vocabulary builder

Compound nouns

Compound nouns are a feature of the English language that Italian students have sometimes problem at recognizing and using appropriately. One of the most common mistakes I have noticed as a teacher in my students is the attempt to create compound nouns using the possessive case, which cannot be done in English.

A compound noun is a group of two or more nouns or adjectives which can be separate (computer programmer), joined by a hyphen (looking-glass) or are often joined as a single noun,  like “classroom“, or “underground“.

It is therefore important to know how they are formed, because in this way you will immediately understand what they mean and have no more problems in the future.

The easiest way to grasp the meaning of an unknown compound noun is to look for the last word in the chain, as it is that word says what the thing is. Here is a list of some compound nouns, most of which you already know. Have a look at them again just to notice the way in which they are built

airplane

birthday

waterfall

toothpaste

fingerprint

hourglass

sailing ship

monthly ticket

country house

shoe lace

day time

dinner time

working hour

birth date

four-wheel drive

middle-aged man

greenhouse effect

twenty-year-old

brother-in-law

Can you think of other compound nouns?

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