Compound Adjectives

What are Compound Adjectives?

Compound adjectives are an important part of the English language, allowing us to express highly specific emotions and ideas in a concise form. They are formed by combining two or more single-word adjectives together, often with a hyphen to separate them.

Used correctly, compound adjectives create vivid descriptions that can make any piece of writing come alive. For example, “salt-and-pepper hair” gives a much clearer image than simply using one word alone. From “state-of-the-art” to “barefoot”, compound adjectives give us many creative ways to communicate our thoughts and feelings – and understanding how to use them properly is an essential skill for all writers.

Compound Adjectives Rules

Learning these four critical rules when using Compound Adjectives will help communication become clearer and easier.

Equal weightAdjectives should be of equal weight or importance. For example, you wouldn’t say “a very big and large house.”
Same FormAdjectives should be in the same form. For example, you wouldn’t say “a very big and large houses.”
Same CategoryAdjectives should be in the same category. For example, you wouldn’t say “a very cold and hot day.”
PlacementIf compound adjectives are made up of an adjective and a noun, the order usually goes adjective + noun. For example, you would say “a world-renowned chef,” not “a renowned world chef.”
Compound Adjectives Rules and Explanations Table
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Examples of Compound Adjectives

Compound adjectives are two or more words that act as a single adjective to modify a noun. Some compound adjectives are composed of two words, while others consist of more than two words.

Examples of compound adjectives include:

  • Well-known
  • High-speed
  • Old-fashioned
  • Quick-witted
  • Light-hearted
  • Loud-mouthed

Compound adjectives can also include hyphens between the words or not depending on the context in which it is used. For example, if you refer to ‘a low power motor’ it would be hyphenated but if you referred to ‘a computer with low power’ the compound adjective would not include a hyphen. Needless to say, compound adjectives add flavour and a great level of detail to your writing!

Compound Adjectives Exercises with Answers


“It was __ when my dog passed away”

“This salad bar is __!”

“The Arctic is cold, large, and __.”

“I took a trip on a __ train.”

“I’m an __ officer.”


“It was heart-wrenching when my dog passed away.”

“This salad bar is top-notch!”

“The Arctic is cold, large, and far-reaching.”

“I took a trip on a high-speed train.”

“I’m an off-duty officer.”

Compound Adjectives List

high-endIndicates something is of high quality or price.
fast-pacedIndicates something is happening quickly.
well-madeIndicates something was produced well.
mid-rangeIndicates that something is accessible.
heavy-dutyIndicates the opposite of weak.
long-runningIndicates a lot of time for something.
well-behavedIndicates good actions or values.
Compound Adjectives List Table
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Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

ESL students and English language learners should compound adjectives to sound more natural when speaking English. By compound adjectives, we mean two or more words that act as a single adjective to describe a noun. For example, the compound adjective “hard-working” describes someone who works hard. Compound adjectives are often hyphenated, but not always. For example, the compound adjective “good looking” is often written as one word. Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand Descriptive Adjectives and Types of Adjectives.

Common Mistakes Made by English Learners

Learning English is a difficult feat. Making compound adjectives out of two simple ones is particularly challenging for even advanced English learners, as the placement and order of words can be tricky. Compound adjectives are often misused by mistakenly inverting the order, leading to confusion and frustrating mistakes in contexts that demand accuracy. Just remember that a compound adjective includes “hyphenated words”; if you use them correctly, you’ll sound like an English expert!

When writing, it’s important to understand how to effectively and accurately use adjectives. While adjectives can help you describe things in more detail, if used incorrectly they can cause confusion or lead readers astray. Here are four common mistakes many writers make when using adjectives:

Common Mistakes:

1. Incorrect Tense

Why it Happens

Not having a firm grasp on correct tense usage can confuse your statements. This can cause you to use the wrong adjectives and misconstrue your message.

Correct Use

When speaking in the present simple tense, you would use an adjective that reflects current habits and routines. Keep tense in mind when selecting your adjectives.

2. Lack of Compounds

Why it Happens

The first mistake is leaving out compound adjectives when needed. Failing to use these compound phrases can lead others to misinterpret what you are trying to express.

Correct Use

Compound adjectives join two words to accurately describe something – for example, ‘a well-known actress’ or a ‘tidy little package’.

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3. Inconsistency

Why it Happens

People forget how they described something before and change the context in a contradictory manner. This confuses the reader.

Correct Use

Be sure that your adjectives remain consistent throughout your writing. There should be no sudden shifts from ‘dark brown’ to ‘light tan’ unless there was a clear shift in the thing being described.

4. Incorrect Usage

Why it Happens

You don’t know which adjectives to use, so you use too many and it confuses the statement.

Correct Use

Using too many adjectives can make your writing sound monotonous and can also lead to viewers losing interest. Therefore it is important to focus on expressing yourself clearly and effectively with them.

Tips to Avoid Common Mistakes:

When it comes to compound adjectives, one of the most common mistakes is forgetting to hyphenate them. For non-native English speakers, compound adjectives can be tricky because they often vary depending on the style guide you’re using. Fortunately, there are several tips you can use to avoid common compound adjective mistakes.

  • First, use a dictionary or grammar guide if you’re unsure about something.
  • Second, double-check for hyphens before submitting work – compound adjectives with too few or too many hyphens can make your writing look sloppy and unprofessional.
  • Finally, take some time to review compound adjective examples in both academic and professional contexts so that you can become more comfortable and familiar with this aspect of grammar.

Through careful attention to compound adjectives and practice, you should be able to avoid mistake-ridden writing in no time!

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Learning Compound Adjectives Strategies and Best Practices

One of the best ways to learn compound adjectives is to see them in action. Read as much as you can and take note of how they are used. Then, try using them yourself in conversation and writing. experiment with different word orders and placements to see what sounds best. Also, don’t be afraid to make up your own compound adjectives! The more you use them, the more natural they will become. Keep reading for more useful tips:

Tip 1: Study a List

Why it helps

Learning the various forms and using them properly in speaking and writing is easier than it seems with daily practice. A list can simplify this process and make it seem less daunting.

Daily Life Example

The best way to learn to use adjectives correctly is to study a list of adjectives and their usages, and then practice writing sentences with them.

Tip 2: Practice Reading

Why it helps

Exposing yourself to adjectives hidden between other words can help you identify them faster and with more accuracy.

Daily Life Example

To ensure that you understand how frequently an adjective should be used it’s important to practice reading with them as well, so the meanings become clear. So keep a book of your choice on hand and highlight every adjective you come across.

Tip 3: Everyday Conversations

Why it helps

By applying the adjectives exercise to everyday conversations, you’ll find these words easy to remember and use in the near future.

Daily Life Example

Take your time when speaking to people. Take note of the adjectives they use, and try and repeat them back in different contexts. You can also do this from the comfort of your home by recording yourself or using an AI assistant.

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Compound Adjectives Frequently Asked Questions

Compound nouns are an important part of language, as they allow us to communicate complex ideas concisely. Compound nouns contain at least two words that have been combined together to create a new word or phrase. Examples of compound nouns include:

Adjective rules are simple. First, an array of compound words are typically linked with hyphens,- though when writing compound adjectives with proper nouns hyphens aren’t necessary. For instance, “Washington-based company” can be written as “Washington-based company.”

Second, when two compound words contain the same root word they should each be treated individually, without being joined together. As an example: “well-crafted tale” is correctly written; however, “well craftedtale” is not correct and should be avoided.

No matter how compound proper adjectives are constructed – single word, hyphenated or double-barreled – what’s most important is to maintain accuracy and clarity for readers so that ideas can be effectively communicated.

Hyphenated adjectives, also referred to as compound modifiers, are phrases made up of more than one word that describes a noun. They usually consist of two words connected by a hyphen, for example: well-known, hard-working and easy-to-use. Hyphenated adjectives are essential in the English language when trying to express an idea or thought and can be used in different forms depending on their use within a sentence.

When used correctly, these temporary compound modifiers help to make structures more interesting and fun to read. They can also make difficult concepts easier to break down and explain. This is especially true if separated by quotation marks in a phrase-heavy sentence. 

Compound adjectives are formed when two or more words are used together to modify a noun. An example of a compound adjective sentence is “She has an easy-going personality”. The compound adjective used in the sentence is “easy-going”, which consists of hyphens in compound adjectives joining the two.

Compound predicate adjectives can be extremely helpful in making sentences more descriptive and creating vivid imagery for all ages of people.

The three main types of compound words are compound nouns, compound verbs, and compound adjectives. Compound nouns are formed when two nouns join together to form one word with a different meaning, such as ‘eyeball’ or ‘bedroom’.

Compound verbs are created by linking two verb phrases in order to express an action in a concise manner, like ‘switch off’ or ‘time period’. Lastly, attributive compound adjectives are combinations of single-word adjectives that create a descriptive phrase such as ‘purple-blue’, ‘long-lasting’, or ‘absent-minded person’.

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