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I am a French learner in an intermediate stage and I want to know, what are the rules of morphing French verbs into nouns? Especially "intangible nouns", Or is there no pattern and are they irregular? Foe example, verbs like:

chanter{to sing} - chanson {song}

aimer {to love} - amour {love}

lutter {to wrestle} - lutte {wrestling}

voler {to fly} - vol {flight}

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Very interesting question, indeed, but surely delicate to answer in an exhaustive manner. In French, there are suffixes that help to form a noun from a verb, especially in the domain of abstraction.

You will understand them easily because the English language has inherited most of these French suffixes. Here are the main ones:

  • -ment : raffiner->raffinement, engager->engagement, régler->règlement, confiner->confinement...

  • -tion : former->formation, expliquer->explication, animer->animation, fédérer->fédération...

  • -age : truquer->trucage, bander->bandage, garer->garage, porter->portage, mouler->moulage...

  • -ure : dorer->dorure, gager->gageure, peler->pelure, graver->gravure, mouler->moulure...

  • -ance : porter->portance, recouvrer->recouvrance(old), espérer->espérance

You will surely have noticed the interesting case of the verb mouler which has the particularity of being used with two different suffixes: a moulage is a piece being formed in a mould, and moulure is nearly the same, but only dedicated to architecture (for example, the edge of a ceiling).

You can also notice that the suffixes -age and -ure are rather dedicated to concrete objects, meanwhile -ment, -tion and -ance are mostly used for abstraction, -ance being the least used, mainly in very ancient forms.

Well, there is still a lot to say, but here you have most of the main cases. The fact is that you can't really guess which form you have to use, and you don't really know if the verb you need really exists. But theses days, in France, people don't hesitate to invent new nouns from verbs, new verbs from nouns, and even new verbs from adjectives! Some examples:

  • solution -> solutionner (a useless barbarism, since the verb résoudre exists!)

  • positif -> positiver (another barbarism)

Concerning solutionner I remember a word from Clemenceau (a famous French statesman of the early 20th century, who held various high positions in the French government during World War I, in particular as war minister) being shouted at by a deputy asking him:

Est-ce que le gouvernement va enfin solutionner ce problème ?!

Clemenceau answered:

Ne vous inquiétez pas, le gouvernement va s'en occupationner !

Of course, occupationner doesn't exist, since the verb is occuper, from which comes occupation. Clemenceau said that to mock the use of solutionner. Unfortunately, that ugly barbarism is still often used nowadays.

  • So there is no golden rule? It's all abstract? – Robert Tattorn Oct 15 '18 at 18:41
  • Well, almost, though there are some nuances between -tion, -ment and -age : -tion is usually used with more abstract verbs than -ment which is itself maybe more abstract than -age. One can say that -tion will easily be found in theology, politics or philosophy, meanwhile -age is more often found in the technical or practical field, and -ment rather refers to a state than to an action... – BBBreiz Oct 15 '18 at 19:28
  • I think we can add a bit of precision regarding the suffixes : -ure usually refers to the result of the verb ( pelure, dorure, soudure etc) whereas -age is either the name of the process or the framework used (by metonymy I guess ? ), hence bandage, soudage etc. A more explicit example : the verb souder (to weld) leads to two nouns : soudage (the welding process) and soudure (a welding joint) – Jeremy Grand Oct 16 '18 at 11:44
  • Oh yes, Jeremey, you are quite write to stress the difference between -age and -ure : effectively -age generally mentions the action from the verb, and -ure the result of that action: For example, 'gravage' is the action of carving, and 'gravure' the object resulting from the action. Unfortunately, there are many exceptions where -age names the object and not the action ('moulage','garage'...) – BBBreiz Oct 17 '18 at 20:17
  • P.S: "quite right", not "quite write". Nos lecteurs avaient rectifié d'eux-mêmes! – BBBreiz Oct 17 '18 at 20:26
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Le sujet est bien trop vaste pour être traité ici. C'est la morphologie constructionnelle qui étudie la formation des déverbaux.

La formation d'un déverbal se fait suivant différentes méthodes, parmi lesquelles :

  • l'affixion : (ajout d'un suffixe ou d'un préfixe au radical du verbe) par ex. [PORT]ER -> [PORT]AGE - [PORT]EUR
  • la conversion : (Aucune modification formelle) par ex. [PORT]ER -> PORT
  • la composition : (Annexion d'un substantif pour former un mot composé dont le trait d'union disparait avec le temps.) PORTER + PLUME -> PORTE-PLUME -> PORTEPLUME.

Il est évidemment quelques règles qui se dégagent :

  • la suffixation en –eur ne peut s’appliquer qu’à des verbes agentifs,
  • la suffixion en -oir... (TIRER -> TIROIR)...

Bref, le sujet est vaste et a donné lieu à de nombreux travaux savants dont ceux de Florence Villoing que je t'invite à consulter... si... tu cherches autres chose que des recettes de cuisines... ;-)

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