I have noticed that the noun Einschreibung has a completely different meaning to the noun Einschreiben even though both are derived (I assume) from the verb einschreiben

This leads me to ask if there is a general rule as to forming nouns with the infinitive and forming nouns with the ending -ung.

  • Related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/42090/… , german.stackexchange.com/questions/41617/… and I am pretty sure there is a duplicate of this question somewhere, I just couldn't find it
    – RoyPJ
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 12:28
  • 2
    Neither could I find a duplicate of the question, which is why I asked it.
    – Steve
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 12:31
  • Which is perfectly fine and the reason why I did not nominate it for closing :) As long as no one finds a duplicate, it will stay open and very likely will be answered.
    – RoyPJ
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 12:38
  • 3
    I think, this is a rather special case and stems from the fact that Einschreiben is a word with a somewhat special meaning, which could not be derived by lexical means only.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 16:23

1 Answer 1


Generally, when you create a noun from a (transitive) verb X with -ung, the resulting noun describes the act of doing X or the process of x.

  • umarmen - Umarmung (the act of embracing)
  • fertigen - Fertigung (the process of producing something)
  • ...

This applies to the majority of cases, yet there are some exceptions with overlap/variation, i.e.:

  • Pflanzung (from pflanzen -> to plant) could technically mean the act of planting but would more likely refer to the resulting plantation. In that case the act of planting would rather be described as das Pflanzen. „Außerhalb der Stadt gibt es eine neue Pflanzung von Weihnachtsbäumen. Das Pflanzen der Bäume dauerte fast einen Monat.“
  • Besitzung (often used in plural) always means "property" (with a focus on (farm) land or real estate). The act of owning will always be das Besitzen.
  • ...

Also usually intransitive and intransitively used transitive verbs will not be nominalised with -ung, but rather by capitalising the infinitive (essen, schlafen, spielen, malen, lieben...).

In the case of Einschreiben/Einschreibung, both stem from the root of the process of writing something into something, with the first being a piece of mail that requires the recipient to sign in with the postman in order to confirm the delivery (giving written confirmation), while the other stems from the process of writing your name into a list of (potential) participants.

It should noted though that das Einschreiben in reference to mail is more of a "product name" with overloaded meaning. You can technically still use the infinitive based nominalisation as a process description (writing things into something), though it may sound anachronistic/wrong as you would nowadays rather use Eintragen to achieve that meaning.

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