Hidden Verbs in Grammar

someone standing behind a wall, writing in a notebook
(Matthieu Spohn/Getty Images)

Hidden verb is an informal term in traditional grammar for needless nominalization: a verb-noun combination used in place of a single, more forceful verb (for example, make an improvement in place of improve). Also known as a diluted verb or a smothered verb.

Because hidden verbs contribute to wordiness, they are generally considered a stylistic fault, especially in academic writing, business writing, and technical writing.

Examples and Observations

Henrietta J. Tichy: Common in functional prose is the weakened or dilute verb. Some writers avoid a specific verb like consider; they choose instead a general verb of little meaning like take or give and add the noun consideration with the necessary prepositions, as in take into consideration and give consideration to, devote consideration to, and expend consideration on. Thus they not only use three words to do the work of one, but also take the meaning from the strongest word in the sentence, the verb, and place the meaning in the noun that has a subordinate position... Weak as a jigger of Scotch in a pitcher of water, this is neither good liquor nor good water.

Lisa Price: When you turn a verb into a noun, you are nominalizing--a horrible thing to do. An obvious indication that you have just nominalized a verb is that the word gets longer, often by adding a Latinate suffix like tion, ization, or worse. . . . Don't abuse a verb by making it act like a noun.

Stephen Wilbers: Many writers suffer from an overdependence on nouns. Given the choice between a verb and the noun form of a verb (called a 'nominalization'), they instinctively choose the noun, perhaps under the mistaken notion that the noun will add authority and weight to their words. Well, it does add weight, but it's the wrong kind of weight, and this tendency results in a noun-heavy style. For example, rather than writing 'I need to revise that sentence,' they will write, 'I need to make a revision in that sentence.'... Here's another example of a sentence weighed down by nouns. 'My suggestion is that we make a reduction in our overhead.' Compare that sentence with 'I suggest we reduce our overhead.' The verb-energized version is not only more concise (six words rather than eleven), but also more emphatic--and the person standing behind those words sounds more decisive.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Hidden Verbs in Grammar." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/hidden-verb-grammar-1690834. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). Hidden Verbs in Grammar. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hidden-verb-grammar-1690834 Nordquist, Richard. "Hidden Verbs in Grammar." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hidden-verb-grammar-1690834 (accessed March 1, 2021).

Watch Now: Do You Know When to Use Affect vs. Effect?