Compound Nouns and Adjectives

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In this lesson we’re going to look at how to create compound words, which is when we take two words and combine them to make one. Have fun with the quizzes!


Forming compound nouns

In English we can add two words together to make a new noun. For example:

A change in climate means a change in lifestyle
life + style = lifestyle

Compound nouns can be created may ways:

  • NOUN + NOUN:

We were waiting ages at the bus stop

  • ADJECTIVE + NOUN:

I wrote an example on the whiteboard.

  • VERB + NOUN:

Do you know if there’s a swimming pool near here?

  • NOUN + VERB:

Wow! I love your hairstyle!

With compound nouns, there are no rules wether the nouns are together, separated by a space, or separated by a hyphen.  You’ll have to use a dictionary if you want to find out.


Forming compound adjectives

Compound adjectives can be formed in many different ways:

  • NUMBER + NOUN (five-minute, twenty-page, ten-storey)
  • ADJECTIVE + NOUN (short-term, high-quality, last minute)
  • ADJECTIVE + VERB+ING (good-looking, long-lasting, quick-thinking)
  • NOUN + VERB+ING (mouth-watering, record-breaking, English-speaking)
  • NOUN + ADJECTIVE (world-famous, smoke-free, ice-cold)
  • NOUN + PAST PARTICIPLE (solar-powered, middle-aged, sun-dried)
  • ADVERB + PAST PARTICIPLE (brightly-lit, well-known, highly-respected)
  • ADJECTIVE + PAST PARTICIPLE (old-fashioned, ready-made, short lived)

The vast majority of compound adjectives are separated by hyphens.