Are there general rules for forming nouns that refer to the one performing the action of a verb, such as cut -> cutter, run -> runner, "Jack the Ripper", etc.? I have been searching online but have only found guidance on forming gerunds, possibly because I don't know the grammar terminology to ask the right question.

  • 1
    You can find this information under the term "deverbal nouns". This term includes derivations that display the actor like in your examples. Sep 3, 2022 at 9:08

2 Answers 2


There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and you have to be familiar with many patterns. To add to what Angelos have already mentioned, one important pattern is masu-stem as a noun.

  • のぞく to peek / のぞき peeper
  • 魔法を使う to use magic / 魔法使い magic user → wizard
  • 相撲を取る to play sumō / 相撲取り sumō wrestler
  • 羊を飼う to raise sheep / 羊飼い sheep raiser → shepherd

"Jack the Ripper" is 切り裂きジャック in Japanese, and 切り裂き is the masu-stem of the verb 切り裂く ("to rip/tear").


There is no regular way of doing this. While the suffixes ~人{びと}, ~者{もの} (generally used with kun'yomi), and ~者{しゃ} (generally used with on'yomi) are common, often you simply need to use a relative clause.

裏切り{うらぎり}者{もの} - traitor (from 裏切る{うらぎる}, 'betray')

旅人{たびびと} - traveller (though this actually uses a noun)

目撃者{もくげきしゃ} - witness (somebody who witnesses something, and again 目撃 is actually a noun)

切{き}る人{ひと} - cutter, 'person that cuts' literally

Even the first example technically uses a noun form of the verb, too.

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