Compound nouns rules pdf

Compound nouns rules in English




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In English, to form compound names, two or more names are associated, which can be juxtaposed, joined or simply separated by a dash:

  • a bookshop 
  • a bread knife 
  • a beach towel 
  • a horse-race 
  • the city-centre 

There are also other constructions possible, but they are rarer: with a gerund (ing) + noun, a particle + noun, or a noun + particle:

  • a checkout 
  • winbdsurfing 

It’ss always the last element that bears the mark of the plural (with some exceptions). It is then necessary to add an -s to the last element:

  • a bus driver 
  • the bus drivers 
  • a toothbrush 
  • two toothbrushes 

There are a few exceptions:

  • a sports car 
  • a savings account 
  • a clothes shop 
  • a customs officer 


It is always the last noun that is the most important. The one or those which precede it play the role of adjective: they describe the last word.

  • a flower garden 
  • a garden flower 

A compound noun is used when the relationship between the two nouns is recognized as constant. The meaning of the relationship between nouns is diverse: place, use, material, cause, etc…

  • the town centre 
  • a stone bridge 

Be careful! We use noun + of + noun, and not a compound noun, to talk about a quantity of something.

  • a piece of cheese 
  • a slice of ham 
  • a box of matches 
  • a spoonful of honey 
  • a group of tourists 

Be careful to distinguish the container and content:

  • a glass of wine 
  • a wine glass 
  • a tea cup 
  • a cup of tea 

Some compound nouns have a particle at the end:

  • a take-off 
  • a close-up 
  • a passer-by 
  • a grown-up 
  • a breakdown
  • a handout 
  • a breakthrough 

The plural is formed by adding an -s to the particle:

  • breakdowns 
  • grown-ups 

The particle can sometimes be at the beginning of the compound noun (in these cases the plural is formed by adding -s to the last word):

  • an outbreak 
  • an oucast 
  • an overdose 
  • an income

Compound nouns are widely used in newspaper headlines and technical language. They sometimes have more than two elements:

  • An evening dress rental service 



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