Hyphenated Compound Words & Examples

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  • 0:04 Compound Words
  • 0:37 When to Hyphenate
  • 2:29 Examples
  • 3:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Do you know how to use hyphens? Do you know how to use compound words? In this video, you'll find some tips for hyphenating compound words and explore some common examples.

Compound Words

Baseball. Grasshopper. Skateboard. Sunflower. Grandmother. What do all of these words have in common? These are compound words, or those formed by two or more words that result in a new word with a new meaning. Let's take grasshopper, for example. Grass is the green stuff that grows out of the ground. Hopper is a person who hops. Grass + hopper = grasshopper, which is a type of insect. See how that works?

When to Hyphenate

Sometimes we use a hyphen to separate parts of a compound word. A hyphens is a short dash that is used to join words together. Using a hyphen is called hyphenation or hyphenating a word. It can be tricky to decide whether or not to hyphenate a compound word. One way to decide is to see if the sentence will be confusing without the hyphen. For example, English-language learners are people who are learning to speak English. If you don't have the hyphen, it reads English language learners, which could be English people learning about a new language or subject. A hyphen will help to avoid any confusion about the meaning of a word.

Some compound words originally used a hyphen, but as they became more common, the hyphen was no longer used. For example, blackbird used to have a hyphen in the 1800s, but today it does not.

While it can be difficult to determine whether or not to use a hyphen, there are a few rules. First of all, compound words should be hyphenated when they come before a noun (i.e. a well-behaved child or an up-to-date calendar). Secondly, compound words should be hyphenated when two nouns come together to make a verb (i.e. to roller-skate). Finally, you should hyphenate made-up compound words used in creative writing (i.e. She worked up a sweat and became a hot-facer).

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