I have learned English for years. But I have not been good at distinguishing how different is the use of accommodation, accommodating and accommodate. This is an example. I mean in this question that when do we you -ing form of a verb, when do we you noun form (i.e. -tion etc.) of a verb, when do we use its infinitive?

  • Welcome to EL&U site. Please consider providing usage examples of said words and mention what you did not understand in those sentences. Any dictionary will give you the meaning with an appropriate example. There will either be too many answers or the answers will be too long for this format. Thanks – BiscuitBoy Jan 8 '16 at 10:52

This is a deep question, and -- alas! -- has no formulaic answer. You may consult this discussion of when to use a gerund (the -ing form) and when to use an infinitive (the to form). I warn you that the answers here take the form of lists and not rules. The determinations of when to use a gerund or a nominalization (e.g, a -tion form) seem just as arbitrary.

For example, take the verb to cease. Is there any reason to prefer the nominalization "a cessation of hostilities" over the gerund "ceasing hostilities"? The google shows a preference of the former over the latter by 100:1, and the Ngram viewer confirms the preference. But both usages are certainly natural. For example, in Vietnam: State, War, Revolution, 1945-1946 by D G Marr, we find

The Assembly's Standing Committee would be consulted before declaring war or ceasing hostilities,....

No doubt, Marr chose ceasing to keep the compound verb in parallel, an unremarkable choice, but he could just as well have written

The Assembly's Standing Committee would be consulted before a declaration of war or a cessation of hostilities,....

Sometimes, however, the gerund and the nominalization drift apart semantically, dictating where one will be preferred. Take the verb to sense. A sensation has taken the meaning of a physical feeling, a touch, while sensing has a broader meaning of detecting.

Consider this sentence from The Mental in Education: A Philosophical Study by R D Heslep:

No sensing, of course, is a happening of just any sort, for a sensing always has a subject-patient, that is, any sensing happens to somebody.

The examples preceding are of perceptions of color, sound, and pain. Sensation would be too restrictive here, not to mention that it would be contaminated by the second meaning of sensation as an exciting event.

Sometimes words are frozen as terms of art in various fields. The verb to plead has a noun form plea and a gerund pleading, but in the law under the English model, a plea and a pleading are different things -- a plea is the response to a criminal indictment and a pleading is a written statement in a civil case. They aren't to be interchanged.

And sometimes, words reside in set phrases where they resist substitution. So during an introduction you use the noun form to say, "It's a pleasure to meet you." It would be jarring to say, "It's a pleasing to meet you."

It would be wonderful to have an algorithm to decide, but I fear one does not exist.

  • The answer is quite close to my question. Thanks so much @deadrat. Hopefully we have another better ones. – Tung Jan 8 '16 at 16:32

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