Teach English Grammar – Compound Adjectives

Teach English Grammar - Compound Adjectives - Formation, Usage and Grammar Practice
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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.
[adrotate banner=”8″] 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.

For example:

a hundred-dollars dress a hundred-dollar dress
a two-hours drive a two-hour drive
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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. windpowered)

  •  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:

  1. The meeting lasted two hours. It was a
  2. My father is forty years old. I have
  3. The journey will take seven months. It will
  4. The car costs forty thousand dollars. It’s a
  5. Channel Tunnel is fifty kilometers long. It’s a
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