Welcome to your Compound Nouns lesson! In this topic we talk about:
• Forming Compound Nouns
One Word or Two Words?
Containers
Plural Compound Nouns
Take the quizzes when you’re ready! If you’re having problems, use the comment box to contact our English Teachers.

Forming Compound Nouns

You can use two nouns together to make a compound noun. For example:

a tennis racketa beach towela wristwatchincome taxthe town square

We treat the first noun like an adjective; it is used to describe the second noun. For example:

A tennis racket is a racket used to play tennis.

A beach towel is a towel that you use at the beach.

A wristwatch is a watch that you put on your wrist.

Income tax is a tax on your income.

The town square is the square in town.

You can say:

a film studioa film producera film critica film makera film narrator

These are all things to do with films.

language problemsmarriage problemshealth problemswork problemsrelationship problems

These are all types of problems.

You must be careful of the order of the nouns. Compare these two items:

“A vegetable garden.”: A garden with vegetables.

“Garden vegetables.”: Vegetables that are grown in a garden.

Sometimes you can use more that two nouns together to create compound nouns:

The World Wrestling FoundationThe hotel reception deskThe tennis racket handle

Sometimes you can put -ing at the end of the first word. This is usually because the objects are used for doing something:

A swimming pool is a pool that you can swim in.

A frying pan is a pan that you fry things in.

A developing country is a country that is in development.

A steering wheel is a wheel that you use to steer a car.

One Word or Two Words?

Sometimes compound nouns are written together, sometimes they are separate:

Together
Separate
a headachea tennis ball
a handbaga sports bag
toothpastea car park
a bookshopa road sign

There are no rules for this. If you are unsure, you should write the words separately.

Containers

Note the differences between these pairs of nouns:

“A sugar bowl.”
perhaps empty.

“A bowl of sugar.”
a bowl with sugar in it.

 

“A crisp packet.”
perhaps empty.

“A packet of crisps.”
a packet with crisps in it.

Plural Compound Nouns

When we use compound nouns, the first noun is like an adjective, so it normally doesn’t change into plural. Even when the meaning is plural, it doesn’t change. Have a look at these examples:

“A pear tree.”
a tree with pears growing on it

“A toy shop.”
a shop that sells toys

“A three-year course.”
a course that takes three years

“A 300-page novel.”
a novel with 300 pages

Join 27,000 other English learners.