Do you still think Compound Adjectives are complicated?

“Yesterday I watched a three-hour interview of the well-known writer, and he presented his new 200-page book!” Have you often wondered why words like three-hour or widely-known are hyphenated in English? These adjectives that contain 2 or more words are called compound adjectives. At the same time, do not forget that the words in a compound adjective are connected not only by a hyphen (and sometimes not - there is an exception to every rule), but also by a general idea. I want to share with you my impressions of a recent vacation trip, and at the same time, let's consider what parts compound adjectives can consist of.

  • Number + noun (singular)
    After working an eight-hour day for 2 weeks, I took a one-week vacation, but I had no idea what to do.
  • Adjective + noun
    It was a last-minute decision to visit my brother in Kiev.
  • Adjective + Present Participle (verb + ing)
    I was shocked when I saw my brother’s – she is really a good-looking - girl!
  • Adjective + Past Participle (verb + ed)
    But she always wore the old-fashion clothes, so I decided to buy her new clothes.
  • Noun + Present Participle
    I suggested a time-saving way of shopping – to buy clothes online – she didn’t know how to do it.
  • Noun + Past Participle
    I couldn’t imagine a middle-aged woman who doesn’t know how to shop online!
  • Noun + Adjective
    But I was happy when I found a world-famous little black dress in her wardrobe – it looked perfect!
  • Adverb + Past Participle
    In spite of her weird fashion taste, I was lucky to meet such a well-educated and well-behaved girl. We became real friends, and on my last day I found out why she was so interested in my job…
    She bought a trip to an English- speaking country, so she wanted to improve her speaking fluency! (try to figure out which parts English-speaking consists of).

The rules for creating and combining compound adjectives seem pretty simple, but do not forget that when learning English, there is an exception for every rule. We will reveal to you a little secret, how to know for sure in which cases you need to combine parts of a compound adjective with a hyphen, and in which not:

  • If you can put “and” between words, you don’t need to put a hyphen:
    I saw a new red dress in the shopping center last week. = I saw a new AND red dress in the shopping center last week.
  • If compound adjective takes a position after the subject that it characterizes, the hyphen is not needed:
    Her plan was ill conceived, so I wasn’t sure about it. = I wasn’t sure about her ill-conceived plan.
  • -ly + adjective - no hyphen between words:
    This internationally recognized author wrote a new best-seller last week.

By using compound adjectives correctly, you will hugely enrich your writing and speaking and will be able to understand and communicate with new friends from English-speaking countries!

Author: Yana Kosur

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