Should one say "I’ll put you on the waiting list" or "on the wait list"? Likewise, is it "I will give you my visiting card" or "my visit card"?

I am very confused when to use the -ing form or not. Is there a general rule?

  • In general (although there may be exceptions), both are acceptable, since the "ing" form (gerund) is the noun denoting the act of doing the verb. You may be interested in ell.se also. – jimsug May 11 '14 at 12:06
  • Using "wait list" just sounds wrong and awkward. It's normally waiting list. – Tristan r May 11 '14 at 19:31
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    But waitlist has become common as the verb form, as in "I applied to So-and-so University, but I was waitlisted". – Barmar May 13 '14 at 20:53
  • I'm a Government of Canada employee, and I've recently noticed that the HR letters we send to competition participants use 'wait list', but I've always said 'waiting list'. – Alan V. Jan 14 '17 at 12:29

"I'll put you on the waiting list" - US & UK. Slightly commoner in UK than in US.

"I'll put you on the wait list" - Almost exclusively US; much rarer than 'waiting list'.

(Data source: Google Ngram viewer; corpuses: British English 2009, American English 2009)

Are you sure you mean visiting card (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visiting_card ) rather than business card?

But -- since you asked -- visiting card is the usual term.

I don't think there is a general rule for the use of -ing versus no -ing, except that British English tends not to drop it. However, it is much safer to treat the various expressions where it might or might not be used on a case-by-case basis, and to just try to remember which version is idiomatic.

  • +1 but I want to point out that "wait list" is extremely rare and I'm not sure if I've ever heard it used with "on" as in your example. I recommend avoiding the term completely. – MrHen May 19 '14 at 18:27
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    @MrHen First time I heard it used over an airport tannoy in America I thought it was spelled 'weight list', and had something to do with the fact that some small airlines with tiny planes weighed the passengers and their luggage together. – WS2 May 19 '14 at 20:49
  • @MrHen - I suspect (without having researched it) that the noun "wait list" is a back-formation from the verb "to waitlist". – Erik Kowal May 19 '14 at 20:54

Citing “cat food,” “book store,” and “web site,” is like comparing apples to oranges. Those cited words are compound nouns, where the name of the thing is more than one word. Those are not nouns modifying nouns. For example, you wouldn’t say, “stand ovation” for “standing ovation,” or “walk wounded” for “walking wounded.”

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  • Where, though, did you get the idea that anyone might use "wait list", let alone "visit card"? – Robbie Goodwin Apr 1 '18 at 21:22
  • @RobbieGoodwin en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wait_list – David Richerby Apr 2 '18 at 16:26

It should be “waiting list,” not “wait list.” It is improper to modify a noun with another noun, or a verb, for that matter. We learned in grammar school that a participle substitutes for an adjective.

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    “It is improper to modify a noun with another noun…” Ever heard of “cat food” or a “book store” (not to mention a “web site”)? – Scott Mar 30 '18 at 5:34
  • @Scott A 'cauliflowering ear' doesn't seem too idiomatic either. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 2 '18 at 1:25

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