Processing a Personal Noun


Derivatives- words where by changing the suffix, not only does the grammar form changes, but also the meaning. Derivatives can apply for verbs, adjectives, adverbs and especially, NOUNS.

Nouns feature four different parts: common, proper, process and personal. An example of how the four parts work come with this example: bank.

Common noun:  a bank

Proper noun: Sparkasse Bank (Germany);  US Bank (USA)

Process noun:  banking- a process of handling accounts, transactions, savings, etc.

Personal noun: banker-a person who handles accounts of other customers

While we pay more attention to the first three types of nouns, the fourth one is just as important because it focuses on the person doing the occupation or process. While in the German language, the endings of personal nouns end mostly with “-or” or “-er” (add          “-in,” “-en” and “-innen” if they are feminin single, plural and feminin plural, respectively), the endings in English are dependent based on what suffix is used. There is little research done on how to convert from noun as a process to a noun as a person, yet the interest in this topic is still high especially as for every 100 people who are starting to learn English, at least 30 of them will eventually ask the teacher why there are two different nouns: a process/common/proper noun and a personal noun.

While the conversions between the two vary, here are some rules you should keep in mind:

ST- Personal


Nouns with -ics, -ce, -sis, -ism and -cs are usually converted to personal nouns by adding just the -st or -te.

SHIP- Process


Personal nouns with -n(d), -d, -ce, and -er are usually provided with the suffix -ship when converting to a noun based on process. Ship is one of a handful of suffixes that can be found in over 300 nouns in English. A link will show you the list.




When a process noun ends in -logy, when converting to personal noun, the suffix ends with -logist. This type of nouns are found mostly in occupations dealing with sociology and human medicine.

GRAPHER- Personal


Ending with -graphy, personal nouns have the suffix of -grapher at the end. This type of nouns can be found in the areas of technology and spatial topics.

-ING vs -ER


Whenever a process noun has an -ing at the end, when converting to a personal noun, the -ing noun is replaced with that of either -or or -er.



For some cases, but not all cases, personal nouns with -er or -or are longer than the process noun, as in the conversion process, the -er/-or is dropped when it is a process noun.

Other personal nouns can be found via link, yet the list and rules are not complete as there are probably more that can be added. But these rules are just the starting point of the conversion.

Let’s have a look at some exercises below: 🙂

Part A.  Change the nouns based on the following instructions:

Process -> Personal

ecology;  anthropology; geology; typography; oceanography; greeting; doctoring; registering; editing

Personal -> Process

Auctioneer; Astrologer; Astronomer; Capitalist; Dancer; Supervisor; Singer; Repairer; Registrar


Part B.  Choose the correct personal noun to complete each sentence

  1. A person who decides whether the criminal is guilty or innocent and helps the judge decide on the person’s fate is called a __________     

a. stenographer     b. juror     c. analyst   d. reporter

2. Global warming and its effects on our way of life are based on information by the __________.

a. climatologist     b. politician     c. oil monger      d. reporter

3. Which of the professions are the most underappreciated? (More than one may apply)

a. teacher    b. cashier    c. photographer   d. neurologist    e. driver    f. farmer

4. If you want to publish a book you need the following: (More than one apply)

a. editor    b. writer    c. photographer    d. stenographer   e. geographer

5. Which occupation is considered a hobby?

a. cashier    b. farmer    c. sailor    d. photographer


Part C. Which is the odd man out? Mark the noun that does not exist in English.

  1. scientology   spankatology  sociology  pyschology    astronomy
  2. employmanship   friendship   comradeship   craftsmanship
  3. radiology   ecology    cardiology   neurology   autistology
  4. nationalism    communism     socialism    totalitarianism   evilism
  5. wrestling   boxing   nordic-walking   lazying   weight-lifting
  6. penmanship   readmanship   editing    stenography
  7. science   technology   humanology   politology


There is another aspect of a personal noun that requires an additional article. This one deals with gender and personal nouns. While the lines are drawn between male and female in German, the topic is rather tricky in English. More in the next article.





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