I realize now that the two questions from ELL aren't as closely related as I thought they were when I asked the question, and that the "-ion" suffix was a bit of a red herring. I updated the title to refocus it a bit, but I'm going to leave the question as it was originally stated.

Two questions on the English Language Learners stack, one involving the word division and the other about the word implementation, made me realize that I treat these sorts of words differently without really understanding the grammatical reason.

The first question from ELL is about the use of conceptually in this definition from the Oxford Dictionary of English:

dualism = {mass noun} 1. The division of something conceptually into two opposed or contrasted aspects, or the state of being so divided

Division looks like a noun that would need an adjective like conceptual to describe it, but here we are using an adverb. I intuitively feel like that's OK for this particular word, where it isn't OK for a noun like book.

The second question from ELL is about the lack of an article in front of implementation in this sentence:

Tusk said the EU would go ahead anyway with new sanctions against 19 Russian and Ukrainian individuals and nine entities next week, despite having agreed on Monday to suspend implementation for a week to boost the chances of success of the Minsk talks.

Intuitively, I think it's fine to say either "suspend the implementation" or "suspend implementation", but again, I'm unsure of my grammatical footing here.

In the second question, the asker thought that if you could substitute a related gerund form into the sentence and it still made sense grammatically, the original word might follow some special set of grammar rules. It seems to me that the Latin suffix ‑ion (denoting action or condition) is the key feature of these words.

Do these words that can be both an action and a state or condition actually have special treatment grammatically, or has common usage made some grammatically incorrect usages seem OK?

  • I think the clue is in your cited definition - [the / a] state of being divided (division might also be defined as [the / an] act of dividing, but dualism isn't used like that). I kinda doubt that the syntactic matter of whether an article is required or not is directly connected to the Latin etymology, since it can also apply with the -ing suffix. The contract details were all agreed yesterday, but we delayed [the] signing until next week. Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 15:24

2 Answers 2


One question at a time! The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language has a section dealing with what it labels 'peripheral modifiers', 'those external modifiers occurring at the periphery of the noun phrase'.

It subdivides one major set of these into frequency, domain, modal and evaluative modifiers.

The noun does not have to end in -tion (though nouns describing actions and processes, many of which end in -tion, are naturally likely candidates for such modifiers):

The treatment of the native workers essentially as slaves continued for many years. [evaluative / modal]


The failure of the nation politically has led to an escalation of lawlessness [domain].


Treatment of LPC includes removal of the lesion surgically by conservative enucleation [internet] [domain]

CGEL comments that 'the adverb can have scope over the subject noun phrase'. The last example has 'surgically' modifying 'removal of the lesion' (which Aarts may not consider a direct object, but which no one would consider the subject).

  • Thanks. It wasn't clear to me that I was asking two different questions. I thought that the type of noun gave it some qualities that were shared across the category. That's the trouble with trying to apply the same techniques I use to figure out the rules of manufactured languages to English :)
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 15:40

Question 2

Again, the focus on the morphology of the nouns involved is at best only part of the answer.

There are quite a few returns in a Google search for "suspend services", but many more for "suspend the services". The former is almost idiomatic nowadays (which tells a story), and is a general statement that normal service has ceased / will cease, whereas the latter points more directly to the actual services which are being suspended. The former does not even need that the services be previously mentioned.

With the far less usual 'suspend implementation', there is no idiomatic preference, but 'suspend the implementation' without an of-phrase sounds rather highfalutin.

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