Long wire runs often cause nuisance tripping of GFCI circuit breakers.

I have a problem understanding this sentence. Particularly, the part that's in bold. Long wire runs are what makes GFCI circuit breakers trip (malfunction). That's how I understand it. But I don't see why we need that of there. Why not just say, "Long wire runs often cause nuisance tripping GFCI circuit breakers"?

  • It's a poorly written sentence to begin with. You are right to have a problem understanding it. "Nuisance x" sounds odd because "nuisance" is almost always a noun, not an adjective--the phrase is jargon used by contractors (builders in the UK). (A plumber once said that my basement was infested with "nuisance ants.") A much better paraphrase would be "Long wire runs often cause GFCI circuit breakers to trip unexpectedly, which is a nuisance." Sep 14, 2015 at 7:57
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    In general for a circuit breaker to "trip" is not a malfunction; tripping means stopping the electrical current, and doing that when necessary is the device's purpose. The jargon "nuisance tripping", which I concur is clumsy, means unnecessary tripping. Sep 14, 2015 at 10:25

3 Answers 3


Because if you leave out the "of":

Long wire runs often cause nuisance tripping GFCI circuit breakers.

nuisance tripping directly modifies GFCI circuit breakers. It is like you are describing a type of GFCI circuit breakers.

Using "of" makes nuisance tripping a function/condition related to GFCI circuit breakers.

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    But it seems that we can say ""Long wire runs often cause nuisance, tripping GFCI circuit breakers". With the comma, the sentence looks okay to me, although the meaning has, of course, changed from the original. Sep 14, 2015 at 3:36
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    @CopperKettle "a nuisance"
    – user3169
    Sep 14, 2015 at 4:00
  • Oh, it's countable in this sense, I see. Sep 14, 2015 at 4:04
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    @CopperKettle: Actually it can be either countable or uncountable in this instance (for the uncountable case see example 1 example 2) but user3169 is right that "a nuisance" would be more common in this example.
    – psmears
    Sep 14, 2015 at 9:19

"Nuisance tripping" is a single 2-word term here. "Nuisance" is acting as an adjective, describing the kind of tripping. The sentence could be rephrased as "long wire runs make GFCI circuit breakers trip-prone."


The "of" is necessary because tripping is acting nominally. The object of the verb cause in the original sentence is not circuit, but the tripping. That's why "of" is needed.

The GFCI breaker trips (shuts off power flow). That behavior when nominalized becomes "tripping" (just like sings-> her singing).

Nuisance is a noun acting adjectivally, modifying the nominal tripping. Nuisance-tripping.

The sentence refers to the spurious tripping of the GFCI breaker as a result of the excessive length of the wire, not because of any true imbalance.

But we could indeed convert nuisance-tripping into an attributive adjective (as it is nominal) modifying GFCI-circuits:

"Nuisance-tripping GFCI circuits are a real PITA" said the electrician.

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