It’s true that “performance” is the noun that comes from the verb “to perform”. But it’s not the right word to use for carrying out tasks or doing work, because the overtones are too confusing.

Meeting your contractual obligations, for instance, is not a performance.
Performing a task is not a performance.
Measuring performance is determining how well something is done, never just if it is being done.

  • a performance is usually either a musical or theatrical presentation or a sporting effort. It can be bad as well as good, in both cases
  • the overtone is often about good quality: performance-related pay, for example, is remuneration that depends on how well you do your job, not on whether you get it done

The Dutch word prestatie and the verb presteren get used in the sporting sense and the legal sense, for example, making them more common.

Prevalence: high. Especially in commercial and legal texts based on Dutch, where prestatie pops up all over the place.
Frequency: high. Oh yes. In those kinds of documents, it’s liable to turn up time and time again.
Native: no. The word exists and may not even be wrong, but it’s not the top-of-mind first choice because it can be so unclear.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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