I am watching news from nbr.com

I am confused about the usage of "hack into"

Nightly Business Report - 12m25s

According to the transcript at 12m25s, MATHISEN says:

" ...do we know anything more about who really was behind that hack into the Bangladesh bank? "

1. Is the "Hack" a verb here?

Why is it not "...hacks into..."?

2. Is the "Hack" a noun here?

Why is "Hacking" not used as a noun?


  • 2
    It is a noun. Think of it as "...do we know anything more about (who really was behind that hack) into the Bangladesh bank?". – user3169 Aug 20 '16 at 5:03
  • He's referring to computer hacking, a hack. Related: security hacker. – Em. Aug 20 '16 at 5:07
  • Both hack and hacking are nouns. Why is the word "hack" used here instead of the word "hacking"? – user9418 Aug 20 '16 at 5:08
  • The following example uses hack as a verb. security hacker: A grey hat hacker may surf the Internet and hack into a computer system for the sole purpose of notifying the administrator that their system has a security defect, for example.... – user9418 Aug 20 '16 at 5:13
  • 1
    It is definitely not a verb here. Think about it: could you replace "hack" with another verb here? "who was behind that eat"? "who was behind that operate"? Those make no sense. You can only be behind a noun. – stangdon Aug 20 '16 at 9:23

Why it is not "that hacks into"

"Hacks" would either be plural noun or third person present singular verb.

As a plural noun hacks would take "those" not "that": those hacks. It would be wrong to use the plural unless reporting multiple computer security breaches.

The present tense can't be used as the event has already taken place.

Hacking / "that hacking into"

It can't be "that hacking" (as interpreted under 4a in the grey box, see below; I used travelling as an example verb but the same principle applies) because "that" would be a noun. Clearly that questioner is not asking, "who are the people who supported the thing that defeated the computer security" which would be

  • "Do we know anything more about who really was behind that (thing) hacking into the Bangladesh bank?"

It was people who hacked and "that" tends not be suitable as pronoun for a group of humans.

It can be "that hacking" (as under 4b, also in grey box below) because hacking would function as a gerund.

I can't think of any formal rule at the moment but "that hacking of" seems more natural than "that hacking into", note the change in preposition; maybe "that hacking into" seems too much like present continuous. To me "that hacking into" feels like it should be "that hacking into of" which needlessly adds an extra word to the noun phrase. Similarities exist with "the breaking into of the bank". There are shorter and more elegant ways of saying the same thing, such as "the break-in at the bank".

Also natural sounding are "that hack of", "the hack of", "the hacking of", "the hack into".

Hacking is used as a noun. A gerund is by definition a verb form "functioning as a noun". If by your question you mean "Why is hacking not used as a noun here?" I suspect the word choice is simply one of preference, unconscious or otherwise, as there are alternatives that say the same thing. I see no great advantage to using one over the other.

Hack (noun, as intended in the quote)

Here is a sentence using trip as noun. It is designed to parallel the phrase used in the original question/

  1. "Do we know anything more about his trip to New York?"
    • about = preposition
    • his trip = noun phrase where we have "his" as an adjective and "trip" as a noun
    • to = preposition
    • (then a noun)

For clarity, I've omitted a few words from the original quote. Note the similar structure to sentence 1.

  1. "Do we know anything more about that hack into the Bangladesh bank?"
    • about = preposition
    • that hack = ???
    • into = preposition
    • (then a noun)

The similar structure suggests "that hack" has a simlar role to "his trip" and as prepositions normally precede noun phrases "that hack" is probably a noun phrase. It is a noun phrase consisting of "that" as adjective and "hack" as noun.

Hacking (as verb or gerund)

Well done asking about "hacking" as that stirs things up a little and about doubled the length of this answer. We could write sentences that are largely equivalent to 1. Here sentence 3 is very like 1 and 2 just with a gerund.

  1. "Do we know anything more about his travelling to New York?"
    • prep
    • noun phrase = adj + gerund ( his + travelling )
    • prep
    • noun
  2. "Do we know anything more about that travelling to New York?"

Looking at 3, "his travelling" could be one trip or many trips. It could be in the past, present or future.

Do we know anything more about his travelling to New York?

Yes, During each of his trips he stopped at a small diner where ...


Do we know anything more about his travelling to New York?

Yes, he has said he plans to arrive a couple of days early so he can go sight-seeing ...


Do we know anything more about his travelling to New York?

Yes, the airship he is on right now is flying over the middle of the Atlantic and he has a ticket under an assumed name ...

However, 4 offers ambiguity with potentially quite different interpretations.

-          about      that    travelling               to
4a         prep       noun    verb                     prep
4b         prep       adj  +  gerund (= noun phrase)   prep

Interpreting it as noun then verb, sentence 4 could be re-written as:

  1. "Do we know anything more about
    • that thing we are discussing (noun)
    • and how it travelled / will travel / is currently travelling (verb)
    • to New York?"

"That" could be an animal on a train, a seed blown by the wind, a package carried by the postal office etc. But whatever "that" is, it has to have been something we have already discussed, else we can't refer to it as "that". Also, the object is singular, as "that" is singular pronoun. And, it's not a human since we don't refer to people as "that" (unless we want to be insulting).

Interpreting it as 4b it becomes ambiguous as to number. Here I recreate 4 with a roughly equivalent rephrasing.

  1. "Do we know any more about
    • the trip(s) that he / it / they took
    • to New York?"

When phrased this way "that travelling" could be referring to many trips and the travelling in question could be done by one person, one thing, more than one person, or more than one thing. Like before, time isn't specified so it could be "he will take", "he is taking".


1) Is the "hack" a verb here?

Answer: No, it's not being used as a verb in that sentence. The word hack could be used as a verb, but then the sentence would need to read something like this:

Do we know anything more about who hacked into the Bangladesh bank?

2) Is the "hack" a noun here? Why is "hacking" not used as a noun?

From NOAD:

hack (noun) informal an act of computer hacking

I suppose hacking could have been used as the noun, but, if that was my goal, I might be inclined to reword the question:

Do we know anything more about who was behind that Bangladesh bank hacking?

I think the sentence in the original transcript sounds fine as it is.

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