Let's take an up-close look at compound nouns so you can recognize them when you see them, plus you’ll find some compound noun examples that will help you use them effectively. Compound nouns are hybrids made up of two or sometimes more words combined to make one single noun. Creating new words from old is very common in English and we have an array of different types, although the most common way is to put two nouns together.
There are three forms for compound nouns:
Open or Spaced - There is a space between the words. e.g. tennis racket
Hyphenated - There is a hyphen between the words. e.g. part-time
Closed or Solid - There is no space or hyphen between the words. e.g. bathroom
1. Here are some examples of compound nouns:
Noun + noun (these are the most common)
housewife, suitcase, seafood, headache, motorcycle, travel agency, shop window
When two nouns are used together, the first noun functions as an adjective and describe the second noun.
Sometimes three or more occur together:
a company credit card
Noun + er (noun or verb)
housekeeper, backwater, screwdriver
Noun + verb(-ing)
scuba diving, window shopping, film-making, rainfall, earthquake
income, output, bypass, outbreak
Adjective + noun
greenhouse, whiteboard, software
Verb(-ing) + noun
swimsuit, driving licence, breakfast, washing machine, swimming pool
Three word compounds
Verb + preposition
check-out, check in, log in, breakthrough, printout
2. Making compound nouns plural:
Most compound nouns follow the normal convention.
suitcases, swimsuits, housewives, bypasses
Where compounds end in the prepositions by or on the first word is made plural:
Where compounds have three parts the first word is made plural (if this word is the defining word):
sisters-in-law but washing-up-liquids
When compound nouns are used with a number in expressions of measurement, the first noun is singular:
a three-hour journey
a four-day week
Two 14-year-old girls
a twenty-page letter
3. Compound nouns and spoken stress:
Compound nouns normally have the spoken stress on the first part:
CAR park, BATHroom, WEBsite, BROther-in-law, DOORbell, CHECK-in
However, not all compound nouns follow this rule. Some have spoken stress on the second part, especially in proper names and titles:
So remember that a good learner’s dictionary will always tell you where to put the stress...
And last but not least, have a look at this example:
a 'greenhouse = a building made of glass where we grow plants (compound noun) stress on the first syllable.
a green 'house = a house which is painted green (adjective and noun) stress on the second word.