Nouns and verbs come in pairs. Studies are performed or conducted, but research is only conducted. We ran Writefull’s language check on a set of papers to analyze what verb-noun errors authors make most often, and what the correct alternatives are. Use this list to avoid the most common verb-noun errors in your own writing!
We ran Writefull’s language check on a set of scientific papers, and extracted the edits where Writefull replaced a verb with another verb, preceding a noun. For example, there were cases where the author had written decrease the risk and Writefull suggested changing to reduce the risk.
We counted occurrences in all forms. We lemmatized the verbs, meaning that we included all occurrences regardless of their inflected form (so that decrease, decreases, decreased, and decreasing were all included in the count). Nouns were included in both their singular and plural forms (decrease risk and decrease risks), and we accounted for occurrences with and without articles (decrease the risk, a risk, and risk).
The sheet below shows the 25 most common verb-noun edits made by Writefull. They are sorted by frequency, with the most frequent edit being have a role > play a role, followed by provide consent > give consent. The black and yellow bars show how often the original and suggested verb-noun pairs appear in published scientific papers - confirming that the verb suggested by Writefull is more frequent in all cases.
In some cases, the original isn’t really incorrect, but Writefull suggests a verb that is more suitable for academic writing - a formal alternative. For example:
carry out > perform experiments
get > obtain results
do > perform an analysis
In other cases, the author tries to use formal vocabulary, but this leads to inappropriate use of a verb. For example:
provide > give consent
utilize > use a method
possess > have potential
demonstrate > show results
employ > use the approach
Authors also frequently confuse similar-sounding verbs:
assure > ensure stability
resolve > solve the problem
attain > obtain approval
Often in doubt about what words to use?
About the author
Hilde is Chief Applied Linguist at Writefull.