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Compound Adjective

What is a Compound Adjective?
A compound adjective is an adjective that contains two or more words joined together by a hyphen (it is sometimes called a hyphenated adjective). The hyphen indicates that the words act as a single idea (adjective) that describe a noun. 

Let’s look at an example:

        My sister refused to go in the fast-moving car.

Fast-moving is an adjective (used to describe the car). We use a hyphen to connect the word fast with moving to show that it is one adjective (or one idea). 

Some more examples of compound adjectives are:
  • Mary had submitted a well-developed report on eco-friendly houses.
  • We were ecstatic after a much-needed vacation in the Bahamas.
  • Her ten-page essay was much appreciated by her friends. 

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List of Compound Adjectives

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Compound adjectives are formed in many ways. Let’s take a look at the various types:

      1. Compound Adjectives + Periods of Time

In this formation, the word referring to a time period (hour, week, second, minute, decade, month) is in singular form and is joined to the number with a hyphen. For example,
  • Mary works 10 hours every day --> Mary works a ten-hour day.
  • I'm going on leave for four weeks --> I have a four-week leave.
  • There was a delay of 15 seconds --> There was a fifteen-second delay.

       2. Adverb + Past Participle

In this type, a hyphen is put between the two words to make it a compound adjective. For example, 
  • I love this brightly-lit room.
  • She is a well-known writer from Venice.
  • We live in a densely-populated region.
  • Our deeply-rooted traditions make us what we are.
  • The well-mannered girl turned out to be our neighbour.

       3. Noun + Past Participle

In this type, we put a hyphen between a noun and a past participle. For example,
  • Wind-powered generators are a great way to go eco-friendly. 
  • My daughter loves eating sun-dried raisins.
  • I was surprised to see the usually tongue-tied boy to talk so much.

        4. Noun + Present Participle

A hyphen is put between a noun and a present participle to make it a compound adjective. For example,
  • The mouth-watering delicacies were enough to make everyone forget their diet plans.
  • Wow! That was a record-breaking jump, Tom!

        5. Noun + Adjective

In this formation, a noun and an adjective is used to form a compound adjective. For example,
  • She is a world-famous historian.
  • This is a smoke-free public area; please follow the rules.

         6. Adjective + Noun

This type uses an adjective and a noun. For example, 
  • The last-minute decision really helped the company cut heavy losses.
  • I have never tried deep-sea diving; I must learn it soon.

          7. Adjective + Past Participle

This formation has an adjective and a past participle. For example,
  • This is an old-fashioned dress, but it really suits the occasion well.
  • Everyone was awestruck by the long-haired girl.

          8. Adjective + Present Participle

This type uses an adjective and a present participle. For example, 
  • She is a good-looking girl who knows what colors suit her well.
  • The juicy grapes left a long-lasting taste in my mouth.

Compound Adjective Examples

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Some examples of compound adjectives are:

  1. broken-down toy
  2. out-of-the-way favour
  3. well polished shoes
  4. cost-effective solution
  5. high-quality system
  6. smoke-filled air 
  7. late-nineteenth-century artists
  8. ear-splitting sound
  9. five-foot table 
  10. fourteen-page magazine
  11. never-to-be-forgotten experience

Test Yourself

I. Choose which two words act as a single idea and make a compound adjective. 
  1. I am surely going to buy a brand new car after a raise.
  2. He was caught red handed after having been spotted breaking a window pane.  
  3. Nancy is so absent minded that she cannot answer questions in the class.
  4. A time saving gadget would do wonders.
  5. Being well mannered does not mean that anyone can take you for a ride. 
II. Which of these sentences contain a compound adjective?
     6. The couple met at a Sunday night club and decided to marry.
     7. My professor is well informed about a lot of issues other than his subject area.
     8. I have a part time job.
     9. This is certainly a better looking colour shade.
   10. The twelve year old chess champion is really good for his age.
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