Easy Learning English

Compound nouns - Easy Learning Grammar

A compound noun is a noun that is formed from two or more words. The meaning of the whole compound is often different from the meaning of the two words on their own. Compound nouns are very common. The main noun is normally the last one.
washing machinedriving licence
self-controlCD burner
Compound nouns are commonly formed from the following word combinations:
  • noun + noun,
  • verb + noun,
  • adjective + noun,
  • phrasal verb used as noun,
  • particle + noun.
noun + noun:boyfriendskinhead
verb + noun:breakfastgrindstone
adjective + noun:softwarehardware
phrasal verb:a break-ina take-over
particle + noun:onlookeraftershave
The term particle is used for a word which could be either an adverb or a preposition.
Compound nouns can be written:
  • as one word.
  • as two words.
post officefire engine
eye shadowcough sweets
  • with a hyphen.
Consult a dictionary to discover how the word is normally written. There are often alternative forms to be found, for example, drop down menu, drop-down menu, and dropdown menu are all currently acceptable forms of the same compound noun.

Nouns as modifiers

The compound noun girlfriend names a special sort of friend. Nouns can also be used as modifiers without forming a compound noun.
a concrete slabold oak beams
a car mechanica store manager
A noun that is used as a modifier has the same function as an adjective. The first noun usually makes the second one more specific, but we do not think of it as part of a combination that forms a new word. See Adjectives for more on modifiers.

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