I'm a bit confused about the two words. To my Finnish self they both seem to have a similar meaning of morphing or the definition of a structure, and some dictionaries confirm that. I'm thinking of the words in terms of "the doing of...". I couldn't find a name for that kind of class though, even in Finnish, so let's call them ingverbs.

Forgive me for the extra jargon, but I think it's helpful to explain the context. A database has objects, such as tables which hold data and procedures which operate on that data. Those tables need to be defined precisely in order to have proper structure.

My original sentence was: "One must make sure each object is formatted and maintained properly."

And the sentence I'd like to construct is one of these:

  • The formatting and maintenance of the objects...
  • The formation and maintenance of the objects...

So my questions are:

  • Is formation an ingverb of format?
  • If not, what is the difference in meaning?

P.S. If you know a name for the class ingverb, please comment, so we can get rid of that thing.

  1. Formation is a noun. It is no more a verb than my first name.
  2. A look at its definitions and synonyms shows that it has primarily to do with the creative act or object resulting from such an act.
  3. Formatting as a gerund or verbal noun retains the meaning of the verb format. In this case, formatting refers to the manner in which something was arranged into a particular format (noun).

These words are not interchangeable. They have different meanings. For example in the two snippets you provided, both are grammatically correct; however, they (at the very least) hint at different meanings. To see that they are not interchangeable, consider the following sentences:

  1. The formation of the world happened eons ago.
  2. The formatting of the world happened eons ago.
    • This sentence is grammatically correct, but it is not meaningful.

The term ingverb is particularly dangerous in English. A verb ending in -ing may be a present participle, a gerund, or a verbal noun. When it is a present participle, it is acting as an adjective or adverb. When it is acting as a gerund, it may take an object and/or be modified by an adverb. When it is a verbal noun, it is just that -- a noun.

  • Fighting is bad. (verbal noun)
  • Fighting your friends is bad. (gerund)
  • The fighting cock is bad. (present participle)
  • Thank you for the answer, especially explaining the -ing classes. But I must ask: would you use formatting or formation in this context, where one is creating something that has a specified structure? – Felix Apr 22 '18 at 10:55
  • Based on your original sentence and having worked with databases, I am inclined to say that you want to go with "formatting" here. I have not seen the word "formation" used in the tech world very often. They prefer the word "creation". Even in this case, for your needs the actual format of the records is more important than the actual creation of the records. – Fred Hockney Apr 22 '18 at 11:10

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