Compound nouns


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Learn how to use compound nouns

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Compound nouns

  1. 1. Live Free / Speak Free
  2. 2. Compound Nouns in English
  3. 3. Compound NounsFormingTypes & Spelling RulesAmerican or BritishExercisesLists
  4. 4. Compound NounsA compound noun is a noun that is made with two or more words. Acompound noun is usually [noun + noun] or [adjective + noun], butthere are other combinations (see below). It is important to understandand recognize compound nouns. Each compound noun acts as a singleunit and can be modified by adjectives and other nouns.Most compound nouns contain at least one noun. The other word orwords may be an adjective, preposition, or verb. The second word isalmost always the main word, with the first word modifying it oradding to its meaning.
  5. 5. Compound words, a large group of words to which compound nouns belong, are expressed in three ways. The closed form has two words that have melded together to make one word, like: softball, redhead, makeup, and keyboard. Examples of the hyphenated form are: six-pack, five-year-old, and son-in-law. The open form has the words next to each other, like: post office, upper class, and attorney general. Sometimes, the hyphen disappears as the word is more widely used, and it becomes a closed word.There are three forms for compound nouns: 1. open or spaced - space between words (tennis shoe) 2. hyphenated - hyphen between words (six-pack) 3. closed or solid - no space or hyphen between words (bedroom) Back
  6. 6. FormationWords can be combined to form compound nouns. These are verycommon, and new combinations are invented almost daily. They normallyhave two parts. The second part identifies the object or person in question(man, friend, tank, table, room). The first part tells us what kind of objector person it is, or what its purpose is (police, boy, water, dining, bed): What type / what purpose What or who police man boy friend water tank dining table bed room
  7. 7. The two parts may be: Examples: Bedroom, water tank noun + noun motorcycle, printer cartridge Rainfall, haircut noun + verb train-spotting hanger-on noun + adverb passer-by washing machine, driving license verb + noun swimming pool Lookout, take-off verb + adverb* drawback Greenhouse ,software adjective + noun redhead dry-cleaning adjective + verb public speaking onlooker adverb + noun bystander Output, overthrow adverb + verb* upturn, input Back
  8. 8. Types & Spelling RulesThere are no hard and fast rules concerning plurals of compoundwords, especially since some hyphens are omitted after time. Inhyphenated words, usually the “s” goes at the end of the mainword, like daughters-in-law or mayors-elect. Sometimes it is at theend, like in go-betweens and higher-ups. In the open form, the “s” isadded to the main word, like: bills of fare, assistant secretaries ofstate, and notaries public.To make a compound word possessive, you usually add anapostrophe “s” at the end of the word, like: mother-in-law’s car orfive-year-old’s birthday. If the compound word is plural, it can get alittle strange with two “s” sounds close together, like: “fathers-in-law’s attire”. If you can, it would be better to reword the sentenceso the plural compound word does not need to be possessive, like:“The attire of the fathers-in-law.”
  9. 9. Compound nouns often have a meaning that is different from the twoseparate words.Stress is important in pronunciation, as it distinguishes between acompound noun (e.g. greenhouse) and an adjective with a noun(e.g. green house).In compound nouns, the stress usually falls on the first syllable:  a greenhouse = place where we grow plants (compound noun)  a green house = house painted green (adjective and noun)  a bluebird = type of bird (compound noun)  a blue bird = any bird with blue feathers (adjective and noun)* Many common compound nouns are formed from phrasal verbs (verb+ adverb or adverb + verb).
  10. 10. Plural forms of compound nounsIn general we make the plural of a compound noun by adding -s to the "baseword" (the most "significant" word). Look at these examples: singular plural a tennis shoe three tennis shoes one assistant headmaster five assistant headmasters the sergeant major some sergeants major a mother-in-law two mothers-in-law an assistant secretary of state three assistant secretaries of state my toothbrush our toothbrushes a woman-doctor four women-doctors a doctor of philosophy two doctors of philosophy a passerby, a passer-by two passersby, two passers-by
  11. 11. Note that there is some variation with words like spoonful or truckful. Theold style was to say spoonsful or trucksful for the plural. Today it is moreusual to say spoonfuls or truckfuls. Both the old style (spoonsful) and thenew style (spoonfuls) are normally acceptable, but you should beconsistent in your choice. Here are some examples: old style plural new style plural (very formal)teaspoonful 3 teaspoonsful of sugar 3 teaspoonfuls of sugartruckful 5 trucksful of sand 5 truckfuls of sandbucketful 2 bucketsful of water 2 bucketfuls of watercupful 4 cupsful of rice 4 cupfuls of rice
  12. 12. Some compound nouns have no obvious base word and you may needto consult a dictionary to find the plural: higher-ups also-rans go-betweens has-beens good-for-nothings grown-ups
  13. 13. Note that with compound nouns made of [noun + noun] the firstnoun is like an adjective and therefore does not usually take an -s.A tree that has apples has many apples, but we say an appletrees, not applestree; matchboxes not matchesbox; toothbrushes not teethbrush.With compound nouns made of [noun + noun] the second noun takesan -s for plural. The first noun acts like an adjective and as youknow, adjectives in English are invariable. Look at these examples: long plural form becomes › plural compound noun [noun + noun]100 trees with apples 100 apple trees1,000 cables for telephones 1,000 telephone cables20 boxes for tools 20 tool boxes10 stops for buses 10 bus stops4,000 wheels for cars 4,000 car wheels
  14. 14. Pluralize the Principal WordThe vast majority of compound nouns form their plurals by adding s to theprincipal word (shown in bold) in the compound. Examples: He now has two mothers-in-law. (plural of mother-in-law) They were visited by the Knights Templar. (plural of Knight Templar) It was a sight to see four lieutenant generals fight it out at the table. (plural of lieutenant general) Jerry had attended over a dozen courts-martial. (plural of court-martial / also, see third example below)
  15. 15. No Principal Word?When there is no obvious principal word, add s (or es) to the end of thecompound.Forget-me-nots make a wonderful present. (plural of forget-me-not)Pack two toothbrushes. (plural of toothbrush) Jerry had attended over a dozen court-martials.(There is ambiguity about the principal word in court-martial.Therefore, through common usage of both, courts-martial and court-martials are acceptable.)
  16. 16. COMPOUND NOUNS?Compound nouns are nouns that comprise two or more words.For example: Jack-in-the-box Knight Templar Lieutenant general Court-martial Forget-me-not Toothbrush Water bottle Ink-well Board of Education
  17. 17. BEWARE OF OF When a compound noun is in the form [word] of [word] (e.g., cup of tea), the first word is always the principal word. I sold them 4 cup of teas, but they only drank one. (should be cups of tea) SPOONFULS OR SPOONSFUL?When a compound noun is in the form [container]ful (e.g., bucketful,cupful and handful), an s is added to the end to form the plural. There were 3 spoonsful of honey left in the jar.(should be spoonfuls) Please sprinkle two handfuls of corn on the porch for the chickens.
  18. 18. COMPOUND NOUN?A single noun that comprises two or more words is called a compoundnoun. Sometimes the words in a compound noun are joined together bya hyphen or hyphens. (e.g., water-bottle)There are no specific rules on forming compound nouns. Forexample, Ink-well can be also be written ink well or inkwell- all are correct spellings. However, you should use a hyphento eliminate ambiguity. Ambiguity is particularly prevalentwhen the first word of the pairing is a substance (like wateror ink).
  19. 19. Examples: water-bottle / water bottle (When the first word is a substance, a hyphen is used to show that the item is not made of that substance.) ice-axe / ice axe (Both are acceptable, but ice-axe makes it clear that the axe is not made of ice.) paper-clip / paper clip / paperclip (All 3 are acceptable. However, if the clip were made of paper, then only paper clip could be used.) Please could you pass me that plastic wire-fastener? (a fastener made of plastic, i.e., not wire)
  20. 20. There is also some ambiguity when the first word of the pairing ends ing.(This is called a present participle.) Examples: changing-room / changing room (Both are acceptable, but changing-room makes it clear that the room is not changing.) laughing-gas / laughing gas (Both are acceptable, but laughing-gas makes it clear that the gas is not laughing.)
  21. 21. NOT ALL HAVE A ONE-WORD VERSION Be aware that not all compound nouns have a one-word version. Even though inkwell and paperclip are fine, iceaxe and waterbottle are spelling mistakes. There are no rules governing this - you have to know. Back
  22. 22. British/American differences Different varieties of English, and even different writers, may use the open, hyphenated or closed form for the same compound noun. It is partly a matter of style. There are no definite rules. For example we can find: container ship container-ship containershipIf you are not sure which form to use, please check in a good dictionary. Back
  23. 23. Below are 2 worksheets that you can download and print out for yourstudents to practise with. On the next 4 pages are picture cards with wordsfollowed by exercises to use in the classroom. Compound Nouns: Vocabulary Worksheet Difficult vocab-worksheet-docx-13k?da=y Exercise in Compound Nouns and Modifiers Very Difficult nouns-and-modifiers-docx-54k?da=y
  24. 24. Back
  25. 25. Compound Word Lists Compound Noun Word List Compound Noun Hyphenated Word List Compound Noun Verb Phrases List Back