Nouns: Compound Nouns, Noun Phrases - Английский язык с Марией Батхан.

Nouns: Compound Nouns, Noun Phrases

Nouns: Compound Nouns, Noun Phrases

A compound noun usually consists of two parts: the first noun indicates what class of things the second one belongs to. The first noun is typically used in the singular form:


a street lamp

a dog food

a landing strip


However, there are several occasions when the first noun can be used in plural.


with the nouns that are always plural:


a clothes shop

a pyjamas party

a glasses rim


when we talk about an institution (a department, an industry):


a sales department

a road materials industry

a concrete components institution


Pay attention to the fact that the second noun becomes plural if we need to use the compound noun in plural:


door bells

garden statues


Types of compound nouns



There are situations when we can’t use the noun+noun structure. In this case, we need to use a noun + ‘s + noun:


when the first noun is the user of the second noun:


the wife’s car, a baby’s rocking horse, a child’s playpen, a girls’ room


when the item described by the second noun is produced by the object described by the first one:


goat’s cheese, cow’s milk, bird’s eggs


when we talk about body parts of people and animals:


a baby’s foot, a woman’s hand, a dog’s nose


Hyphens in compound nouns


A compound noun needs a hyphen when it consists of a verb and an adverb (to show that the adverb is linked with the compound rather than any other elements of the sentence): sign-off, shake-out, stake-out:


You are charged one dollar at the sign-up to check if your credit card can proceed with a transaction.


If a compound noun consists of a verb as the second element and is preceded by a noun consisting of more than one syllable, this compound noun is either hyphenated or presented as two words: cabinet-maker, boiler-maker, cauliflower grower, sheep farmer.

In this case, you will need to check in your dictionary whether a hyphen is needed or not.


I think we need to hire a market-maker to trade our shares in order to launch the product.


Careless drivers are dangerous for all road users.


It’s a challenge for a dairy farmer not to run out of silage.


She’s a truly talented speech-maker.


You should hyphenate expressions in which each element has equal status, and expressions in which the elements rhyme: owner-driver, city-state, philosopher-king, hocus-pocus.


Most individual owner-operators never apply for a policy of insurance.


Some people treat medicine as a hocus-pocus.


A new bar-restaurant has started up at the corner.


If an adjective + noun compound acts as a modifier (used as an adjective), a hyphen is required: middle-class neighborhood, high-quality boots, fire-proof jacket.


We are currently working on building a future-proof PC.


She’s been diagnosed with a low-stage tumor.


You can make high-risk investments only if you are ready to lose your money at any moment.


If a participle + noun or noun + participle compound is used as an adjective, a hyphen is also required: a swimming-suit sale, an English-speaking friend.


There is a running-shoe sale at the mall.


It’s a rocking-chair cushion. I need it to reduce my back pain.


He is a trouble-making type.


Compound nouns that consist of a noun + participle (in any order) are to be hyphenated when they are used as an adjective: a garden-filled city, cutting-edge methods. In other cases, no hyphens are needed.


All drug-tested patients are required to stay in hospital until the results are provided.


All the patients admitted to hospital must be drug tested.


A compound noun that has three or more words may either be hyphenated or not: editor in chief, base on balls, give-and-take, good-for-nothing, know-it-all, justice of the peace, jack-of-all-trades, pick-me-up, stick-to-itiveness.


She is an I-will-never-call-you-back girl.


Your visit was a jack-in-the-box for me.


Every compound noun should either be memorized or checked with a dictionary.