What is a compound noun?
Compound nouns are formed when we put two or more words together to form a noun.
Cupboard = cup + board
Classmate = class + mate
Sunrise = sun + rise
Swimming pool = swimming + pool
Pencil case = pencil + case
How many types of compound nouns are there?
There are three types of compound nouns. These are:
Closed compound nouns (no space between the words)
Hyphenated compound nouns (hyphen between the words)
Open compound nouns (space between the words)
Let’s now explore these in more detail!
What is a closed compound noun?
A closed compound noun is a noun that is made from two words, without using a space between them.
For example: ‘snowboard’.
Snowboard = snow + board
The words snow and board have been joined together to form a new word, with a different meaning to the words on their own.
‘Snowboard’ is an example of a closed compound noun.
This means that the words ‘snow’ and ‘board’ have been joined together with nothing in between.
Examples of closed compound nouns
There are two other types of compound nouns! Let’s explore these now.
What is a hyphenated compound noun?
Hyphenated compound nouns join together two or more words with a hyphen.
A hyphen is a small line that is placed in between two words to tell us that the hyphenated word has a different meaning to the individual words.
This is a hyphenated compound noun that combines the words ‘daughter’, ‘in’ and ‘law’.
Individually, these words have their own meaning. Together, as ‘daughter-in-law’, they form a new word that refers to the wife of someone’s son or daughter.
What is an open compound noun?
Open compound nouns are formed when two words are put together with a space in between them.
This type of noun is not joined together to form a new word, like closed compound nouns.
It is also not joined using a hyphen, like hyphenated compound nouns.
This open compound noun is formed using the words ‘ice’ and ‘cream’.
But notice how there is space between the words! It is incorrect to use ‘icecream’ or ‘ice-cream’.
Formed from the word ‘living’ and ‘room’, the open compound noun ‘living room’ refers to a particular type of room in a house.
We know that ‘living’ and ‘room’ on their own have different meanings to when they are put together.
The words ‘bus’ and ‘driver’ are combined to form the compound noun ‘bus driver’. Notice how there is no hyphen between these words.
How do we know if a word is an open compound noun?
If we are unsure if a noun is an open compound noun or not, there is a simple test that we can carry out.
We can take away one of the words from what we think may be an open compound noun.
If the noun that is left changes meaning, then we know that it is likely to be an open compound noun.
If we take away the word cream, we are left with just ‘ice’.
We know that the word ‘ice’ means something different to ‘ice cream’.
More examples of open compound nouns
- Post office
- Swimming pool
- Hot dog
- Video game
- Full moon
- Police officer
- Science fiction
- Fire drill
Compound nouns in the 11+ exams
For the 11+ exams, it is important to have a good understanding of what compound nouns are, the different types of compound nouns and how to use them.
Questions on compound nouns can often come up in English tests.
Try out our expert 11+ English practice papers in our shop, which include questions on all parts of speech!