adjective compounds

examples of adjective compounds

English has a large number of adjective compounds, which function as adjectives. A number of these compounds combine an adjective and a word from any of various parts of speech, as exemplified below.

  • grayish-blue → adjective + adjective
  • big-name → adjective + noun
  • street-smart → noun + adjective

Adjective compounds are also formed with past participles (clean-shaven) and present participle (best-selling). The process of compounding two nouns (glass-bottom) and a noun + participle (world-renowned, community-planning) is highly productive and is used particularly in fiction and in news reports.

All of these adjective compounds function as attributive adjectives, as illustrated in the following examples.

  • He was driving a grayish-blue foreign sports car.
  • There were a number of big-name Hollywood producers at the party.
  • Mr. Stenson turned out to be a clean-shaven young man dressed in a white flannel suit.
  • They went for a short ride in a glass-bottom boat to a coral reef, where they saw differently colored coral and thousands of multicolored fish.
  • He is a world-renowned physicist.

Some of these adjective compounds are attributive-only adjectives, although others can also be used predicatively, in which case they are written as two words. The sentences in 1) exemplify the two types; only the compounds in 1a) and 1d) can be used predicatively.

  • 1a)  His foreign sports car is grayish blue.
  • 1b)  *The Hollywood producers were big name.
  • 1c)  *That boat is glass bottom.
  • 1d)  The physicist is world renowned.