Page 1 of 1

Hyphens in Adjectives

Posted: Sat Nov 08, 2014 2:40 pm
by Anja
Hyphens are used whenever two or more words are put together to form an adjective PRECEDING another noun.

For your example, non-native, however, the "rule" changes because "nonnative" is odd, so put the hyphen in. Non-native. (However, Miriam-Webster says "nonnative.") Therefore, the one easy-to-remember rule is LOOK IT UP.

There are some rules that are easy to remember. <<<< no hyphens as it's not modifying anything.

I have three six-year-old granddaughters.
However, if the ages are AFTER the noun, no hyphen. (see above.)
My granddaughters are all six years old.

HOWEVER--- Nisha, Malaya, and Maisy are all six-year-old girls.
Because "six-year-old" modifies "girls."

USE hyphens in the following situations---

* with prefixes and capitalized words--- “non-English,” "anti-Semetic."

* joining letters and words... "i-beam" or "x-ray."

* if a formed word will have three alike letters in a row--- “three-egg cake”

* numbers twenty-one through ninety-nine--- "fifty-six," "sixty-five"

* for clarity. Do you want "three egg cakes" OR "three-egg cakes."? See the difference?

That's pretty basic.

Re: Hyphens in Adjectives

Posted: Sat Nov 08, 2014 3:56 pm
by Milly Born
Thank you, Ann. You have a way to explain that makes it sound so simple, it leaves me wondering why I even asked it. :D

Re: Hyphens in Adjectives

Posted: Sat Nov 08, 2014 7:02 pm
by Anja
Please, don't stop asking! I learn as you all do, and partly because I want to distill the information into something understandable, without all the "gobbledegook." It's easy enough to find these things on the internet, but they are filled with terms and stuff we don't NEED.

It's comparable to driving a car. We all want to drive well, but we don't need to know the name of every part under the hood or need to totally understand how a combustion engine works to be able to get from Point A to Point B safely and without breaking any laws.

I will return to your other question tomorrow. We're off to the Cattlemen's Ball... :party

Re: Hyphens in Adjectives

Posted: Mon Mar 30, 2015 7:11 pm
by oursilverstrands
Ann, I revisited this thread when I was wondering whether to write "break-up or breakup." I looked it up and the explanation was that it's breakup when it's a noun or adjective and break-up (also break up) if it's a verb.

I'm not sure if the list is exhaustive, but I was wondering if you knew of other words that are spelled the same but change their configuration based on usage?

(I hope I've not missed information that has already addressed this issue).



Re: Hyphens in Adjectives

Posted: Thu Apr 02, 2015 12:26 pm
by Anja

The general "rules" are as above.

I looked up breakup (noun) vs. break-up (noun) vs. break up (verb) to find break-up does not exist in one dictionary, though it does in another.

My best advice, and what I do most often when uncertainty prevails, is to look up what you need, maybe in several dictionaries. Discern which one is American usage (or UK or AU or CAN, whichever you are), and go with that, making sure you are using the required form, noun, adjective, or verb.

For more info,

Quick and Dirty Tips: Hyphens

Hope that helps.
I'm on the run again! :D

Re: Hyphens in Adjectives

Posted: Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:19 pm
by oursilverstrands
Thanks, Ann! You really have an active life. How wonderful! :thumbs


Re: Hyphens in Adjectives

Posted: Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:21 pm
by Shann
You really do a great job explaining. If you don't mind, I'd like to double-check these two examples. The first one comes after the verb it modifies. I'm going on the assumption that the same rule applies to modifying adverbs, but perhaps I'm incorrect, or perhaps, it's because in the first example it is an adverb, but in the second it's an adjective.

I turned to talk to him face to face.

I turned so that we could have a face-to-face talk. (Also, is the word, that, unnecessary here?)

So first, did I do them both correctly, and next, if so, is it because the first modifies the verb (talk), but the second talk is a noun? Or, if correct, is it because it comes after the word it is modifying? (Did any of that make sense?)

Recently, after researching whether to use hyphens, I came across a rule (I can't find it now for anything) that said if you use a word that ends in -ly, it didn't say adverb, but specified ly-words before a noun you use a hyphen, but if after then no.

So according to that source, this example (like the example in your Grammar Girl reference) would be incorrect and both would be without hyphens?

He's a happily-married man.
The man is happily married.

I understand why both you and Grammar Girl say hyphens can be tricky. :thankssign

Re: Hyphens in Adjectives

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 1:05 pm
by Anja
One of the reasons hyphens are tricky and confusing is because the English language is always changing and evolving, so a word that began its life as hyphenated words may become non-hyphenated. That's why I recommend looking it up, then use the form in keeping with your own English. (CDN, USA, AU, other.) Examples would be bedroom, but dining room.

One publisher says, "If you take hyphens seriously, you will surely go mad."

Yet, there is a logic and common sense to the hyphen's use, and it's probably more instinctive than rule-abiding.

Generally speaking, if two or more words come before the noun they modify, they are hyphenated. Those words become an compound adjective. (Also see my example above describing my granddaughters.)

I love a well-done steak.


I love my steak well done.

Shann, to answer your question about "face to face." My guide says that prepositional phrases within compounds require a hyphen, so it would be "face-to-face." Also, "heart-to-heart," "bird-in-hand," "sister-in-law."

If you "coin" a MODIFYING phrase, making it up to suit your purpose, hyphenate it. (You won't find these phrases in a dictionary, because they are made to suit the occasion.)

He had that just-fell-off-the-turnip-truck look.

Otherwise, it would be He looked like he'd just fallen off the turnip truck.

All I can say is consult a dictionary and follow the basic rules of hyphenating modifiers and using hyphens for clarity.

Re: Hyphens in Adjectives

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 1:27 pm
by Shann
Thanks it came up with something I was editing. I thought I was right, but since I remembered your lesson, I thought I'd ask.