Compound Adjectives for intermediate learners

Compound adjectives are used as one single adjective. They function as the head of the sentence. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

What Are Compound Adjectives?

What Are Compound Adjectives?

Compound adjectives are made up of two or more words that work together to modify a noun or pronoun. Typically, a hyphen is used to join the two words together.

Compound Adjectives: Function

Compound adjectives mainly modify a noun or pronoun and give more information about it. They are commonly used as subject and object complements. Take a look at the example below:

I was a part-time waitress at that café.

He has a good-natured friend.

Compound Adjectives: Types

Based on their written form, compound adjectives can be categorized into two groups:

She has been homesick ever since her arrival in Greece.

As you can see, the words do not need any hyphens.

They moved to a four-bedroom house.

Compound Adjectives: Structure

Compound adjectives can have different structures. Here, we are going to discuss some of the most commonly-used structures for forming compound adjectives. Let us take a look at the list below:

Noun + Adjective

A common structure for forming compound adjectives is to combine a noun with an adjective. Take a look at the following examples:

Johnny Depp is a world-famous actor.

They want to live in a cruelty-free world.

Adverb + Past Participle

Another structure commonly used to form compound adjectives is created by adding specific adverbs to past participles. Study the following examples:

The well-written book received critical acclaim.

The company's problems were due to deep-seated issues.


Keep in mind that not all adverbs can be used to form compound adjectives. To make sure that a combination of words forms a compound adjective, check to see if it can function as a subject complement or can be modified by an adverb. If it cannot, then it is not a compound adjective. Look at the following example:

It was a remarkably interesting event.

As you can see, this is not a compound adjective.

Noun + Past Participle

Another way to form compound adjectives is to add a noun to a past participle. In this case, the combination is always hyphenated. Study the following examples carefully:

Look at the mouth-watering view of the jungle!

The Irish-speaking lady hated me.


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Participle Adjectives

Participle adjectives are the same form as participles with the same characteristics with adjectives.

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