What Is A Compound Adjective? | How to Use Compound Adjectives in English Sentences Correctly?


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What Is A Compound Adjective?

A Compound Adjective (also known as a Compound Modifier) is an Adjective formed by joining two or more words connected with a hyphen (-), for example, 'man-eating' is a Compound Adjective. [I saw a man-eating tiger in the Sundarbans.]

[A Compound Adjective consists of two or more words connected with a hyphen. A Compound Adjective is a multi-word Adjective that usually appears before the Noun it modifies.]


Let's Understand This By Taking Some Examples,

1) My friend, John is a good-looking boy. [My friend, John is a boy who looks good.]

In the above example, the compound word 'good-looking' is a Compound Adjective that modifies the noun 'boy'.


Now look at the sentences below and try to understand the difference:

1) John saw a man eating a tiger in the Sundarbans. [John saw a man (who was eating a tiger) in the Sundarbans. No Compound Adjective is used here.]

2) John saw a man-eating tiger in the Sundarbans. [John saw a tiger (who eats man) in the Sundarbans. Here 'man-eating' is used as a Compound Adjective.]


Another Combination:

1) I saw a girl speaking English. [I saw a girl who was speaking English. No Compound Adjective is used here.]

2) I saw an English-speaking girl. [Here 'English-speaking' is a Compound Adjective.]


Here Are Some More Examples

1) He is a well-behaved person. [Here 'well-behaved' is a Compound Adjective that modifies the noun 'person'.]

2) She maintains a well-balanced diet to keep her body fit. [Here 'well-balanced' is a Compound Adjective that modifies the noun 'diet'.]

Important Note: If a Compound Adjective comes after a Noun, usually No hyphen is used there. For example, This temple is world famous. [Here 'world famous' is a Compound Adjective without a hyphen.] You can write this: This is a world-famous temple.

3) I live in an English-speaking country. [Here 'English-speaking' is a Compound Adjective.]

4) He is a world-famous singer. [Here 'world-famous' is a Compound Adjective.]


Important Notes [Formation of Compound Adjectives]

A) Compound Adjectives can be formed with periods of time: [Number (Quantifier) + Noun/Period of time]

Examples,

1) We'll take a five-minute break.

2) There has been a two-hour delay. 

3) This is a hundred-page book. 

4) This is a 15-storey building. 

5) That was a five-hour journey.

6) It needs three-year research.

7) I had a two-week vacation.

8) This is a twenty-page document. 


* Don't write: ten-minutes break, two-hours delay or two-years contract [Because these are compound adjectives, they are not nouns. Nouns have both Singular and Plural forms, but Adjectives don't.]

Likewise,

Tom is two years old now. [Correct]

But,

Tom is a two-years-old boy. [Incorrect], and the correct one is 'Tom is a two-year-old boy'. [Here 'two-year-old' is a Compound Adjective.]


B) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Adjective + Past Participle]

Examples,

1) She is an old-fashioned lady. [Here 'old-fashioned' is a Compound Adjective which is formed by joining two words 'old' and 'fashioned'. The word 'old' is an Adjective and the word 'fashioned' is the Past Participle.]

2) I don't like narrow-minded people. [The word 'narrow' is an Adjective and the later word 'minded' is the Past participle.]


C) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Adjective + Present Participle]

Examples,

1) She is a very good-looking girl. [Here the word 'good' is an Adjective and the word 'looking' is the Present Participle.]


D) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Adverb + Past Participle]

Examples,

1) Dr Jonson wants to marry his daughter to a well-established man in the city. [Here the word 'well' is an Adverb and the word 'established' is the Past Participle.]

2) I don't like to stay in a densely-populated area for a longer time. [Here the word 'densely' is an Adverb and the word 'populated' is the Past Participle.]


E) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Adverb + Present Participle]

Examples,

1) Finding the secrets of the Universe is a never-ending process. [Here the word 'never' is an Adverb and the later word 'ending' is the Present Participle.]

2) This is one of the fast-moving trains in Japan. [Here the word 'fast' is an Adverb and later word 'moving' is the Present participle.]


F) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Noun + Past Participle]

Examples,

Sun-baked, Wind-blown, Sun-burnt


G) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Noun + Present Participle]

Examples,

Eye-catching, mouth-watering, man-eating, money-saving

1) John saw a man-eating lion in the Sahara desert. [Here the word 'man' is a Noun and the word 'eating' is the Present Participle.]


H) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Noun + Adjective]

Examples,

Sugar-free, world-famous, fat-free

1) John likes sugar-free biscuits. [Here the first word 'sugar' is a Noun and the later word 'free' is an Adjective.]

2) He is a world-famous writer.


I) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Adjective + Noun]

Examples,

Short-term, high-quality [These are high-quality shirts.], full-length, long-distance, last-minute [This is the last-minute suggestion.]


J) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Adjective + Adjective]

Examples,

1) She had bright blue-green eyes. [Here both the words, 'blue' and 'green' are Adjectives.]

2) Look at the top-right corner of the screen. [Here both the words, 'top' and 'right' are Adjectives.]

* We can't write: It's a big-black cow. [Write: It's a big black cow. (Don't use a hyphen between 'big' and 'black'.)]


K) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Noun + Noun]

Examples: 

Part-time [A part-time job]


L) A Compound Adjective can be formed by joining two words [Adverb + Adjective]

Examples,

1) It was a terribly hot day. [Here 'terribly hot' is used as a Compound Adjective.]

Important Note: When a Compound Adjective is formed by placing an Adverb before an Adjective, no hyphen is used there. [When a Compound Adjective starts with an Adverb, it doesn't get a hyphen.]

Here are a few examples of Compound Adjectives starting with an Adverb: 

Highly volatile, amazingly good, extremely brave, exceptionally talented, etc.


Some More Examples of Compound Adjectives

1) Sugar-free [for example, a sugar-free biscuit.]

2) Brightly-coloured 

3) Well-known 

4) full-time 

5) Kind-hearted 

6) Absent-minded 

7) Ready-made 

8) Well-educated 

9) Highly-respected 

10) Widely-recognized 

11) Middle-aged 

12) English-speaking [The United Kingdom is an English-speaking country.]

13) Record-breaking [This is the record-breaking production.]

14) thought-provoking [The gentleman gave us a thought-provoking message about humanity through his writings.]

15) Long-lasting [This is a long-lasting product. A Long-lasting relationship]

16) Slow-moving 

17) Far-reaching

18) Highly-qualified 

19) Quick-tempered 

20) Wind-powered 

21) Highly-developed

22) Mind-blowing

23) Award-winning

24) Hard-working

25) Five-story/storey [A five-storey/story building]

26) Kind-hearted

27) Three-year-old [She is a three-year-old girl]

28) One-eyed [An one-eyed man]

29) Brightly-lit [This is a brightly-lit room.]

30) Cold-hearted [A cold-hearted politician]

31) Self-help [A self-help group]

32) Full-length [This is a full-length movie]

33) Life-changing [This is a life-changing book.]

34) Middle-aged [Two middle-aged persons.]

35) brown-haired [I saw a brown-haired woman]

36) Blue-eyed. [A blue-eyed boy]

37) Sun-burnt

38) 10-year-old

39) 10-page-story

40) Five-foot

41) Five-foot-high

42) Short-handed

43) Blank-minded

44) Sun-dried

45) Better-known

46) Well-dressed

47) High-earning

48) Higher-paying

49) eye-catching

50) Absent-minded

51) Narrow-minded

52) Dark-coloured

53) Kind-hearted

54) Hard-hearted

55) High-stress

56) Ill-tempered

57) Black-and-white [A black-and-white photo]

58) Well-to-do [A well-to-do family] 

* Well-to-do means 'Wealthy or prosperous'.



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