key_smallLet'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  

washing-up-liquid,  sister-in-law


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:

    passer-by     passers-by

    hanger-on    hangers-on

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:

Mount EVerest, 

Prime MINister,



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.