What's the difference between these three? Are they all grammatically correct?

  1. "Migrating behavior"


  1. "Migration behavior"


  1. "Migratory behavior"

Which one should I say?

I have searched google scholar and found out that there are some papers using "Migration behavior" and some other papers using "Migratory behavior", so I am a little bit confused.


  • It would depend on what you are trying to convey and what context you are using the phrase in. Could you contextualise the phrases please? Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 8:09
  • For example, is wrong. It is not an example, it is the actual set of words. ++ It will depend on the context. You must give a sentence that provides context and includes the words you are asking about. ++ Without context, “Migrating” in “migrating behaviour” cannot be explained. In that phrase, “migrating” can be a participle, a verbal noun, or a gerund and it could be acting as a verb or a noun or an adjective. -- Are they all Grammarly correct? I have no idea, I don’t have the app. In any case, “Grammarly” is merely a reasonable starting point – it is not 100% reliable.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 8:43
  • 1
    'Migrating behaviour' is the least used in the context in which the others apply because it is ambiguous. It could be used to imply that it was the behaviour which was migrating, not the population. An example would be 'We are migrating the behaviour of computer application A to application B".
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 8:45

1 Answer 1


There's nothing wrong with any one of these, there's simply a different form of the word acting as modifier to the noun.

Searching on the iWeb corpus gets:

migrating behavior - 7 hits

migratory behavior - 133 hits

migration behavior - 29 hits

So it would seem the safe bet is migratory behavior.

  • 1
    However, without context, and simply as they are, surely the modifiers change the meaning. 1. Migrating behaviour would imply a behaviour that moves from one place to another. 2. Migratory behaviour would imply a specific behaviour in connection with the act of moving from one place to another and 3. Migration behaviour would imply the overall behaviours of migration. Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 8:23
  • They're used pretty much interchangeably in the examples I reviewed with migrating popping up when a few -ing words had come immediately before.
    – DW256
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 8:30
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    @DW256 The number of times a word is used is not indicative of its accurate use in a given context.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 8:41
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    @DW256 The OP is asking for the differences, not the similarities or whether they are interchangeable, or whether people use the words loosely. We really do need context. :)
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 9:05
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    @DW256 I read "What's the difference between these three?" - I do not read which one to use. There are differences in use and meaning.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 9:18

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