Compound Adjectives | Easy Definition & Examples (2022)

What are Compound Adjectives?

Compound Adjectives are simply defined as, “two or more words that are combined to act as an adjective in the sentence”. Here, the meaning of “compound” is nothing but the combination of two or more words.

It is also called “Compound Modifier” and “Hyphenate Compound Adjective” because the symbol Hyphen (-) is used for the combination of the words to make an Adjective in the sentence.

Some examples are open-minded, old-fashioned, kind-hearted, well-educated, part-time, etc.

Generally, the words can have either one or more hyphens. For example,

  • Brand-new (contains only 1 hyphen)
  • Two-year-old (contains 2 hyphens)
  • One-of-a-kind (contains 3 hyphens)

Compound Adjective Examples

Here are some of the example sentences that are useful to refer to know more about Compound Adjectives.

  • Daniel works at Harvard University as a part-time professor.
  • My dad always likes to wear old-fashion clothes.
  • Michael Jackson is a well-known dancer in the world.
  • Deep-fried foods are tastier, but not healthier for the body and mind.
  • Brian is a French-speaking person.
  • M.S. Dhoni is one of the right-handed batsmen in cricket.
  • Alex always loves to take rides in his brand-new sports car.
  • Communication skills are very important in today’s fast-paced world.

Also Read: What is Adjective in English Grammar? (Easy Definition and Examples)

The adjective is a type of word which describes or modifies the noun. It is also defined as, the word which describes the qualities and states of beings of nouns.
It measures the qualities like size, shape, colour, duration, behaviour, quantity, and a lot more. Furthermore, it usually provides additional information on nouns with the below-mentioned qualities, like…

Types of Compound Adjective

There are different types of Compound Adjectives in which different parts of speech, which are shown in the below table.

Part of Speech

+

Part of Speech

=

Examples

Number

+

Noun

=

Two-wheel, first-place, seventeenth-century

Noun

+

Noun

=

Part-time, south-west, bullet-proof

Noun

+

Adjective

=

World-famous, sky-blue, sugar-free

Noun

+

Past Participle

=

Old-age, sun-dried, sun-backed

Noun

+

Present Participle

=

Hindi-speaking, record-breaking, time-saving

Adjective

+

Noun

=

Long-term, third-time, short-distance 

Adjective

+

Adjective

=

Fat-free, big-blue

Adjective

+

Past Participle

=

Old-fashioned, narrow-minded, cold-blooded

Adjective

+

Present Participle

=

Fast-walking, good-looking, long-lasting

Adverb

+

Past Participle

=

Densely-populated, lightly-cooked, deeply-rooted

Adverb

+

Present Participle

=

Never-ending, backward-thinking

Examples of Compound Adjectives (with Parts of Speech)

1) Time Period/Duration (number + Noun): When we are using a compound adjective word with a number, then this word should refer to the time duration in singular form with a hyphen.

  • I work ten hours every day –> I work a ten-hour day.
  • I’m going on holiday for two weeks –> I have a two-week holiday
  • There was a delay of ten seconds –> There was a ten-second delay

Note: We normally write the number as a word, not in numerical form.

2) (Noun + Noun): When the word contains two nouns, then use a hyphen in between to make it a compound adjective.

  • John is earning well from his part-time job.
  • Goa State is located in the South-West region of India.
  • The cars used by the VIPs and political leaders are bullet-proof.

3) (Noun + Adjective): When the word contains a noun and adjective, then use a hyphen in between to make it a compound adjective.

  • I always prefer to have a sugar-free diet.
  • Christopher Nolan is one of the world-famous film directors.
  • This is a smoke-free restaurant.

4) (Noun + Past Participle): When the word contains a noun and Past Participle, then use a hyphen in between to make it a compound adjective.

  • Helping old-age people is a good manner.

5) (Noun + Present Participle): When the word contains a noun and Present Participle, then use a hyphen in between to make it a compound adjective.

  • The majority of the people are Hindi-speaking in India.
  • The song “Despacito” has become a record-breaking song on YouTube.
  • The celebrity was amazed by the interviewer’s thought-provoking questions that were asked to him.

6) (Adjective + Noun): When the word contains an Adjective and Noun, then use a hyphen in between to make it a compound adjective.

  • Sofia did a few long-term investments to grow financially.
  • He made a last-minute decision to decide a spot for the picnic.
  • The full-length version of the song is leaked on YouTube before its official release.

7) (Adjective + Adjective): When the word contains two adjectives, then use a hyphen in between to make it a compound adjective.

  • Honey is one of the popular fat-free foods.

8) (Adjective + Past Participle): When the word contains an Adjective and Past Participle, then use a hyphen in between to make it a compound adjective.

  • John is a narrow-minded person.
  • Turtles are cold-blooded animals.
  • He still likes to wear old-fashioned clothes.

9) (Adjective + Present Participle): When the word contains an Adjective and Present Participle, then use a hyphen in between to make it a compound adjective.

  • He is a good-looking person.
  • Snails are slow-moving insects.
  • Natural Honey is a long-lasting food and doesn’t get spoiled.

10) (Adverb + Past Participle): When the word contains an Adverb and Past Participle, then use a hyphen in between to make it a compound adjective.

  • Maharashtra is one of the high densely populated states in India.
  • This is a brightly-lit room.

11) (Adverb + Present Participle): When the word contains an Adverb and Present Participle, then use a hyphen in between to make it a compound adjective.

  • It is a very hot day.
  • He is an extremely intelligent boy.

Basic Rules of Compound Adjectives

Rule 1: There are some exceptions/limitations for using hyphens.

1) Most of the words of Compound Adjectives contain a hyphen, but some of them don’t have it.

Certain compound adjectives don’t need hyphens, even if they come before a noun in a sentence. In other words, if two (or more) words are used separately and not as a compound adjective, then don’t use a hyphen. For example,

Example Sentences:

  • The food was undercooked but tasted good.
  • It was a terribly cold day.
  • It is an amazingly good idea.

2) Don’t use hyphens when an adjective is being modified by an adverb. Refer to the examples below.

Example Sentences:

  • She became extremely tired after her workout.
  • They were really happy about winning the match.
  • They were cautiously optimistic about their business deal.

3) In addition, you should not place a hyphen in a compound adjective if the adjectives are capitalized. For example, when it is a part of a title or heading.

4) When there is the use of the conjunction “and” between the two adjectives or words, then a hyphen isn’t necessary.

  • It is a big old type of mansion.

Since the two words “big” and “blue” are two adjectives, we can also write the sentence as mentioned below,

  • It is a big and old type of mansion.

5) Don’t use the hyphen(s) between numerical and non-letter symbols, or between a numerical and a metric unit symbol.

  • A 180° scale
  • 100° C thermometer
  • a 2.05 m high jump

6) Don’t use a hyphen(s) only when they contain superlatives after the noun.

  • The food that I had yesterday was well-cooked.

7) Most compound modifiers that include an adverb that ends with (-ly) should not be hyphenated.

  • Rapidly inclining confidence
  • incredibly combative method
  • exceptionally delicious cake –> adverb (exceptionally) ends with -ly
  • widely known author –> adverb (widely) ends with -ly

Note: Adverbs that don’t end with (-ly) should be hyphenated if they appear before the noun or pronoun they are modifying. Only if they appear after the noun or pronoun, they should not be hyphenated.

Rule 2: Use Hyphens, especially in certain conditions such as,

Condition 1: When compound adjectives contain numbers.

  • A thirteen-year-old boy breaks the world record for the fastest time to solve three cubes while juggling.
  • A 5-lb of flour.
  • Two 6-ft timber trees.

Note: When the unit measurement is represented by an abbreviation, use numerals.

Condition 2: Use a hyphen(s) only when they contain superlatives before the noun. You can also refer to condition 6 in rule 1.

  • It turned out to be a very high-stress job.
  • John was more well-suited to his job than Steve.

Rule 3: The Compound Adjective can be used anywhere in the sentence, even before or after the noun, while describing it.

  • Before Noun: Our office is in a twenty five-storey building.
  • After Noun: The food that I had yesterday was healthy and sugar-free.

In the above 1st sentence, the word which contains the noun is “building” and in the 2nd sentence the noun is “food”.

Quiz Time!

#1. Choose the correct statement from the below options.

Answer: She is an extremely intelligent girl. Explanation: Never put a hyphen between an adverb and an adjective (not even before a noun).

#2. I am thinking about getting a ____________ truck.

Answer:

Explanation: The compound adjective (brand new) is before the noun it modifies (truck), so it should be hyphenated.

#3. I just finished writing an ___________ essay for my project work.

Answer: 20-page

Explanation: The compound adjective (20-page) is before the noun it modifies (paper), so it should be hyphenated.

#4. Identify the correct sentence from the below options.

#5. "That was a record-breaking jump". Identify the type of Compund Adjective.

Answer: Noun Present Participle

Explanation: The action that is taking place at present (-ing).

#6. Identify the correct Sentence.

#7. Identify the correct option.

Answer: My brother is two years old.

Explanation: Old is still an adjective describing “brother”, but “two” describe years and years describe “old”.

#8. The weather has been ___________________ lately.

Answer: terribly cold

 

#9. oday’s lecture was _______________.

Answer: Don’t use a hyphen when the adjective phrase (exceptionally interesting) includes an adverb that ends with a -ly.

#10. "This is a four foot table". Identify the sentence whether it should contain hyphen in between "four foot" or not?

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Summary: (Compound Adjectives)

What are Compound Adjectives? | (English Topper)
Compound Adjectives
  • The two or more words that are compounded (combined) to act as an adjective in the sentence are known as compound adjectives.
  • It is also called “Hyphenated Compound Adjective” or “Compound Modifier”.
  • Examples of Compound Adjectives are well-known, first-place, three-week, one-of-a-kind, five-year-old, etc.
  • There are different types of Compound adjectives, which are combinations of different parts of speech that contains a noun, adjective, adverb, etc.
  • The hyphen symbol (-) is mainly used in between the words of Compound Adjectives.
  • The hyphen should be used, especially when it contains numbers and the unit measurement is abbreviated.
  • The hyphen should not be used when two (or more) words are used separately and not as a compound adjective and when an adjective is being modified by an adverb.
  • It shouldn’t also be used when conjunctions are considered and between numerical and non-letter symbols.

If you are interested to learn more, then you can refer to Wikipedia here.

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