How to Tell a Noun from a Verb

Nouns are one word, verbs are two words. —What???

Here’s what I mean. It’s part of a headline to an info security article.

Breaches don’t actually happen at the speed of light: Security firm CrowdStrike has determined that the average time to breakout is less than two hours.

What’s “breakout”? Here’s a definition, using “breakout” as an adjective (okay, a noun used attributively, but that’s another lesson):

The breakout time is the time that it takes for an attacker to escape the initial beachhead machine that they were able to compromise.

Here the word is a verb:

How long does it take to break out of the system?

Seeing that article reminded me that the habit of making nouns out of separable verbs is common in English. A common example of getting this wrong is misusing the words “login” and “log in.”:

Verb: Enter your password to log in. (NOT Enter your password to login.)
Noun: Your login succeeded.

Here’s another:

Turnover in low-paying jobs tends to be high.
How often do you turn over in bed?

So remember, if you’re doing something, use two words.

Yes, English has other ways of relating verbs and nouns, but I’ll save that for later.