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A compound adjective is an adjective which is made up of two parts and is usually written with a hyphen, e.g. Well-dressed, never-ending and shocking-pink. Its meaning is usually clear from the words it combines. The second part of the compound adjective is frequently a present or past participle.
A large number of compound adjectives used to describe personal appearance or character normally consist of the following patterns:
- Adjective or Number + Noun-ed
- Adjective + Present Participle
- Adjective or Adverb + Past Participle
- David proved to be a two-faced hypocrite.
- She is a blonde, blue-eyed girl.
- Your colleague is a very good-looking man.
- Lizzie is a well-behaved little girl.
Another set of compound adjectives describe something precisely, such as height, weight, length, distance or duration.
The first part of the adjective indicates the amount (e.g. Three) and the second indicates the unit (e.g. Pound, mile), which is always in the singular. E.g.
- A five-mile walk; a six-foot man; a four-hour movie.
There are other patterns for forming compound adjectives:
- Noun + Past Participle e.g. A home-made cake
- Noun + Adjective e.g. A trouble-free car
- Adjective + Noun e.g. Present-day America
- Noun + Present Participle e.g. A mouth-watering aroma