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:
- Diana submitted a 6-page document.
- 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:
- It was a terribly hot day.
- 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
- This is a four-foot table.
- Daniella is a part-time worker.
- This is an all-too-common error.
- Beware of the green-eyed monster.
- He is a cold-blooded man.
- I love this brightly-lit room!
- He is an obedient and well-behaved dog.
- You have to be open-minded about things.
Compound adjective exercises
1. From each group, choose the sentence that contains a compound adjective:
- Sheila was horribly moody.
- We’d like you to be part of the decision-making process.
- The company showed steady improvement in their stock trades.
- This is a widely used procedure for finishing wood floors.
- Moths ate his woolen socks.
- That was really generous of you.
- Sharon’s adopted son is five years old today.
- My new car has leather upholstery.
- 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?
- The group was full of rowdy 10 year old schoolboys.
- The group was full of rowdy 10-year-old schoolboys.
- The actress is well known.
- The actress is well-known.
- They enjoyed a three-year profit streak.
- They enjoyed a three-year-profit streak.
Answers:B, A, A
3. Using –ly adverbs in compound adjectives: Which sentences are correct?
- Along the river, rapidly increasing floodwaters caused evacuations.
- Along the river, rapidly-increasing floodwaters caused evacuations.
- My neighbor Jim is an internationally recognized author.
- My neighbor Jim is an internationally-recognized author.
- The bank robbers tried to hatch their ill conceived plan and failed.
- 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.
- He is fond of ______________________ Scotch.
- 10 year old
- The weather has been ___________________ lately.
- terribly cold
- too cold
- Babysitting these kids is like trying to manage a _____________________.
- 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:
- Melanie has everything she needs. She is _____________________.
- very badly behaved
- well-cared for
- Louis overcomes difficulties easily. He is _______________________.
- internationally renowned
- Mr. Chan likes to hear about new ideas. He is ______________________.
- two faced
Answers: A – well-cared for B – level-headed C – open-minded
6. Fill in the blanks with the best phrase for the situation:
- Jesse was promoted, so he bought ________________________________.
- himself-a brand new car
- himself a brand-new-car
- himself a brand-new car
- The _______________________ has been going on for decades.
- gun control debate
- gun-control debate
- The sound of ___________________________ always soothes my mind.
- 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.
- I don’t like glue that dries slowly. = This is a quick-drying glue.
- Did you know that some plants eat meat? = Did you know that there are meat-eating plants?
- Professor Brown has a very narrow mind. = Professor Brown’s mind is very narrow.
- The price of the car was high. = It was a high-priced car.
- The meal tasted good. = This was a tasteful-meal.
- He likes to weigh in on political issues. = He is loud-mouthed and boring.
- The tapeworm measured 35 inches. = The tape-worm measured 35-inches.
- The duck has flat feet. = That’s a flat-footed duck.
- 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.
- The earthworms were at least three inches long.
- He ate a 12-inch sandwich for lunch.
- The sumo champion weighed 210-kilograms.
- He drives a one-ton truck.
- Our house has three-bedrooms and two-bathrooms.
- There are nine-carrots in each bottle of juice.
- My new chainsaw cost three-hundred dollars.
- I got a 300-dollar chainsaw for two hundred dollars.
- 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.
- He suggested an innovative plan to save money.
- Her brother had a sharp mind.
- My cat died suddenly when it was ten years old.
- He suggested an innovative money-saving plan.
- Her brother was sharp-minded.
- My ten-year-old cat died suddenly.