Grammar Rules

Compound adjectives

What are compound adjectives?

A compound adjective is formed when two or more adjectives are joined together to modify the same noun. These terms should be hyphenated to avoid confusion or ambiguity. For example:
  1. Diana submitted a 6-page document.
  2. She adopted a two-year-old cat.

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Compound adjectives - Exceptions

Note that combining an adverb and an adjective does not create a compound adjective. No hyphen is required because it is already clear that the adverb modifies the adjective rather than the subsequent noun. For example:
  1. It was a terribly hot day.
  2. It is an amazingly good idea.
In addition, you should not place a hyphen in a compound adjective if the adjectives are capitalized, such as when they are part of a title.

Examples of compound adjectives

  1. This is a four-foot table.
  2. Daniella is a part-time worker.
  3. This is an all-too-common error.
  4. Beware of the green-eyed monster.
  5. He is a cold-blooded man.
  6. I love this brightly-lit room!
  7. He is an obedient and well-behaved dog.
  8. You have to be open-minded about things.

Compound adjective exercises

1. From each group, choose the sentence that contains a compound adjective:
  1. Sheila was horribly moody.
  2. We’d like you to be part of the decision-making process.
  3. The company showed steady improvement in their stock trades.
  1. This is a widely used procedure for finishing wood floors.
  2. Moths ate his woolen socks.
  3. That was really generous of you.
  1. Sharon’s adopted son is five years old today.
  2. My new car has leather upholstery.
  3. She was a well-known actress by the time she reached age five.

Answers:B, A, C

2. Using hyphens in compound adjectives: Which sentences are correct?
  1. The group was full of rowdy 10 year old schoolboys.
  2. The group was full of rowdy 10-year-old schoolboys.
  1. The actress is well known.
  2. The actress is well-known.
  1. They enjoyed a three-year profit streak.
  2. They enjoyed a three-year-profit streak.

Answers:B, A, A

3. Using –ly adverbs in compound adjectives: Which sentences are correct?
  1. Along the river, rapidly increasing floodwaters caused evacuations.
  2. Along the river, rapidly-increasing floodwaters caused evacuations.
  1. My neighbor Jim is an internationally recognized author.
  2. My neighbor Jim is an internationally-recognized author.
  1. The bank robbers tried to hatch their ill conceived plan and failed.
  2. The bank robbers tried to hatch their ill-conceived plan and failed.

Answers:A, A, B

4. Choose the correct compound adjective for each sentence.
  1. He is fond of ______________________ Scotch.
    • good
    • 12-year-old
    • 10 year old
  2. The weather has been ___________________ lately.
    • terribly-cold
    • terribly cold
    • too cold
  3. Babysitting these kids is like trying to manage a _____________________.
    • three ring circus
    • three-ring-circus
    • three-ring circus

Answers: A – 12-year-old B – terribly cold C – three-ring circus

5. Fill in the blanks with the best compound adjective for the situation:
  1. Melanie has everything she needs. She is _____________________.
    • two-faced
    • very badly behaved
    • well-cared for
  2. Louis overcomes difficulties easily. He is _______________________.
    • short-tempered
    • level-headed
    • internationally renowned
  3. Mr. Chan likes to hear about new ideas. He is ______________________.
    • strong-minded
    • two faced
    • open-minded

Answers: A – well-cared for B – level-headed C – open-minded

6. Fill in the blanks with the best phrase for the situation:
  1. Jesse was promoted, so he bought ________________________________.
    • himself-a brand new car
    • himself a brand-new-car
    • himself a brand-new car
  2. The _______________________ has been going on for decades.
    • gun control debate
    • gun-control debate
    • gun-control-debate
  3. The sound of ___________________________ always soothes my mind.
    • gently-flowing water
    • gently flowing water
    • gently-flowing-water

Answers: A – himself a brand-new car B – gun-control debate C – gently flowing water

7. Creating compound adjectives: From each group, choose the sentence pair that makes the most sense.
  1. I don’t like glue that dries slowly. = This is a quick-drying glue.
  2. Did you know that some plants eat meat? = Did you know that there are meat-eating plants?
  3. Professor Brown has a very narrow mind. = Professor Brown’s mind is very narrow.
  1. The price of the car was high. = It was a high-priced car.
  2. The meal tasted good. = This was a tasteful-meal.
  3. He likes to weigh in on political issues. = He is loud-mouthed and boring.
  1. The tapeworm measured 35 inches. = The tape-worm measured 35-inches.
  2. The duck has flat feet. = That’s a flat-footed duck.
  3. Why not try some carrot juice? = Have some carrot-juice.

Answers:B – meat-eating plants A – high-priced car B – flat-footed duck

8. Compound adjectives containing numbers: From each group, choose the sentence containing the correct compound adjective.
  1. The earthworms were at least three inches long.
  2. He ate a 12-inch sandwich for lunch.
  3. The sumo champion weighed 210-kilograms.
  1. He drives a one-ton truck.
  2. Our house has three-bedrooms and two-bathrooms.
  3. There are nine-carrots in each bottle of juice.
  1. My new chainsaw cost three-hundred dollars.
  2. I got a 300-dollar chainsaw for two hundred dollars.
  3. The best chainsaws cost more than three-hundred-dollars.

Answers:B – 12-inch sandwich A – one-ton truck B – 300-dollar chainsaw

9. Use the underlined phrase to make a compound adjective.
  1. He suggested an innovative plan to save money.
  2. Her brother had a sharp mind.
  3. My cat died suddenly when it was ten years old.


  1. He suggested an innovative money-saving plan.
  2. Her brother was sharp-minded.
  3. My ten-year-old cat died suddenly.