What Are Compound Nouns?
One common way of creating new words is by combining existing words together. When two or more words are combined to form a single noun, it is called a *compound noun. These nouns act as a unified concept and often have a different meaning than the individual words that make them up
Compound Nouns: Structure
Every compound noun has at least two elements:
What is a Head?
The head, also known as the principal or nucleus, is the most important element of a compound word. It carries the core meaning of the word and determines the part of speech of the entire compound noun. For instance, in the compound noun "basketball," the head is "ball" because a basketball is a type of ball, not a type of basket.
foot (noun) + ball (noun) =
In this example; 'ball' is the head and it is a noun, so 'football is a noun.
What Is a Dependent?
Here is your
Here, the term 'paste' is the head and the term 'tooth' is the dependent.
Write it down in your
In this example, the term 'note' is the dependent and the term 'book' is the head of the compound noun.
Compound Noun Structure: Based on Head and Dependent(s)
Here are the structures that are used to make compound nouns.
Noun + Noun
One way to create a compound noun is by combining two nouns together.
My grandmother is a
Adj + Noun
Compound nouns can also be formed by combining an adjective with a noun.
Ronnie is a
Here, the term 'red' is the adjective for the noun 'head.'
Noun + Verb
A compound noun can also be created by adding a verb to a noun.
She has got a new
In this example, 'hair' is a noun and 'cut' is a verb.
Noun + Preposition
A compound noun can also be formed by adding a preposition to a noun.
She is this year's
In this example, 'up' is a preposition and 'runner' is a noun.
I saw another
Gerund + Noun
A compound noun can also be created by combining a gerund (a verb form ending in -ing) with a noun.
She needs a
Here, 'washing' is a verb made of 'wash + -ing' and 'machine' is a noun.
I need to renew my
Preposition + Noun
A compound noun can also be formed by adding a noun to a preposition.
Here, 'by' is a preposition and 'standers' is a noun.
Adj + Verb + ing
Compound nouns can also be created by adding a verb, including a gerund, to an adjective.
In this example, 'dry' is an adjective and 'cleaning' is a verb that is made of 'clean + -ing.'
Verb + Preposition
A compound noun can also be created by adding a preposition to a verb.
In this example, 'draw' is a verb and 'back' is a preposition.
Preposition + Verb
A compound noun can also be formed by adding a verb to a preposition.
Here, 'in' is a preposition followed by 'take' which is a verb.
You don't need much
Compound Nouns Structure: Based on Spacing
There are three types of compound nouns based on spacing:
- Open or Spaced compound nouns: there is a space between the words;
science fiction, water tank
- Closed or Solid compound nouns: there is no space between the words;
- Hyphenated compound nouns: there is a hyphen between the words.
Compound Nouns: Stress Patterns
All monosyllabic nouns and adjectives are stressed. But in a compound noun, the first word is usually more stressed.
Stress is an important aspect of pronunciation because it helps to distinguish between a compound noun and a phrase consisting of an adjective and a noun.
In this example, both 'white' and 'house' are equally stressed. It means a house which is painted white.
Here, 'white' is more stressed than 'house' and it means the 'Whitehouse,' the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States.
American or British?
The spelling of compound nouns can differ between American and British English. The choice of spelling is often a matter of stylistic preference rather than strict rules. For instance:
- six pack
All three spellings of this word are considered correct.
If you are unsure of the spelling of a particular compound noun, it is best to consult a dictionary.
Countable or Uncountable Compound Nouns
Compound nouns can be categorized into two groups based on whether they can be counted or not: countable compound nouns and uncountable compound nouns.
Countable Compound Nouns
Countable nouns are those that can be easily counted or quantified. When it comes to countable compound nouns, you can make them plural in a similar way to regular countable nouns by adding an -s or -es to the end of the final word, which is typically the head of the noun.
bus stop, car park → bus stop
In this example, we can count the stops or the parks.
taxi driver → taxi driver
Uncountable Compound Nouns
Uncountable compound nouns do not have a plural form because they cannot be counted.
higher education, fast food → no plural
Here, education and food are both uncountable nouns, so we use fast food or higher education as a singular compound noun.
Plural Compound Nouns
When making a compound noun plural, there are some general rules to follow. If the compound noun is a single word (closed compound noun), you can simply add an -s to the end of the word. However, if the compound noun consists of separate words, whether hyphenated or spaced, you should make the most important word plural, that is, the head of the noun. Take a look at some examples:
newspaper → newspaper
swimming pool → swimming pool
In this example, the head of the compound noun is pool and swimming is a modifier describing it. So we add 's' to the head of the compound noun.
sister-in-law → sister
Here, the most significant word is 'sister,' therefore we add 's' to that word.
woman-doctor → wom
Here, both words are actually significant, so we pluralize both of them.
Compound Noun or Noun Phrase?
Although compound nouns are made up of two or more words and may resemble a noun phrase, the two are actually
In contrast, noun phrases are typically composed of a modifier and a noun, which can be directly modified by an adverb.
In this example, we can easily separate blue and car with the same meaning and put modifiers between them: 'The blue Italian car.' But we cannot say the 'blue Italian berries.'
We cannot say 'a
really haircut,' but we can say 'a really nice haircut.'
really deep breath ✓ nightly heavy rain ✓
Possessive Compound Nouns
To make possessive compound nouns, the apostrophe s is simply added to the end of the compound nouns. If the compound noun is plural, try to rewrite the sentence to avoid the awkwardness.
The screens of the computers were all cracked.
Instead of "The computers' screens were all cracked"
What Is the Difference between Using Compound Nouns and 'Of'?
Sometimes, you may only be allowed to use compound nouns instead of the preposition 'of', while in other cases, both options are acceptable.
Compound nouns are often used to describe the purpose or function of an object. When using a compound noun to indicate an object's purpose, you cannot use the preposition "of" to connect the noun and its function. Instead, the two elements are combined into a single word to form a compound noun that conveys the object's purpose or function. Check out the examples:
He has the most fabulous
Sara washed the
Compound nouns can be used to describe the material that something is made of, in these cases it's possible to use the preposition "of" to express an object's composition or material. Here are a few examples:
✓ This is a
Describing the Container
Both compound nouns and the preposition "of" can be used to indicate the container of a substance. However, it's important to note that using a compound noun places
In this example, the emphasis is on the mug which is the container for the milk..
Here, the emphasis is on the dirt that is in the pool.
Describing Job Titles
Compound nouns can be used to describe job titles, and in this case, they may be written as spaced or solid compound nouns. It's important to note that the preposition "of" should not be used to refer to a job title. Instead, the job title should be expressed as a compound noun to convey the intended meaning.
My father is a
In this example, the term 'fireman' is a solid compound noun.
My girlfriend's brother is a
Here, 'flight attendant' is a spaced compound noun.
'Compound nouns' consist of:
- Only one Head
- One or more Dependents
Compound Nouns Structures Based on Spaces
|without space||with only one space||with hyphen|
Both the head and the dependent in a compound noun can belong to different word classes, such as adjectives, prepositions, nouns, and so on.
- What Are Compound Nouns?
- Compound Nouns: Structure
- What is a Head?
- Plural Compound Nouns
- Compound Noun or Noun Phrase?
- Possessive Compound Nouns
You might also like
Nouns are among the first lessons when studying a new language. In other words, we have to be able to name things first, then make sentences with them.
Proper and Common Nouns
Did you know there are two kinds of noun: common nouns and proper nouns. Common nouns refer to general nouns and proper nouns refer to specific nouns.
Singular and Plural Nouns
Anything that is just one in quantity is singular. But what if there is more than one? Nouns that are two or more are called plurals! Simple, yes? Let's see!
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
It's important to know if a noun is countable or uncountable. This is going to help us to use the correct article. Let's learn more.
If we want to represent certain individual nouns as one entity we can make use of collective nouns. In this lesson, you'll learn about their structure and uses.