Is storytelling a noun, verb or adjective?

By Limor Shiponi

I’ve got a couple of answers on twitter:

@karinahowell The answer: #storytelling is a gerund that functions as a noun. Gotta love that ambiguity. Delicious trickster energy. It’s a verb-like noun. This explains why we say a novel has “good storytelling” and good writing.

@davidbhutchens “#Storytelling” is a gerund — a verb that can be used as a noun; or, when modifying a clause, as an adjective.

I’ve been busy with the word some time ago, time to get back to it. As you see, both responses treat the word storytelling as a gerund. Well, seems different languages treat gerund a different ways. InEnglish it is treating a verb in it’s -ing form as a noun. In Hebrew it refers to the verb’s action noun or to the part of the infinitive following the infinitival prefix. The word storytelling does not translate into Hebrew. Instead the word story is both a noun (body of text) and a verb (telling of a story). You’ll find languages where a gerund is a concept.

The thing is that storytelling is a combination of several actions – telling a story, listening to a story, crafting a story as telling it (different from using a fixed text), realting, observing, calling upon, tapping into and a few more. It is also performed only in the presence of at least two people and cannot be performed alone, since the significant outcome is what takes place in the space between story, teller and listener.

Why am I asking? because it seems to me that most of the misconceptions and misuses of the word storytelling arrive from it’s unclear or absent definition.


@davidbhutchens sent me some examples which made me realize that using ‘storytelling’ as an adjective causes no problems. Well, using it as a verb or a noun or really a gerund is no problem either. Now I realize that the problem is somewhere else – maybe.

David sent me an link about gerunds and what caught my eye was this:

“Because they are nounlike, we can think of gerunds as names. But rather than naming persons, places, things, events, and the like, as nouns generally do, gerunds, because they are verbs in form, name activities or behaviors or states of mind or states of being.” (Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, Understanding English Grammar. Allyn & Bacon, 1998)

Activities, behaviors or state of mind or states of being… that’s much closer to the way I see storytelling. The thing is – does a gerund relate only to the above considering A person or can it also relate to the above in a situation where the presence of two or more is obligatory to the core of the activity, behavior, state of mind or being, meaning they are interdependant?


Ok. Now comes @greggvm with this:

In a field of English known as Transformational Grammar it would be classified as a complement… a gerundive complementizer.

To me it soundes like a dangerous detergant and something rather complicated to say next to ‘storytelling’ but I trust Gregg to know what he’s talking about. I just have to find a way to figure out what it means 🙂 will do and come back.


After figuring the above out it seems I’m back to square #1+. Why the +? because a new question was born in the process: Why are there so many misconceptions of storytelling? I’ve answered this question more than once but never asked it that way. Next post.

2 thoughts on “Is storytelling a noun, verb or adjective?”

  1. Pingback: Storytelling can’t be a buzzword! | Limor's Storytelling Agora

  2. Pingback: Storytelling is not a combination of two words. Here’s why… : Limor's Storytelling Agora

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