Compound adjective

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A compound adjective, sometimes also known as hyphenated adjective, is an adjective formed by two or three words, none of which are necessarily adjectives themselves, but which used together make a very flexible way of describing things, people, etc.

One typical use is to combine a number with a noun (don't forget that the noun, now forming part of the adjective, must be singular), so a camera that costs 300 euros = a 300-euro camera.

Though compound adjectives are usually hyphentated, there are several exceptions: downhearted; downhill; fed up; homesick; lovesick; underpaid, etc.

Collocations are a very useful way of learning compound adjectives.

Common patterns[edit]

  • Adjective or adverb + past participle: double-barrelled; left-handed; low-paid; old-fashioned; quick-witted;
  • Adjective or adverb or noun + present participle: easy-going; good-looking; hard-working;
  • Noun + past participle: tongue-tied; spin-dried; spoon-fed;
  • Noun + adjective: duty-free; knee-high; lead-free; long-range; smoke-free; world-famous;
  • Adjective + noun: full-length; high-rise; last-minute; short-term;
  • Number + noun: a ten-page booklet; the four-minute mile.

See also[edit]