs. I don’t particularly care to think of any at the moment, though, since I’m lazy. But “regularization” is a lot like most of our nouns for abstract concepts - “anger” or “time” or “hatred” don’t usually get pluralized either. (Well, “time” does, but it generally takes on a different meaning than that of its singular.)

If your library has that book, it’s an interesting read, and it’s not long or difficult. I recommend you check it out.

Words aren’t divided into parts of speech based on what they denote, but based on how they function in a sentence.

A noun is a noun not because it’s a “person, place, or thing”, but because it can be the subject of a verb.

So even though “classification” denotes an action, it’s a noun because it can be the subject of a verb (“the classification took all day”).