You are on page 1of 9

Compound Adjectives Words like densely-populated are compound adjectives and they are made up of two or more words,

normally with hyphens between them. Something that is dense contains a lot of things or people in a small area. Thus a denselypopulated town or city is one with a high population count within the city boundaries. A densely-wooded hill would be one that is difficult to get through because the trees are so close together. adj / adv + past participle Adjective or adverb plus past participle is one of the most common patterns for forming compound adjectives. Some common examples would include:

cold-blooded brightly-lit

kind-hearted deeply-rooted

old-fashioned densely-populated

open-minded well-behaved

Most animals are warm-blooded but all reptiles are cold-blooded. He was a cold-blooded murderer and showed no emotion of any kind. She lived in an old-fashioned house, but was kind-hearted and open-minded. Nevertheless, she held deeply-rooted beliefs about the sanctity of marriage. The dimly- / brightly-lit streets in our town encourage / discourage burglars.

Note that adverb / past participle combinations when they are used with a copular verb like be or seem, and come after the noun they modify, are not hyphenated:

The streets in our town are dimly / brightly lit and encourage / discourage burglars.

There are sometimes many possible combinations, e.g. broad-minded, narrow-minded, absent-minded, strongminded, as well as open-minded. It is partly a matter of knowing which adjectives or adverbs collocate or go with which participles and nouns. We have brightly-lit streets, but also brightly-coloured dresses or swimsuits or sweets. Compound adjectives are regarded as productive features of English which means that use is not so restricted as it is in many categories of grammar. New combinations are always possible, so if you think something may work, try it out with your English-speaking friends, Tokmokje, and see if it is meaningful. For example, brightly-patterned curtains illustrates the productive nature of this combination, as would brightly-shining stars, and here we come to a new pattern, which is also very common: Adj / adv / noun + present participle Here are some common examples:

good-looking far-reaching labour-saving

hard-wearing long-lasting mouth-watering

free-standing never-ending record-breaking

The good-looking chef was dressed in hard-wearing clothing and sitting in front of a free-standing cooker. The dishes he had prepared with all the labour-saving devices at his disposal were all mouth-watering. We signed a long-lasting agreement for his services which we hoped would be never-ending.

Other common patterns for compound adjectives include:

noun + past participle: shop-soiled, tongue-tied, sun-dried, noun + adjective: trouble-free, lead-free, world-famous, adj + noun: deep-sea, full-length, last-minute, number + noun: two-door, twenty-page, forty-mile.

When they refused to exchange the shop-soiled item, I was tongue-tied and didn't know what to say. If you want trouble-free motoring, make sure you use only lead-free petrol. The sun-dried tomatoes that we sell are world-famous. She was wearing a full-length dress, quite unsuitable for deep-sea diving. The forty-mile journey in the two-door, open-top convertible was ill-advised in such inclement weather.

Try out other combinations of these patterns for yourselves, e.g. four-door saloon, five-page document, welladvised, etc. Make a note of compound adjectives that you come across in your reading and note the way they are used with particular nouns. A compound adjective is an adjective that comprises more than one word. Usually, hyphens are used to link the words together to show that it is one adjective. Examples: Please request a four-foot table. (Four-foot is an adjective describing the table. A hyphen is used to link four and foot to show that it is one adjective.) It is a 6-page document. Claire worked as a part-time keeper at the safari park. That is an all-too-common mistake. Compound Adjectives from Proper Nouns Often adjectives are formed from proper nouns (i.e., the names of things), which should be written using capital letters. In these circumstances, there is no need to group the words together using hyphens. Examples: Did you manage to get the Billy Elliot tickets? (The words Billy Elliot are one adjective describing the tickets. As the capital letters group the words, there is no need to use a hyphen.)

Waking the Dead (This is correct. It's a compound adjective using title case.)
(magazine article)

Compound Adjectives with Quotation Marks and Italics Although a less common practice, it is also possible to group the words in a compound adjective using quotation marks, italics or a combination of the two. (Italics tend to be used for foreign words.) Examples: It is an ab initio course (i.e., for beginners). (italics used to group the adjective) Amber looked at the stick in the water, looked me in the eye and then turned away, giving me a "get it yourself" look. (quotation marks used to group the adjective) For more than ten years, Jack claimed to be part of the "Mary Celeste" crew before admitting to his cousin at a party that he was not. (capital letters, italics and quotation marks used to group the adjective) Adverbs and Compound Adjectives As covered in the lesson Adverbs, an adjective is often preceded by a word like very, well, beautifully or extremely. (These are adverbs.) Usually, there is no need to link an adverb to an adjective using a hyphen. Examples: Young Tracey is an extremely brave girl. (The adverb extremely modifies the adjective brave but is not part of it. There is no need to group it and brave together with a hyphen.) It was a beautifully painted portrait in a skilfully carved frame. (The adverb beautifully adds to the adjective painted but is not part of it. It is the same with skilfully and carved. There is no need for hyphens.) Ambiguous Adverbs However, with words like well and fast (which are both adjectives and adverbs), a hyphen can be used to avoid ambiguity. Example: Jacob took the well-fatted calf to the riverside. (well-fatted calf as in a very plump calf) Jacob took the well fatted calf to the riverside. (well fatted calf could be construed as a well (i.e., healthy) and fatted calf. In the first example, the well-fatted calf could be ill.) What's a Compound Adjective? A single adjective made up of two or more words is called a compound adjective. The words in a compound adjective can be linked together by a hyphen (or hyphens) to show they are part of the same adjective. In the UK, your readers will expect you to use hyphens in compound adjectives. Americans are more lenient. The US ruling is: Use a hyphen if it eliminates ambiguity or helps your reader, else don't bother. If you're unsure, use hyphens. You won't be marked down for using hyphens.

The Hyphen Might Be Essential

Sometimes a hyphen is essential to avoid ambiguity. Look at these examples: a heavy-metal detector a heavy metal detector Both are correct, but they mean different things. The first device detects heavy metals. The second detects metal, and it is heavy. If we're talking about a device that detects heavy metals, then putting heavy metal detector would be wrong in the UK and the US. A compound adjective is a single adjective comprising more than one word. The words in a compound adjective are usually grouped together using hyphens. Examples: four-foot table, 12-page magazine, free-range eggs, never-to-be-forgotten experience, well-known lawyer Compound adjectives can also be grouped using italics, quotation marks and title case (i.e., capital letters). This is covered more in the lesson Alternatives to Hyphens in Compound Adjectives. Interactive example: He took the beach-surfing buggy on a 4-week training camp

Compound Adjectives with Numbers The easiest compound adjectives to spot are the ones which include numbers. Examples: Two-seater aircraft 4-bedroom house

"24-hour" (This is correct.) (newspaper article)

"3-day" (This is correct) (newspaper article) Three stone weakling (Three-stone would be better.) 15-page document Link with Hyphens If It's One Adjective

Not all compound adjectives include numbers. Often, a compound adjective consists of words that would not normally be joined together with a hyphen. Examples: The double glazing is leaking. Can you call that double-glazing salesman? (double-glazing describes salesman) You call this silver service? She's not a trained silver-service waitress. (silver-service describes waitress)

should be "8-week money-back guarantee" (newspaper advertisement)

"Cambridge-based" and "high-speed" (both correct) (magazine article) Carl is far too chatty. Philip is another far-too-chatty individual. (far-too-chatty describes individual) It's true! The board outside the cafe read, "All-day breakfast 0830-1030." (All-day describes breakfast) That was a never-to-be-forgotten experience. James is a second rate plumber.

Compound adjectives

COMPOUND ADJECTIVES

a dark-blue uniform adj. adj. Adjective / noun + adjective

a navy - blue hat nom adj.

an old - looking building adj. part. prsent

Adjective, adverb or noun + present participle

a fast - running horse adv. part. prsent

a heart - breaking story nom part. prsent

an old - established tradition adj. part. pass

Adjective, adverb or noun + past participle

a well - known actor adv. part. Pass

a home - made cake nom part. pass

Adjective + noun + ED

a green - eyed boy a red - roofed house a blue - uniformed soldier a bad - tempered man a drive - in restaurant a four - letter word Other a fifteen - year - old boy

the 9.45 train a one - way street a second - hand car

1. A man who has got white teeth is a white-teethed man a white-toothed man. 2. A train which moves slowly is a slow-moving train . 3. A mountain on which some snow has fallen down is a covered-snow mountain a snow-covered mountain. 4. People who don't easily see with the ideas of the others are narrow-minded people . 5. A tablecloth which is very white is a white-snow tablecloth a snow-white tablecloth. 6. A flower which smells nice is a sweet-smell flower a sweet-smelling flower. 7. Someone who plays tennis is a tennis-played person a tennis-playing person. 8. A woman who's got blond hair is a fair-hair woman a fair-haired woman. 9. A baby who is seven months old is a seven-months-old baby a seven-month-old baby. 10. A polite child is a a well-bring up child a well-brought up child. 11. A lamp whose shade is red is a shade-red lamp a red-shaded lamp. 12. Dresses which are as yellow as a lemon are yellow lemon dresses lemon-yellow dresses. 13. Someone who is tolerant and placid is an easy-going person . 1. The sculptor who shows his work in the garden of the castle is a [No answer] well- known (to know + well) artist. 2. I'm reading a hair-raising (to raise + hair) story. It gives me nightmares. 3. He seems to be a [No answer] cool-headed (cool + head) boy, easy-going ! 4. Cyrano de Bergerac was described as a [No answer] long-nosed (long + nose) man. 5. We see him from a distance with his [No answer] straw-coloured (colour + straw) trousers. 6. This [No answer] peacock-blue (blue + peacock) coat is too large for me. 7. It was a [No answer] long-lasting (to last + long) war between the English and the French: The Thirty Years War. 8. The cheetah is a [No answer] fast-running (to run + fast) feline. 9. After the rain, the [No answer] slate-blue (slate + blue) roofs glisten in the sun. 10. I like to correspond with this [No answer] well-read (well + to read) woman. We speak about interesting topics. 1. The tour operator suggested a (day/four) [No answer] four-day trip to London next Christmas. 2. The (head/curly) [No answer] curly-headed girl who's playing tennis is my sister. 3. The police were shocked at the sight of this (blood/cold) [No answer] cold-blooded murder. 4. After the terrible tempest, the (sunken/half) [No answer] half-sunken sailing boat was unusable. 5. We have booked a room in a (star/four) [No answer] four -star hotel. 6. Who can name a (to eat/fruit) [No answer] fruit-eating animal? 7. You mustn't use this (sharp/razor) [No answer] razor-sharp knife . It's too dangerous ! 8. Every week, (to lay/new) [No answer] new-laid eggs are used by my mother to make some wonderful cakes. 9. My son is very (clear/sight) [No answer] clear-sighted about his choice. 10. After a (through/to read) [No answer] read-through of the script, the actor turned down the role. 1. When travelling, I always take (dry, drip) [No answer] drip-dry clothes in my luggage. It's very practical. 2. Have you seen the last (length, full) [No answer] full-length film by Ken Loach? I loved this film! 3. His (to set, deep) [No answer] deep-set eyes made him look sick. His deathly-pale face frightened me. 4. He' s (heart, down) [No answer] down-hearted because he hasn't found a job. 5. I advise you to choose an (inclusive, all) [No answer] all-inclusive trip. That way, there won't be any surprises.

6. He has a good reputation because he has always been a (law, to abide) [No answer] law-abiding citizen. 7. On the sunny wall, one can see an (emerald, green) [No answer] emerald-green lizard climbing. 8. The witness saw a (beard, grey) [No answer] grey-bearded man who was running away from the garden. 9. These (shape, heart) [No answer] heart-shaped cookies look very good! 10. I bought a (wheel, four) [No answer] four-wheeled bicycle for my little boy. 11. I can't find my keys! I can't see anything. It's (pitch, dark) [No answer] pitch-dark ! 12. I met a (to speak, well) [No answer] well-spoken man on the train. We talked about our jobs. 13. Oh! Look at this (brown, golden) [No answer] golden-brown scarab! Do you know that it was considered a sacred animal in Ancient Egypt? 14. Before my retirement, I worked in a (stay, long) [No answer] long-stay hospital. 1. Today the three-colour three-coloured French flag flaps above the Town-Hall. 2. In The Odysseus, Ulysses was confined by a one-eyed cyclops called Polyphemus. 3. Since October 2000, the President of France is elected for a seven-year five-year term. 4. The four-piece three-piece suit is out of fashion except for extremely formal ceremonies like weddings. 5. Could you explain to me the meaning of this two-headed eagle blazon above the chimney-piece ? 6. I love playing a four-hands four-handed piece with my sister. 7. I 'm very suspicious of this man who is two-faces two-faced. 8. Look at this woman on the ice-rink! She is a one-times one-time world skating champion. 9. Your two-edged arguments could be turned against you. 10. We live on a one-stop one-way street . We can only drive in one direction. 11. Last night we slept in a great three-star four-star hotel 12. My parents have moved to a two-horse one-horse town away from Paris ! 13. The African rhinoceros is a two-horned animal. It is often poached for its horns. 1. This girl is five years old -> She is a [No answer] five-year-old girl. 2. Kim has got brown hair -> Kim is a [No answer] brown-haired girl. 3. This trip to London lasts four days -> It's a [No answer] four-day trip. 4. Alisson has got a bad temper -> She is [No answer] bad-tempered. 5. He has got a (blue/light) shirt -> It's a [No answer] light-blue shirt. 6. The horse runs fast -> It is a [No answer] fast-running horse. 7. The visit lasts for three hours -> It's a [No answer] three-hour visit. 8. Sheep eat grass -> Sheep are [No answer] grass-eating animals. 9. He gets sick at sea -> He gets [No answer] seasick. 10. Sonia writes with her right hand -> Sonia is [No answer] right-handed. 11. This pupil works hard -> He is a [No answer] hard-working pupil. 12. The building looks old -> It is an [No answer] old-looking building. 13. This tower is 250 feet high -> It's a [No answer] 250-foot-high tower. 14. This water is cold as ice -> It is [No answer] ice-cold water. 15. He wrote a word with four letters -> He wrote a [No answer] four-letter word. 1. We have a very nice bedroom but it's not (air / condition) [No answer] air-conditioned ! 2. His work has brought good results. He has a (well / earn) [No answer] well-earned reward. 3. This (strawberry / wild) [No answer] wild-strawberry ice-cream was a delicious dessert. 4. I feel (light / head) [No answer] light-headed after drinking champagne ! 5. This (nerve / rack) [No answer] nerve-racking situation is exhausting my energy. 6. Every week, I watch a (end /never) [No answer] never-ending saga on television. 7. The (self / employ) [No answer] Self - employed workers are complaining about paying heavy taxes. 8. The (seat / back) [No answer] back-seat passenger must fasten his seat-belt. 9. His (pale / deathly) [No answer] deathly-pale face frightened us. 10. The boss has bought a (save / time) [No answer] time-saving machine tool. 11. We need a (quick / wit) [No answer] quick-witted person to win the game. 12. In winter, my (face / north) [No answer] north-facing bedroom is very cold.

13. I have never heard such a (sweet / bitter) [No answer] bitter-sweet speech! 14. My (first / to be born) [No answer] first-born was a premature baby. 1. She has a nine- looking year old son. 2. When I saw him, he was with a very good- looking woman in a blue suit. 3. My best friend is very well- looking off so he can go to expensive restaurants. 4. They were both wearing short- looking sleeved shirts. 5. Jeff has just got a part - looking time job now. He works three hours a day, Monday to Thursday. 6. My cousin's just bought a brand- looking new car. 7. It was a very badly- looking written article: terrible punctuation and lots of spelling mistakes. 8. I had a nice time with my friend - she's good company and very easy- looking going. 9. One boy was very badly looking behaved: he kept shouting and then threw food all over the floor 10. Goran Ivanisevic is probably the most famous left- looking handed tennis player. 11. She's got a little shop near the market, where she sells second- looking hand things. 12. Have you ever met a well- looking known actor or singer?

. This (bottle, green) [No answer] bottle-green -or- bottle green sweater gives me a sad complexion. 2. I was (tongue, to tie) [No answer] tongue-tied hearing the news. 3. Mary has got a (sky, blue) [No answer] sky-blue -or- sky blue dress as blue as her eyes. 4. My father came back home (hand, empty) [No answer] empty-handed, he hadn't caught a single fish! 5. He slammed the door and came away . What a (rough, manner) [No answer] rough-mannered boy! 6. A (sixteen, year, old) [No answer] sixteen-year-old girl has been knocked by a fast -running car. 7. My husband has bought a (fast, to move) [No answer] fast-moving car. 8. Since the death of her dog, she has felt (heart, heavy) [No answer] heavy-hearted. 9. The (navy, blue) [No answer] navy-blue uniforms of the French Navy are very smart. 10. In the seventies, this actress enjoyed a (short, to live) [No answer] short-lived success. 11. My parents have really (old, fashion) [No answer] old-fashioned ideas! 12. The (star, to spangle) [No answer] star-spangled flag of the USA flaps in the wind. 13. Her body (half, to turn) [No answer] half-turned towards him, he felt her eyes on him.