Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  1. identify  compound nouns.
  2. distinguish  among the three types of compound nouns
  3. write compound nouns correctly
  4. say and write the plural forms of given compound  nouns

What is a compound  noun?

A compound  noun is a noun that is made up  of two  or more words.   For example, the words  ‘football’,  head  teacher’,  ‘Director-General,  and  ‘father-in-law’  are  compound nouns.  Football  is  a  compound  noun because  it consists of two  parts  ‘foot’ and  ‘ball’Head  teacher is a compound noun because it consists of two parts ‘head’ and ‘teacher’. Now, tell me: what are the two parts contained  in the compound  noun director-general?

Remember,  that  I  said  that  a  compound  noun  is  made up  of two  or more words.  This means that a compound noun may consist of three parts as we have it in the word father- in-law. Thus the compound noun father-in-law is made up of three parts. These are father, in, and law. So, there are different  types of compound  nouns.

Types of compound  nouns

There are three main types of compound nouns. First of all, there are those that are written together  as  a  single  word.  Examples  of compound  nouns  that  are  written  together  as a single word include headmaster, haircut, and bedroom. These compound nouns are called single word compound nouns. Secondly, some compound nouns are separated in writing. Examples  of compound  nouns  that  are  written  as  separate  words include  head  teacher, high  school,  and  Cape  Coast.  These  compound  nouns  are  called  separated  words compound   nouns.  Finally,  some  compound  nouns  are  written  as  hyphenated  words. Examples  of  compound  nouns  that  are  hyphenated  include  director-general,  mother-in- law,  and  officer-in-charge.  These  compound  nouns  are  called  hyphenated  compound nouns. The section below focuses on single  word compound  nouns.

1.   Single word compound nouns

Single  word  compound  nouns  are  written  together  as  single  words;  they  are  neither separated nor hyphenated. So we say, single word compound nouns are expressed as a single  word.

In writing the compound noun headmaster, the two parts head and master are written together as a single word: headmaster. In the same vein, in writing the compound noun haircut, the two parts hair and cut are written together as a single word: haircut. The compound   noun  bedroom   is  also   written  as  a  single  word.   Other  examples  of compound  nouns  that  are written  together  as  a  single  word  are  listed  below.  Write them in your exercise book.

schoolgirl
breakfast
schoolboy
clubhouse
houseboy
football
tablecloth
laptop
notebooktextbookworkbookfootwear
blackboardnoticeboardbillboarddashboard
cupboard
hotplate
armchair
scratchpad
wingchair
software
wheelchair
hardware
policeman
aircraft
spokesperson
sweetheart
bookshelf
girlfriend
mouthpiece
boyfriend

The  compound  nouns  in  the  sentences  below  have  been  underlined.  Observe  how  the compound  nouns have been used in the sentences below.

1.   Is break fast ready?

2.   We need new textbooks for English.

3.   Mansa is still sleeping in her bedroom.

4.   Are you going to have a new haircut today?

5.   Where do you want us to have our break fast?

6.   We agreed to have our meeting at the clubhouse.

7.   When I went there, the boys were playing football.

8.   Our new headmaster is really assertive and dynamic.

9.   Mr Adams took to his heels when he saw the policeman.

10. The results have been published on the school noticeboard.

Compound nouns that are written as a single word are often referred to as closed or solid compound  nouns. The section below focuses on separate words compound nouns.

2.   Separate words compound nouns

The second  category of compound nouns are those that are written as separate words They  are  neither  hyphenated  nor  written  together  as  a  single  word.  Examples  of compound nouns that are written as separate words include head teacher, high school, and Cape Coast.

In  writing  the  compound  noun  head  teacher,  the  two  parts  head  and  teacher  are separated: head teacher. In the same vein, in writing the compound noun high school, the two  parts high and school are separated: high school. The compound noun Cape Coast is also separated in writing. Other examples of compound nouns that are written as separate words have been listed  below. Write them in your exercise book.

first lady
pen drive
office girl
flash disk
air conditioner
fluorescent tube
ground floor
house girl
first floor
high street
swimming pool
storey building
dining hallwater tankwashing machine
school prefectbus stopdriving licence

The  compound  nouns  in  the  sentences  below  have  been  underlined.  Observe  how  the compound  nouns have been used in the sentences below. 

1.   The water tank is empty.

2.   The pastor lives on the first floor.

3.   We admire our head teacher so much.

4.   Do you have a swimming pool at home?

5.   Adams was punished by the school prefect.

6.   I had my high school education at Begoro

7.   There is a public university in Cape Coast.

8.   Do you want me to wait for you at the bus stop?

9.   Our head teacher attended high school in Cape Coast..

10. The visitor waited on the ground floor for thirty minutes.

3.   Hyphenated compound nouns

As  you  have been hinted  earlier,  some compound  nouns are  hyphenated.  Hyphenated compound  nouns  are  not separated  in  writing,  neither  are  they  written  together as a single word.  They are hyphenated.  This means that the two or three parts forming the compound  are  brought  together  by  the  use  of  a  hyphen.  A  hyphen  is  one  of the punctuation  marks  used  in  English.  You  will learn  the  uses  of the hyphen in another lesson.  Examples  of hyphenated compound  nouns  are  dining-table,  director-general, and officer-in-charge.

In writing the compound noun dining-table, the two parts dining and table are joined together  by  the  use  of  a  hyphen: dining-table.  In  the  same  vein,  in  writing  the compound  noun  director-general,  the  two  parts  director  and  general  are joined together  by  the  use  of  a  hyphen:  director-general.  The  compound  noun  officer-in- charge  is written with two  hyphens because the compound is made up of three parts. Other examples of hyphenated compound nouns have been listed below. Write them in your exercise book.

director-general                           dining-table                            son-in-law

attorney-generalhunger-onfather-in-law
governor-general
inspector-general
refresher-course
daughter-in-law
mother-in-law
sisterinlaw
commander-in-chiefofficer-in-chargebrother-in-law

The  compound  nouns  in  the  sentences  below  have  been  underlined.  Observe  how  the compound  nouns have been used in the sentences below.

  1. The young man was just a passer-by.
  2. Mrs Grace Annan is my mother-in-law.
  3. There is a twelve-year-old boy in my class.
  4. Can I see the officer-in-charge of this unit?
  5. This dining-table is too small for my family.
  6. His sister-in-law wants works in the States.
  7. Do you know the inspector-general of police?
  8. The responsibilities of the attorney-general are enormous.
  9. The governor-general ordered the release of all the prisoners.
  10. The new director-general has outlined strategies for stepping-up performance.

 The  correct  spelling  of  the  compound  words  listed  below have  been  underlined. Observe them carefully.

  1.A headmasterB head-masterC head master
2.drumstickdrum-stickdrum stick
3.fireflyfire-flyfire fly
4.commanderinchiefcommander-in-c hie fcommander  in chief
5.headteacherhead-teacherhead teacher
6.shellfishshell-fishshell fish
7.swimmingpoolswimming-poolswimming  pool
8.busstopbus-stopbus stop
9.seaweedsea-weedsea weed
10.tenyearoldten-year-oldten year old

Plural of compound  nouns

There  are  two  main  ways  by  which  the  plural of compound  nouns  may be formed. Firstly,  the last word  in the compound  is changed to its plural form. For example, the plural of bottleneck  is bottlenecks.  The last word  in the compound  is changed to its plural.  Secondly,  the  more important or the  most important word  of the compound  is changed to its plural form. For example, the plural form of water tank is water tanks. Let us look at how compound  nouns form the plural in some detail.

1.   The plural form of one-word compound nouns

The plurals of compound nouns that are written as one word are formed by changing the last word in the compound to its correct plural form.  For example:

Singular                      plural

bottleneck       –          bottlenecks

 grandchild      –          grandchildren

 sidewalk          –          sidewalks

 hotplate          –          hotplates

 cupful             –          cupfuls

 cowboy           –          cowboys

2.   The plural form of separate words compound nouns

The plural form of compound nouns that are written as separate words are formed by changing the  more important or the most important word of the compound to its plural form.  For example:

Singular                                 plural

head of school            –          heads of school

head of state               –          heads of state

head teacher               –          head teachers 

high school                 –          high schools 

swimming pool           –          swimming pools

head of department    –          heads of department

rule of thumb              –          rules of thumb

3.   The plural form of hyphenated compound nouns

The  plurals  of  compound  nouns  that  are  hyphenated  are  formed  by  changing  the  most important  word of the compound  noun to its correct plural form.  For example:

Singular                                 Plural

father-in-law               –          fathers-in-law 

mother-in-law             –          mothers-in-law 

brother-in-law            –          brothers-in-law 

sister-in-law                –          sisters-in-law 

step-son                      –          step-sons

inspector-general       –          inspectors-general 

attorney-general    –     attorneys-general 

director-general    –     directors-general 

governor-general       –          governors-general

Summary

  1. A compound noun is a noun that is made up of two or more words.
  2. There are three main types of compound nouns: those that are written together as a single  word; those that are separated in writing;  and those that are hyphenated.
  3. The  plurals  of  compound  nouns  that  are  written  as  one  word  are  formed  by changing  the last word in the compound  to its correct plural form.
  4. The plurals of compound nouns that are written as separate words or hyphenated are  formed  by  changing  the  most  important  word  of the  compound  to  its  plural form.

CONTENT CONSULTANTS

Author

John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.

Peer Reviewers

Modestus Fosu, Ph.D. 

Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil. 

William  Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.