Hey! It's my turn!

This is a very acceptable usage of the word turn. It seems to me that in this sentence, turn is a noun, because it's something that I own. Now, I could be really wrong here — that's why I am asking you folks — but doesn't that seem rather a strange usage when compared to all the other ways to use turn?

Does anyone have any insights into this?

  • I've heard it's an expression that originated at mills. A farmer would bring his grain in to be milled (or "turned"). That individual would be taking his turn; other people would be waiting for their turn.
    – user82929
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 15:58

3 Answers 3


We have several overloaded words in English, which tend to be short, abstract, and regional in nature. We use "turn" in the sense of your statement in the US; in the UK "go" is synonymous, in this sense if not others. We show up at events, the UK turn up at them, and so on. A turn can be a change in direction, a flip from one side to another, a change of mood or weather, perishable food going bad.

Another word that's used numerous ways, for comparison's sake, is "set." If I remember correctly it's listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the English word with the most alternative definitions or meanings.

  • 'run' also has quite a few.
    – Sam
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 0:55
  • More than several.
    – Robusto
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 1:01
  • So it's essentially a very murky pond...makes sense. I can't help but wonder where the origins of the word are from. Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 15:15
  • here: etymonline.com/?term=turn it says it's coming from "to rotate, revolve", which makes perfect sense. If you are taking turns at something (a game for example), you are circling through a group of people (often even placed around a table).
    – skymningen
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 6:14

Turn in your example is a noun. Your analysis is completely correct.

There's nothing strange about this at all. English has hundreds of words which are both nouns and verbs, and in fact it's extremely common for nouns to acquire a verbal use and vice-versa. In this particular case, there are a variety of well-established ways that turn can be used as a noun aside from the example that you gave:

  • Make a right turn at the stoplight.
  • Things have taken a turn for the worse.

The OED says, in meaning 28a of the noun "turn":

The time for action or proceeding of any kind which comes round to each individual of a series in succession; (each or any one's) recurring occasion of action, etc. in a series of acts done, or to be done, by (or to) a number in rotation. (Often in adverb phrases: see below.)

One of the examples of this use is from Hoyle's Complete Games: "If‥the last Player plays out of his Turn."

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