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In this phrase:

the migratory activity of white blood cells

is it possible to replaced the adjective migratory by the noun migration, which also serves as an adjective? Only one variant is correct or both? If both, do they have any difference in meaning?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Yes, you can use migration as a noun adjunct here, with essentially the same meaning:

  • migratory: “wandering, roving”
  • migration: “to change position in an organism or substance”

Depending on the context, this might change the emphasis from activity to migration. If that's OK, you might consider removing activity entirely and simply writing, “the migration of white blood cells.”

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I think this whole matter of “an X used as a Y”, where X and Y are classical part-of-speech tags like noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, ends up being a very confusing thing to ESL students — and perhaps to others as well. They get hung up on thinking that words in isolation are somehow this or that, like the OP’s assumption that migratory is an adjective and migration a noun, whereas it is more fruitful to look at what role words are taking on in a larger grammatical structure. Without that, they really aren’t anything: the structure is all that matters. – tchrist May 10 '13 at 20:16
I always change albatrosses like migratory activity into swallows like migration, unless context (eg, parallel structure) demands otherwise. I even rewrite sentences to rid them of pointless passives, eg, "The migratory activity of WBCs to lesions caused by endogenous LPS in individuals suffering from sepsis was noted" => "WBCs migrated to LPS-induced lesions in patients with sepsis" (50% shorter). – user21497 May 11 '13 at 0:31
Thank you all. I'm writing a scientific paper, where short sentences aren't very welcome. But that's how things are done in scientific/science world/ the world of science. – Oxy May 11 '13 at 21:13

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