Teach English Grammar – Compound Adjectives – Formation, Usage, Grammar Practice
See also Formation Of Adjectives here
What is a Compound Adjective?
Compound adjectives are adjectives comprised by two or more different words to describe a noun in terms of age, depth, weight, price, size etc. Usually compound adjectives are hyphenated. A common mistake would be omitting the hyphen, which can lead to difference in meaning and confusion.
As shown in the picture above, a small business owner (no hyphen) means that the owner (person) is small in size, whereas a small-business owner (hyphenated, compound) means that the person owns a business, which is small in size.
Formation of Compound Adjectives
When we use a number to create a compound adjective to describe age, length, size, time etc., the compound adjectives are formed the following way:
Number + – (hyphen) + Noun
e.g. seventy-year-old man
Such adjectives may refer to the following categories:
time (or distance)
|a one-year-old baby
a sixty-acre farm
a two- meter deep lake
a forty-minute lecture
a twenty-centimetre ruler
a hundred-dollar dress
a two-hour drive
a hundred-gram package
A common mistake that people make is to add an ‘s’ to the number for plural.
|a hundred-dollars dress||a hundred-dollar dress|
|a two-hours drive||a two-hour drive|
|a forty-minute lecture||two forty-minute lectures|
|a two-meter deep lake||three two-meter deep lakes|
Noun + Past Participle Compound Adjectives
A compound adjective may be formed by noun and the past participle of a verb. We put a hyphen between the two words, as well.
Noun + Past Participle (e.g. wind–powered)
- My brother is a world-renowned artist.
- This is a student-run coop.
- His views are quite old-fashioned.
- She has found a long-lost sister.
Adjective + Present Participle Compound Adjectives
We form another type of compound adjectives by connecting an adjective and present participle of a verb with a hyphen:
Adjective + Present Participle (e.g. pretty-looking)
- There were quite a few beautiful-looking dresses in that shop.
- Her story was heart-breaking.
- He is a free-standing individual.
- They didn’t bet on the fast-running horse.
- She is a good-looking lady.
Noun + Adjective Compound Adjectives
We may also connect a noun and an adjective (with a hyphen) to make yet another type of compound adjectives:
Noun + Adjective (e.g. sugar-free)
- This drink is alcohol-free.
Adjective + Noun Compound Adjectives
When we connect an adjective and a noun with a hyphen, we are also forming a compound adjective.
Adjective + Noun (e.g. last-minute)
- Their project was a large-scale one.
- Paula is looking for a full-time job.
Grammar Practice Compound Adjectives:
Rewrite the following sentences using compound adjectives:
- The meeting lasted two hours. It was a
- My father is forty years old. I have
- The journey will take seven months. It will
- The car costs forty thousand dollars. It’s a
- Channel Tunnel is fifty kilometers long. It’s a