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Compound Adjectives in English

Published by My Lingua Academy on

Compound adjectives in English usually consist of an adjective, adverb or noun and either present participle (-ing) or past participle (-ed). We can talk about four types of compound adjectives in English:

1. Adjectives based on present participle (long-lasting relationship)

2. Adjectives based on past participle (middle-aged woman)

3. Number + noun (four-miles journey)

4. Well, badly, ill, highly, poorly, etc + past participle (well-behaved dogs)

Adjectives based on the present participle

The present participle is a verb ending in -ing. It can be used to form a verb tense or an adjective.

Let’s look at some examples of adjectives based on present participle.

Good-looking

Meaning: pretty, handsome

Mary was a good-looking woman in her early forties.

English-speaking

Meaning: refers to people or an area with English as a native language.

Ever since I moved to an English-speaking country, my English has become more fluent.

Time-saving

Meaning: reducing the length of time you need to do something.

I found some great time-saving recipes on YouTube.

Mouth-watering

Meaning: food that smells and looks good.

Thomas served some mouth-watering food at his party.

Thought-provoking

Meaning: refers to something that makes you think.

We watched a thought-provoking film last night.

Long-lasting

Meaning: that lasts a long time.

Let’s make a toast for our long-lasting friendship.

Fast-moving

Meaning: that moves fast.

They have some fascinating fast-moving trains in Japan.

Far-reaching

Meaning: something that influences many people.

Covid-19 pandemic produced far-reaching consequences all around the world.

Hard-working

Meaning: a person who works hard.

Karen has always been a hard-working student.

Adjectives based on the past participle

Sun-dried

Meaning: dried on the sun.

I always put sun-dried tomatoes into my pasta dishes.

Brightly-lit

Meaning: with lots of light.

The brightly-lit shop windows were filled with luxury goods.

Middle-aged

Meaning: a person between 45 and 65 years of age.

Mike was a friendly, middle-aged man.

Red-eyed rabbit

Meaning: a rabbit with red eyes.

They grew some beautiful white red-eyed rabbits.

Old -fashioned

Meaning: a person or a thing that is not modern or fashionable.

Paul is a very old-fashioned person when it comes to music.

Open-minded

Meaning: willing to consider new and different ideas or opinions.

If you plan a career in science, you must be an open-minded person.

Level-headed

Meaning: having good judgment.

We should ask a level-headed person for advice.

Short-tempered

Meaning: an angry person who snaps easily and frequently.

After not being able to sleep for two days, Brian became a short-tempered husband and dad.

High-priced

Meaning: expensive.

William was browsing some high-priced appliances on the Internet.

Long-haired

Maureen was a tall, long-haired lady in her early 50s.

Number + noun adjectives

Ten-minute break

We usually have a ten-minute break after the second school class.

Five-year-old

Adriana adopted a five-year-old dog.

Five-storey

We live on the third floor of a five-storey building.

Hundred-page

You can read it in a day. It’s only a hundred-page book.

Three-foot chair

I’ll never learn to sit on a three-foot chair. It is so unstable.

Three-hour flight 

It was a three-hour flight from London to Madrid.

Common mistake:

Remember not to add -S to the compound adjectives with numbers 

It was a two-week holiday (not two-weeks holiday)

Well, badly, ill, highly, poorly, etc. + past participle

Well-known

Meaning: famous.

Betty was a well-known writer of crime novels.

Poorly-lit

Meaning: in a bad light.

It was an old, poorly-lit house.

Highly-respected

Colin was a highly-respected doctor in the country.

Well-paid

It was a well-paid job, although a bit dangerous.

Badly-behaved

Badly behaved children don’t need an arm around the shoulder.

Ill-equipped

Meaning: not well equipped, lacking important resources.

The Prussian Army was an ill-equipped army that wasn’t capable of dealing with Revolutionary France.

Other compound nouns

When it comes to compound nouns in English, we can also talk about adjective combinations such as 

noun+noun (part-time job, bullet-proof coffee), 

adjective+noun (long-distance journey)

noun+ adjective (world-famous actor), and 

adjective+adjective (fat-free yoghurt).

When to use a hyphen?

This is a simple one. It depends on whether the noun it modifies comes before or after the adjective.

India is a densely-populated country.

India is densely populated. 

However, if you are still in doubt about whether to use a hyphen with a compound adjective, the best thing to do is to turn to a good dictionary.

Compound adjectives in English
Compound adjectives in English

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Compound Adjectives with -ED Endings - My Lingua Academy · 19 Oct 2021 at 10:03 am

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