Let us take a look in this lesson at compound adjectives.

They are short phrases made up of two or more words usually (but not always) with hythens between them.

An adjective is a describing word and it describes a person, animal, object, thing or place.


  1. They are formed in one of three ways by using the –ed ending or –ing ending of a verb or with the past participle of a verb
  2. 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.

It was a terribly hot day

It is an amazingly good idea

  1. A hyphen should not be placed in a compound adjective if the adjectives are capitalized such as when they are part of a title.
  2. Do not confuse compact adjectives with compound nouns (eg schoolteacher) or with short phrases joining an adjective and noun to create a noun phrase (pretty woman)
  3. Use a hyphen when the compound adjective comes before the noun it modifies but not when it comes after the noun

We walked into a brightly-lit room.

We walked into a room that was brightly lit (not hyphenated)

The Louvre is a world-famous museum.

The Louvre Museum is world famous.  (not hyphenated)

It was a gap-filling exercise.

The exercise was gap filling.

  1. Always remember that an adjective describes something identified by a noun even if the actual noun is not mentioned in the sentence or is replaced by a pronoun.

Let us look at three kind of common compound adjectives for

  1. Numbers
  2. Movies
  3. People, animals, places and general things



There’s a three-second delay

Let’s take a ten-minute break

She attended a two-hour seminar

He went on a five-day trek

We took a six-week holiday.

Cheating in the examination means one-month suspension

I have a two-year old contract with my cell phone provider

I have a eight-year-old son

We live a fifteenth-century cottage

My boss asked me to read a twenty-page report



 It was a thought-provoking political thriller.

The political thriller was thought provoking.

It was a heart-warming drama based on a true story.

The drama was heart-warming.

It was an award-winning adventure about survival in the wilderness.

The adventure film about survival in the wilderness was award winning.

It was certaimly an edge-of-your-seat blockbuster.

The blockbuster kept me on the edge of my seat.

It was a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy.

The comedy film made me laugh out loud.

It was a truly spine-chilling horror film.

The horror film was truly spine chilling.

The film was a far-fetched, action-packed drama about humans meeting an alien.

The film drama was far fetched and action packed.

It was an entertaining computer-generated cartoon film.

The entertaining cartoon film was computer-generated

NOTE – In the phrase ‘computer generated’, ‘computer’ is a noun and ‘computer-generated’ is NOT a compound noun but a NOUN PHRASE.

The actor gave a rip-roaring performance in the movie.

The actor’s performance in the movie was rip-roaring.

The performance of the actor in the movie was rip-roaring.



I have just bought a brand-new car.

My sister is a very short-sighted person.

I wear old-fashioned clothes.

You have to be open-minded about things in life today.

I live in a densely-populated country.

We should preserve deeply-rooted traditions from the past.

My wife thinks I am very good-looking

When it comes to public speaking, I get tongue-tied.

Would you like to be part of the decision-making process?  (noun phrase)

The decision will have far-reaching consequences.

I adore this brightly-lit room.

Donna is a part-time waitress.

Did you know that snakes were cold-blooded?

What a well-behaved child!

The Rio Carnival is a never-ending parade of floats.

The athlete gave a record-breaking performance.

My Mother is a kind-hearted woman.

Argentina is a Spanish-speaking country.

I like using time-saving devices.  (noun phrase)

J.K. Rowling is a well-known writer


That is more than enough for you the student to absorb and learn in this lesson.

Deciding whether to put a hyphen between two adjectives will make you hesitate after you see some of the written sentences above.

It is a general rule but NOT an absolute rule when the compound adjective follows the noun.

I suggest you look out the two lessons recently posted on the blog about Noun Phrases which compliment this lesson to understand about phrases within a sentence.

Happy Learning!



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