studying English in The Netherlands, writes:
when I read English newspapers or books I see some words with hyphens
between them, for example densely-populated. I do not know
what they are called, sometimes I do not know exactly what they
mean. Finally, I would like to make them up by myself, but I don't
know how. Could you please help me?
like densely-populated are compound adjectives and they
are made up of two or more words, normally with hyphens between them.
Something that is dense contains a lot of things or people
in a small area. Thus a densely-populated town or city
is one with a high population count within the city boundaries. A
densely-wooded hill would be one that is difficult to get through
because the trees are so close together.
/ adv + past participle
or adverb plus past participle is one of the most common patterns
for forming compound adjectives. Some common examples would include:
animals are warm-blooded but all reptiles are cold-blooded.
was a cold-blooded murderer and showed no emotion of any
lived in an old-fashioned house, but was kind-hearted
she held deeply-rooted beliefs about the sanctity of marriage.
dimly- / brightly-lit streets in our town encourage / discourage
that adverb / past participle combinations when they are used with
a copular verb like be or seem, and come after the
noun they modify, are not hyphenated:
streets in our town are dimly / brightly lit and encourage
/ discourage burglars.
are sometimes many possible combinations, e.g. broad-minded,
narrow-minded, absent-minded, strong-minded, as well as open-minded.
It is partly a matter of knowing which adjectives or adverbs collocate
or go with which participles and nouns. We have brightly-lit
streets, but also brightly-coloureddresses or
swimsuits or sweets.
adjectives are regarded as productive features of English
which means that use is not so restricted as it is in many categories
of grammar. New combinations are always possible,
so if you think something may work, try it out with your English-speaking
friends, Tokmokje, and see if it is meaningful. For example, brightly-patterned
curtains illustrates the productive nature of this combination,
as would brightly-shining stars, and here we come to a new
pattern, which is also very common:
Adj / adv / noun + present participle
are some common examples:
good-looking chef was dressed in hard-wearing clothing
and sitting in front of a free-standing cooker.
dishes he had prepared with all the labour-saving devices
at his disposal were all mouth-watering.
signed a long-lasting agreement for his services
which we hoped would be never-ending.
common patterns for compound adjectives include:
+ past participle: shop-soiled, tongue-tied, sun-dried,
they refused to exchange the shop-soiled item, I was tongue-tied
and didn't know what to say.
you want trouble-free motoring, make sure you use only
sun-dried tomatoes that we sell are world-famous.
was wearing a full-length dress, quite unsuitable for deep-sea
forty-mile journey in the two-door, open-top convertible
was ill-advised in such inclement weather.
out other combinations of these patterns for yourselves, e.g.
four-door saloon, five-page document, well-advised, etc.
Make a note of compound adjectives that you come across in your
reading and note the way they are used with particular nouns.
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