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Compound Adjectives with Examples

What are Compound Adjectives?

Compound AdjectivesWell, a compound is when two things are joined together to make a greater unit. Normal adjectives are simply words that describe things so, for example, when we say something is nice, horrible, expensive, cheap, hot, cold, delicious, and so forth that is an adjective. So compound adjectives are slightly different in that they consist of two words.

One of the most famous examples of a compound adjective is good looking. It consists of two separate words i.e. “good” and “looking” but has one meaning: someone who has an attractive appearance. Compound adjectives are often hyphenated; a hyphen is a line separating two words that together make a compound adjective.

English is replete with compound adjectives and they enrich this language.

Examples include the following:


This means something is so delicious that it makes your mouth salivate at the prospect of eating it. It can also be applied to things other than food. For example in sport, television commentators may speak of a “mouth-watering” prospect of two great teams playing in a match which will enthral spectators.


This means when something makes us nervous or fills us with suspense that we literally bite our nails as some people do at times when they are extremely excited and nervous. As with the previous example of “mouth-watering” it can be used in a sports context amongst others.


When something, for example a book or a film, stimulates us into thinking or pondering deeper over a subject, then that very thing can be said to be thought-provoking.


Compound adjectives are often used to shorten sentences and can be seen in newspaper and magazine articles.
Let’s look at the following example:

“Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in Austria and is an actor who is famous all over the world that lives in California which is in the USA- a country where the English language is spoken”.

Now let’s replace it with compound adjectives.
“World-famous, Austrian-born, California-based actor Arnold Schwarzenegger lives in the English-speaking USA”.

We have reduced the word count from 34 words in the first example to 11 in the second. This can be quite useful when a journalist has to fit his article into a specific allocated number of words or sentences in a magazine or an editor has to try and fit it in appropriately to other articles on a page by shortening it.

Compound adjectives and other compounds such as compound nouns (nouns made of two words e.g. driving license, identity card) are a feature of the English language and one of its significant qualities distinguishing it from other languages.

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