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I often hear someone says, "Wow, that's such a nice thought!"

Movies and books often have that kind of dialogue as well.

As I figure it out, "a nice thought" is a noun phrase. Which means "nice" is a complementary for "thought", and "thought" is literally a noun.

I'm also aware that thought is a third form (or second) of think, and dictionaries say that thought is a noun, too.

But why not use thinking (gerund) instead of thought? As I understand it, gerund has a function to make a verb-ing function as a noun.

Are there other third-form verbs that also function as nouns? Or is it just thought?

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closed as off-topic by Lynn, Kris, Edwin Ashworth, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, FumbleFingers Nov 2 '13 at 16:35

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possible duplicate of Past participle used as a noun? –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 2 '13 at 9:35
    
Thanks for the info. I didn't know this is a participle case, so I failed to foresee this is a possible duplicate. –  Safira Nov 2 '13 at 12:53
    
@Safira: Don't apologize. The best one can say about finding answers here is belum jadi. –  John Lawler Apr 28 at 2:50
    
@JohnLawler: Wow. You speak Indonesian. Yea, thank you. Still new here :) –  Safira Apr 28 at 6:38
    
Actually, I learned it in Malaysia, not Indonesia. But it's Bahasa. –  John Lawler Apr 28 at 16:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Thought is the past participle of think (I guess that is what you mean by the "third form", though I've never heard that phrase: is it used in teaching EFL?)

Participles combine some of the functions of adjectives with some of the functions of verbs. Some can be used as regular adjectives (eg baked in baked goods).

Others have more limited distribution, so you wouldn't normally say *a thought idea; but you can say an idea thought but not spoken, where thought (and spoken) have adjectival force.

Many adjectives can be used as nouns, eg the poor; this is less common in Modern English than in earlier forms of the language. Many nouns were originally adjectives used in this way, eg centenary (and centennial).

Thought as a noun is one of these: originally it was a participle, functioning as an adjective, and came to be used as a noun meaning thing thought.

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Very nice answer, thanks. The "third form" I mean is the one on these: see, saw, seen, make, made, made, think, thought, thought. What do native speakers call these forms of verbs? And yea, it is used in teaching EFL (in my country). –  Safira Nov 2 '13 at 8:30
    
The form think is also used as a noun, but only in the phrase "If you think that, you've got another think coming". –  Peter Shor Nov 2 '13 at 15:45

"Thought" is, as you said, literally a noun:

an idea, plan, opinion, picture, etc., that is formed in your mind : something that you think of.

The key there is that it's a thought - generally a singular idea. This fits with the idiom "a nice thought" because you're talking about the idea they had.

Thinking can also be used as a noun in gerund form, but here you're talking more about the act of thinking:

"Wow, that's some sharp thinking."

I can't think of an exhaustive list of verbs that fit this pattern, but two that come immediately to mind are "walk" and "drive".

We went for a nice walk. He took a long drive. <-- meaning a singular trip.

He did some fancy driving. That's some fast walking. <-- the act of driving/walking.

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Thanks for the answer. Actually, what bothers me is that why is it the third form of "think" that functions as a noun (Verb 3)? While for the other verbs, like "walk" or "drive" you said, the ones that functions as nouns are the first forms of the verbs (Verb 1). –  Safira Nov 2 '13 at 7:31
    
Because think is transitive. A thought is a thing which has been thought by somebody. Walk is intransitive (doesn't take an object), and while drive can be transitive, the object is the vehicle, not the drive, so a drive is not something which is driven. However, this is not the whole of the answer, because a feeling (not "a felt", which doesn't exist in this sense) is what is felt. The rest of the answer is "because that is how it is": there aren't always explanations. –  Colin Fine Nov 2 '13 at 23:12

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