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According to my dictionary, "grumbling" is a complaint about something, but "grumble" is also a complaint about something. I am used to using the "normal nouns - verbs as nouns" not gerund form as a noun. Someone told me that in the following sentences, "grumbling" must be used instead of "grumble", but they can't say why.

We didn't hear any grumbling about the food.

She paid up with some grumbling.

Again, I would use "grumble" instead.

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Why would you use "grumble" in those examples, given that native speakers wouldn't? – FumbleFingers Jan 29 '13 at 17:39

A grumble would be a single complaint or complaining noise. Grumbling would be the gerund form of the verb grumble and hence an act of complaining or making complaining noises—allowing it to be used as an uncountable or plural to suggest different complaints.

We didn't hear any grumbling about the food.

We didn't hear a single grumble about the food.

We didn't hear any grumbles about the food.

We're always hearing grumblings about the food.

All work. Striclty "didn't hear a grumble" is as grammatical as the second, but because grumble has diminutive connotations, "a single grumble" works a bit better.

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