When is “he is on the” + verb allowed as a sentence?

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.

Some 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”.

More Examples

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?

More Questions

  • 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?

More Thoughts

  • 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.

Source : Link , Question Author : BlackShift , Answer Author : Stu W

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