May I know if the sentences below are correct. If not, why? Is there a difference between laughter and laughing? Thank you.

  1. Make laughing a habit.
  2. Make laughter a habit.
  3. Make exercise a habit.
  4. Make exercising a habit.
  • FYI, "May I know if the sentences below are correct?" is not commonly said in English. "May" is used to ask for permission but what you are doing is simply asking a question. It would be more appropriate to say, "Are the sentences below correct?" or (more polite and more unassuming) "Would you please let me know if the sentences below are correct?"
    – G-Cam
    Oct 10 '16 at 12:44

laughing and laughter are both nouns. laughing is the activity: laughter is the product of that activity.

For the statement Make X a habit, X can either be an activity or a product:

Make walking a habit <- activity
Make compassion a habit <- product

Some words can be used as both the product-noun, the activity-noun and the verb: examples are exercise, work, play, sleep. For these words, there is no need to use the gerund to refer to the activity: it is possible but not idiomatic.

Looking at your examples, all are grammatically correct. For sentences 1 and 2, there is no particular reason to prefer either, though I think the majority would prefer 2: this may be because of the proverb "Laughter is the best medicine". 3 is definitely preferable to 4, as we do not use the gerund where the verb-as-noun describes the activity.

  1. Make laughing a habit. <- refers to activity
  2. Make laughter a habit. <- refers to product
  3. Make exercise a habit. <- could refer to activity or product
  4. Make exercising a habit. <- refers to activity

Since it comes from the verb, laughing describes the action. When one laughs, the outcome is laughter or a laugh.

Consider this: "I hear laughter" and "I hear laughing."

The first describes you hearing the sound, the second that your hear someone who laughs. Hence, the focus of the gerund is a little bit more on the action than the result.

Although I guess it's fuzzy with laugher, since the noun also entails the act of laughing.


The same is with the excercise. Excercising focuses more on the actual doing than the inclusion of excercises in your habits.


They are all correct. 2 and 3 are better. I think it will be clearer to you with the following examples:

Laughter is good for you. Laughter is the best medicine.

Exercise is good for you. Regular exercise can help prevent fractures as you age.

  • I don't understand how the examples you provided help clarify the situation. What makes "Laughter is good for you." better than "Laughing is good for you"?
    – ColleenV
    Oct 10 '16 at 13:22
  • @ColleenV - I couldn't think of a reason, other than that these are set phrases which are very commonly used. If you can think of a reason, I'm all ears.
    – J. Doe
    Oct 10 '16 at 14:31

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