Why are these sentences correct:
- “He is on the move”, 8 million hits on google
- “He is on the run”, 3 million hits
but not these?:
- “He is on the walk”, 3 hits (1 with this construct)
- “He is on the talk”, 1 hit (0 with this construct)
When is it allowed to use the “on the” + verb grammatical construct?
- The last word in these sentences is not actually a verb, it is a noun created from a verb (or possibly vice-versa). The question is stated this way to be concise. A suggestion for improvement that is more correct is welcome.
- Edit 1: added this note, examples, more thoughts.
- The hits on ‘walk’ gives this sentence about a dog, which seems meaningful enough to me: “once he is on the walk, he doesn’t attempt to bite the lead”.
- The first two examples refer to a abstract sort of ‘move’ or ‘run’. A more concrete form of the construct is also possible and maybe more common. E.g. “he is on the call” could colloquially refer to a very specific conference call. However, one of the only two google hits (NSFW, so no link) is about the abstract ‘call’: “… while he is on the call with his boss”. So the concrete form is not common either.
- Vice-versa, the construct is clearly incorrect for verbs that cannot be used as a noun, e.g. “he is on the buy”, “he is on the write”.
Common examples gathered from the comments:
- non-slang: go, mend, march, rise, decline, increase, decrease, boil, prowl
- slang: make, take, dole, prowl, nod?, hop?
- fighting/sports: attack, rebound
Not quite examples:
- fly: you cannot ‘be on the fly’ right?
- nod?, hop?, train: these nouns aren’t based on the verbs right?
- Why are there so few of these verb-like nouns that can be used in such a sentence?
- Why are relatively many of them slang?
- Most of the sentences have a similar meaning when the -ing form of the verb is used. “He is on the take” ~ “He is taking [bribes]”. But usually only figuratively, and it is the opposite for “on the dole”. Maybe the ‘on the’ form is used when the ‘ing’ form already has another meaning: “he is running” vs. “he is on the run” (vs. “he runs”).
- The construct is much more common in Dutch, where it is usually the best way to translate the -ing form, so maybe it is a Germanism?
Move and run can be seen as a type of journey.
Merriam-Webster’s has a long list of the various definitions of using both of these words as nouns.