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Can "stoppage" and "stopping" be used interchangeably? If not, could someone please provide an example where they would convey dissimilar notions?

Do they have any semantic differences?

I don't refer to "stoppage time" (or injury time) for sports vs "stopping time" (the statistical concept). I refer for example to : "premature stopping of the procedure X" versus "premature stoppage of the procedure X".

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"Stoppage" is a noun, whereas "stopping" is a verb; there are cases where they cannot be interchanged.

For example:

The leaves are stopping up the drain.
The leaves are stoppage up the drain.

He walked in while the laughter was stopping.
He walking in while the laughter was stoppage.

There are cases where they can be interchanged and change the sentence meaning.

For example:

  1. The food stoppage had massive consequences.
  2. The food stopping had massive consequences.

Both of those sentences make grammatical sense, but (1) suggests food blocking something, such as an airway, and (2) suggests the food ceasing to move, such as a cut-off of supply.

Lastly, there are cases where they can be interchanged and not change the meaning of the sentence.

For example:

Premature stopping of the procedure will cause complications.
Premature stoppage of the procedure will cause complications.

Here they both (virtually) convey the same meaning. This is, I believe, because the italicized words can effectively act as a single noun. If you want to get really nit-picky, you could differentiate and say the second sentence conveys that the state of being stopped will cause complications, while the first conveys that the the act of stopping will cause complications, but the difference is hardly distinguishable and can even reverse depending on the dictionary used.

The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?
~Chuang Tzu

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  • I did not accept initially because I didn't think it was a very accurate answer and maybe I am responsible too as I probably worded too loosely you. I did not refer to the case of noun vs verb and I hoped that was obvious. Nevertheless the second part of your answer is what I am effectively looking for. Your food stoppage vs food stopping example was actually quite good. Thank you.
    – user45330
    Jun 12, 2013 at 11:24
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Yes, I'm aware that this is seven years old. I typed out something (significantly) longer before realizing the question was about gerunds. Anyway I'd say my best practice is to avoid the word stoppage or the gerund form of stopping altogether. I'd use either cessation or obstruction depending on the sense of the word.

As a person who occasionally nitpicks, I do feel that those two example sentences about procedures and complications mean pretty different things. They trigger based on different conditions, and a condition that would makes one of those sentences true doesn't necessarily make the other true. Specifically, assuming sentence two is true, one could stop the procedure and then restart it to without necessarily causing complications, which would not be possible if sentence one was true. Better to re-write them for more clarity though. It's not the fall that kills, after all, even though most people that fall a great height do in fact die. Maybe not important for literature or philosophy but law and technology and other fields certainly care about these distinctions.

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"Stoppage" and "stopping" cannot be used interchangeably. There are very few (if any) true synonyms in English. If the word is different then it will almost certainly have, at least a different nuance.

All "-ing" forms have some nuance of an action that is continuing at the time referred to:

"Stopping" can be

a verb participle: "I am stopping the car here."

An adjective: "The stopping train hit the cow."

A gerund: "Stopping is the best way to avoid an accident." - This is the action of stopping.

A verbal noun: The stopping of the train at the junction caused an accident." This is one occurrence of the action of stopping [of something].

A deverbal or common noun "The stopping in the bottle is made of cork." This use is described in the OED as:

4.a. Something inserted to stop a hole, crevice, or passage. NB the use here is an intentional "stopping" of something and something that will continue to perform that functio:.1842 J. C. Loudon Suburban Horticulturist 259 The water in the inner pot..is prevented from escaping through its bottom by the clay stopping

Stoppage is only a common noun: "The stoppage in the pipe was caused by a lump of mud." Here, Stoppage is the actual object that has caused the contents of the pipe to stop flowing. Stoppage is usually an unwanted action.

Like all common nouns, "stoppage" can be used attributively: 2003 Toronto Metro 3 Apr. 16/3 David Beckham..scored with a stoppage time penalty.

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