One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Nouns ending in -er, -or, and -ar
Nouns ending in -er
This ending is the most common. It's usually added to verbs to make nouns with the meaning ‘a person or thing that does something’, for example: builder, farmer, sprinkler, or beeper.
The -er ending can also be used to form nouns meaning:
- ‘a person or thing that has a particular quality or form’, for example:double-decker, two-wheeler, skyscraper
- ‘a person belonging to a particular place or group’, e.g. foreigner, prisoner
- ‘a person concerned with a particular thing', e.g. jeweller, lawyer, treasurer, mariner
Nouns ending in -or
Like -er, the ending -or is added to verbs to make nouns meaning ‘a person or thing that does something’, e.g. investigator, decorator, escalator, ventilator.
There are no hard and fast rules as to when these nouns have an -orending and when they are written -er, but what we can say is that there are fewer such words ending in -or! Here's a list of some of the most important:
There's a smaller group of nouns ending in -or that don't come from verbs:
Some nouns can be spelled with either an -er or an -or ending, for example adviser/advisor, propeller/propellor, and converter/convertor. Always check in a dictionary if you aren't sure.
Nouns ending in -ar
This ending is used in a few well-known words to mean ‘a person who does something’. Some of these nouns are related to verbs (e.g.beggar, burglar, liar) but others are not (e.g. vicar, bursar, scholar).
The -ar ending is also found in some other common nouns:
In this article we explore how to impress employers with a spot-on CV.