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.
is an adjective (used to describe the car). We use a hyphen to connect the word fast
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.
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!
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.
Some examples of compound adjectives are:
- broken-down toy
- out-of-the-way favour
- well polished shoes
- cost-effective solution
- high-quality system
- smoke-filled air
- late-nineteenth-century artists
- ear-splitting sound
- five-foot table
- fourteen-page magazine
- never-to-be-forgotten experience
I. Choose which two words act as a single idea and make a compound adjective.
- I am surely going to buy a brand new car after a raise.
- He was caught red handed after having been spotted breaking a window pane.
- Nancy is so absent minded that she cannot answer questions in the class.
- A time saving gadget would do wonders.
- 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.