Understanding compound nouns forms

A compound noun is that noun that consists of two or more words which are combined to form a single unit. It can be written as a word (closed or solid), hyphenated, or written as two words (open or spaced).

This type of noun is formed by combining two nouns or different parts of speech. Some of them are: noun+noun, verb+noun, adjective+noun, preposition+noun, verb+preposition.


bow tie, website, shopkeeper, Iceland, basketball, willpower, firefighter, dishwasher, lifesaver, bus stop, toothpaste, farmhouse.

  1. The shopkeeper didn’t see the thief until he jumped through the window.
  2. A person from Iceland is an Icelander.
  3. Your willpower determines how far you go in life.



runway, breakwater, washing machine, swimming pool, dressing table.

  1. I saw the aircraft before the attack.
  2. Check the jeans pocket before putting it in the washing machine.
  3. Please, the swimming pool is not for children.



greenhouse, blackberry, hotplate, full moon, blackboard, small talk, hot tub.

  1. She planted a lot of roses in her greenhouse.
  2. The hotplate was the only appliance in his house.
  3. Not all Blackberry phones are expensive.



afterlife, underground, offspring.

  1. No one knows what happens in the afterlife.
  2. They took the dog’s offspring to another farmhouse.
  3. The underground is a railway system using electric trains.



breakdown, fallout, breakthrough

  1. There was a breakdown of law and order.
  2. They were evacuated after the radioactive fallout.
  3. The invention was a breakthrough for software engineers.


Plural forms

Most compound nouns have plural endings to convert them to plural words, e.g. hotplates, websites, swimming pools, dressing tables.

However, compound nouns such as brother-in-law and sister-in-law change to brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law respectively.

Also, afterlife is usually used in the singular form, and others such as offspring and aircraft do not change—their plural forms are same as singular.


Pronunciation (stress)

The stress placement that makes us pronounce a part of a word louder than the rest is usually on the first part of compound nouns, e.g. AFterlife, WEBsite, HOTplate, etc.

However, words such as South Africa, Prime Minister, Mount Everest are pronounced with stress on the second word as South AFrica, Prime MINister, Mount EVerest respectively.

In conclusion, good dictionaries tell us how to write, pluralise and pronounce compound nouns.

Let’s keep reading and learning.

Also read: Nouns types: getting the tricky parts right

Also read: Proper noun: understanding the complexities

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