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I'm looking for a word, that describes activity without a specific goal. (Its opposite, activity with a goal, would be "project".)

The best candidate for me is currently the word "doing". But I'm not an English native speaker and not sure, whether it's a good choice.

  1. Can the word "doing" be used in singular?
  2. Can it be used for "activity without a specific goal"?

This question got a lot of comments and a long discussion about the word "goal" and if there can be an activity without a goal. So I want to reference here my explanation "To the meaning of 'goal' in this context" in another question.

closed as off-topic by Lawrence, jimm101, Chenmunka, Skooba, J. Taylor Feb 14 at 18:41

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave these specific reasons:

  • "Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests" – Lawrence, jimm101, J. Taylor
  • "Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic." – Chenmunka, Skooba
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  • Please add a sample sentence where the word you’re looking for would be used (indicate the word with ____). Your current wording is quite vague, and it’s difficult to tell exactly what you’re looking for. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 27 '18 at 23:08
  • Wait, I just saw your previous question. That is pretty much the same as this one, so you should combine the two into one (if you feel something in this question is missing in the earlier one, just edit it in, and then delete this one). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 27 '18 at 23:10
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I'm absolutely not a fan of duplicating questions and understand your point. But in this case, what I'm asking about in the second question, is actually another facet. Yes, my goal is still to find the word for "activity without a defined goal". But the question is about the word "doing" and its usage. – automatix Dec 27 '18 at 23:29
  • I fail to see how this is not really a duplicate of the other question, aside from simply being more specific. (I suppose you could keep asking the same question but replace doing with another word each time. But that doesn't seem fruitful.) I still believe your premise is flawed. You can have aimless activity, but I don't think you can point to any given type of activity and say it will always be without some goal—even if it's only to perform the activity itself. – Jason Bassford Dec 28 '18 at 6:36
  • @JasonBassford Please read my comments: "goal", "sense <> goal", and "goals for tasks". – automatix Dec 28 '18 at 16:53
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This is a complicated question because you're not specifying which "doing" you mean.

The word "doing" can be several different things.

1) Noun. This is the only case in which a singular and a plural exist.

Example: "Is that mess in your bedroom your doing?"

       "The shady doings of my husband caused me to file for divorce."

As a noun "doing" or "doings" always mean an action.

2) Verb. Doing can be two different forms of the verb "to do."

A) Present Participle. In this case it expresses continued activity. Example "I am doing the best I can."

B) Gerund. Gerunds are used the same way as nouns. Example: Doing the right thing is important."

I am not sure what you mean by "activity without a goal" as the word "activity" implies some kind of action by definition. If you were to use the phrase "doing nothing" there's no specific goal involved but some people would say "nothing" is the goal. In other words, to be inactive. I can't think of a case where you can use the word "doing" whether as a noun or a verb to show actions without intended results.

When a project is shut down it is said to be no longer active or to be inactive. Maybe that's what you're looking for. No "doing" is used here. Procrastination is doing nothing because you're unsure of how or when to do it. The verb form is to procrastinate. Maybe that could help. The use of "no doing" means lack of action. For example "I was seen as irresponsible through no doing of my own." It means I didn't do anything to deserve to be seen in that light. Again no activity. The word project doesn't have an opposite. It's just be the lack or nonexistence of a project.

  • Also keep in mind that "doing" is often substituted for the noun "do" when it means a party or event of some sort. – Hot Licks Dec 28 '18 at 1:47
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One may use “doing” in singular, for example: John Doe is doing well. Jane Doe is doing fine. Each of these are implying daily life activity without a specific goal, but really communicating John or Janes state of being.

It’s difficult to pair an activity without a goal because of cause and effect. Even the most meaningless activity is acted upon as response to some stimulus.

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    In "John Doe is doing well", "doing" is a verb. – Hot Licks Dec 28 '18 at 1:48
  • No kidding, Hot Licks. Doing is a verb. Doing has an abstract context to an activity. – James Axsom Dec 28 '18 at 2:05

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