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Please note that this question is not about the 'opposite' of an agent noun, or the 'passive noun' corresponding to an agent noun.

My question is: if we could split the set of all nouns into two sets, and one of them were that of agent nouns, what would the remaining set be called? Is there a name for such nouns? Would 'non-agent noun' be appropriate?

Thanks,

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    In the terminology of agent nouns, the "opposite" kind are called patient nouns. But presumably there will be a lot of nouns that don't meaningfully fall into either category. Aug 29, 2014 at 15:58
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    @FumbleFingers Thanks, I've seen that kind of noun described as 'passive', 'patient', and 'absolutive'. Is any of these forms more appropriate than the others?
    – rick
    Aug 29, 2014 at 16:00
  • Your question implies it's meaningful to have a single label for all nouns that aren't agent nouns, which I think is simply untrue. Where, for example, would you place a noun like eternity on the agent/patient scale? Aug 29, 2014 at 16:03
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    Agent is a thematic role for a noun, and so are patient, instrument, receiver, trajector, and many others. It's not a characteristic of an individual noun, like masculine or feminine in Spanish. So no noun is an "agent noun" by itself; only if it gets used as the agent in an active sentence, like Bill kicked the ball. In that sentence, Bill is an agent noun; but in She kicked Bill, Bill is a patient noun. So the question is ill-posed. Aug 29, 2014 at 16:13
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    Your usage of 'agent noun' is not the normal one: From Wikipedia: << In linguistics, an agent noun (Latin, nomen agentis) is a word that is derived from another word denoting an action, and that identifies an entity that does that action: eg "driver" is an agent noun formed from the verb "drive". Usually, 'derived' in the above definition has the strict sense attached to it in morphology, that is the derivation takes as an input a lexeme (an abstract unit of morphological analysis) and produces a new lexeme.>> You mean noun referencing an agent. Aug 29, 2014 at 16:25

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According to this Wikipedia article,

In linguistics, an agent noun (in Latin, nomen agentis) is a word that is derived from another word denoting an action, and that identifies an entity that does that action. For example, "driver" is an agent noun formed from the verb [not the noun!] "drive".

Usually, 'derived' in the above definition has the strict sense attached to it in morphology, that is the derivation takes as an input a lexeme (an abstract unit of morphological analysis) and produces a new lexeme.... [drive --> driver; sculpt --> sculptor]

[emphasis & further example mine]

So {agent nouns} is a special subset of {nouns}; the complement subset would be very difficult to define except as such, and would not be useful to consider as a whole. Doubtless for this reason, other disjoint (and overlapping) subsets of nouns would be preferentially specified.

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