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11+ & KS2 English: What is a compound noun?

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

What is a compound noun?

Present right

Compound nouns are formed when we put two or more words together to form a noun.

For example

Cupboard = cup + board

Classmate = class + mate

Sunrise = sun + rise

Swimming pool = swimming + pool

Pencil case = pencil + case

sunrise

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?

snowboarding

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

  • goldfish
  • newspaper
  • handmade
  • outdoor
  • strawberry
  • skyscraper
  • breakfast
  • raincoat
  • weekend
goldfish

There are two other types of compound nouns! Let’s explore these now.

What is a hyphenated compound noun?

Berry 2 09

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.

For example

Daughter-in-law

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.

Further examples

  • one-year-old
  • mother-in-law
  • self-confidence
  • merry-go-round
  • baby-sitter
merry go round

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.

For example

ice cream cone

Ice cream
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’.

Living room
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.

Bus driver
The words ‘bus’ and ‘driver’ are combined to form the compound noun ‘bus driver’. Notice how there is no hyphen between these words.

bus

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.

For example

Ice cream

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

full moon
  • 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!

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