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I've been wondering about the difference between verb stem (e.g. 話) vs. の (e.g. 話すの) nominalizations.

From what i gather, both nominalizations refer to different things. It seems the verb stems refer to the objects involved in the doing (like those used in を). For example, life in relation to living (暮らし in relation to 暮らす) and speech in relation to speaking (話 vs. 話す).

While の refers to the act itself (described by the verb). So, for example, (as I have a sore throat), 話すのは難しい。(i.e. the act of speaking is difficult).

Am I right about this? Thanks!

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So in the case of 話す:

話すの nominalizes the verb - it means "talking" as in "talking is hard".

人前で話すのは怖いよ。
Speaking in front of people is hard.

話 never was a verb, it was always a noun that means "a talk/speech など"

警官は犯罪者の話を聞いた。
The policeman listened to the criminal's story/speech (話).

To use the other verb you suggested, 暮らす

暮らすの would mean "living" as "(The thing of) living somewhere..."

アパートで暮らすのは意外と楽なんですよ。
Surprisingly, living in an apartment has been great.

Where as 暮らし would mean "life (somewhere)", a very frequently used word is 一人暮らし{ひとりぐらし} which is a noun meaning "life living by one's self".

大学に行ったとき、アパートを借りて、一人暮らしを始めた。
When I went to college, I rented an apartment and started life on my own.

Remember not all "verb stems" are independent nouns. For example 食べ is not a noun.

  • By the way, 食べ can be used as a noun (weblio.jp/content/%E9%A3%9F%E3%81%B9). 食べに行く as can many 連用形 – virmaior Jul 7 '18 at 0:57
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    I guess I have never thought of the 食べ in 食べに行く as a noun... I learned it as Verb stem + に行く. – chargerstriker Jul 7 '18 at 1:34
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    I'm guessing the actual rule is more like "many 名詞 formed through 連用形 cannot become 主語 or 述語" or something like that. – Leebo Jul 7 '18 at 1:44
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    Regardless of whether 食べに行く's 食べ is a noun or something else, the dictionary I linked to states that the 連用形 食べ can be a noun ... – virmaior Jul 7 '18 at 2:54

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