Usage in the US and in the UK differs and often depends on the individual choice of the writer rather than on a hard-and-fast rule; therefore, open, hyphenated, and closed forms may be encountered for the same compound noun, such as the triplets container ship/container-ship/containership and particle board/particle-board/particleboard.
In addition to this native English compounding, there is the classical type, which consists of words derived from Latin, as horticulture, and those of Greek origin, such as photography, the components of which are in bound form (connected by connecting vowels, which are most often -i- and -o- in Latin and Greek respectively) and cannot stand alone.
In determinative compounds, however, the relationship is not attributive. For example, a footstool is not a particular type of stool that is like a foot. Rather, it is a stool for one's foot or feet. (It can be used for sitting on, but that is not its primary purpose.) In a similar manner, the office manager is the manager of an office, an armchair is a chair with arms, and a raincoat is a coat against the rain. These relationships, which are expressed by prepositions in English, would be expressed by grammatical case in other languages. Compounds of this type are also known as tatpurusha compounds.
Both of the above types of compounds are called endocentric compounds because the semantic head is contained within the compound itself -- a blackboard is a type of board, for example, and a footstool is a type of stool.
However, in another common type of compound, the exocentric or bahuvrihi compound, the semantic head is not explicitly expressed. A redhead, for example, is not a kind of head, but is a person with red hair. Similarly, a blockhead is also not a head, but a person with a head that is as hard and unreceptive as a block (i.e. stupid). And, outside of veterinary surgery, a lionheart is not a type of heart, but a person with a heart like a lion (in its bravery, courage, fearlessness, etc.).
Note in general the way to tell the two apart:
Exocentric compounds occur more often in adjectives than nouns. A V-8 car is a car with a V-8 engine rather than a car that is a V-8, and a twenty-five-dollar car is a car with a worth of $25, not a car that is $25. The compounds shown here are bare, but more commonly, a suffixal morpheme is added, esp. -ed. Hence, a two-legged person is a person with two legs, and this is exocentric.
On the other hand, endocentric adjectives are also frequently formed, using the suffixal morphemes -ing or -er/or. A car-carrier is a clear endocentric determinative compound: it is a thing that is a carrier of cars. The related adjective, car-carrying, is also endocentric: it refers to an object, which is a carrying-thing (or equivalent, which does carry).
These types account for most compound nouns, but there are other, rarer types as well. Coordinative, copulative or dvandva compounds combine elements with a similar meaning, and the compound meaning may be a generalization instead of a specialization. Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, is the combined area of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but a fighter-bomber is an aircraft that is both a fighter and a bomber. Iterative or amredita compounds repeat a single element, to express repetition or as an emphasis. Day-by-day and go-go-go are examples of this type of compound, which has more than one head.
Analyzability may be further limited by cranberry morphemes and semantic changes. For instance, the word butterfly, commonly thought to be a metathesis for flutter by, which the bugs do, is actually based on an old bubbe-maise that butterflies are petite witches that steal butter from window sills. Cranberry is a part translation from Low German, which is why we cannot recognize the element cran (from the Low German kraan or kroon, "crane"). The ladybird or ladybug was named after the Christian expression "our Lady, the Virgin Mary".
In the case of verb+noun compounds, the noun may be either the subject or the object of the verb. In playboy, for example, the noun is the subject of the verb (the boy plays), whereas it is the object in callgirl (someone calls the girl).
Sound patterns, such as stresses placed on particular syllables, may indicate whether the word group is a compound or whether it is an adjective-+-noun phrase. A compound usually has a falling intonation: "bláckboard", the "Whíte House", as opposed to the phrases "bláck bóárd". (Note that this rule does not apply in all contexts. For example, the stress pattern "whíte house" would be expected for the compound, which happens to be a proper name, but it is also found in the emphatic negation "No, not the black house; the white house!"
A compound adjective is a modifier of a noun. It consists of two or more morphemes of which the left-hand component limits or changes the modification of the right-hand one, as in "the dark-green dress": dark limits the green that modifies dress.
However, in British usage, these, apart from downtown, are more likely written with a hyphen: ear-splitting, eye-catching.
Other solid compound adjectives are for example:
A compound adjective is hyphenated if the hyphen helps the reader differentiate a compound adjective from two adjacent adjectives that each independently modify the noun. Compare the following examples:
The hyphen is unneeded when capitalization or italicization makes grouping clear:
If, however, there is no risk of ambiguities, it may be written without a hyphen: Sunday morning walk.
Hyphenated compound adjectives may have been formed originally by an adjective preceding a noun:
Others may have originated with a verb preceding an adjective or adverb:
Yet others are created with an original verb preceding a preposition.
The following compound adjectives are always hyphenated when they are not written as one word:
The following compound adjectives are not normally hyphenated:
|preposition||verb||overrate, underline, outrun|
|adjective||verb||whitewash, blacklist, foulmouth|
|noun||verb||browbeat, sidestep, manhandle|
A compound verb is usually composed of a preposition and a verb, although other combinations also exist. The term compound verb was first used in publication in Grattan and Gurrey's Our Living Language (1925).
From a morphological point of view, some compound verbs are difficult to analyze because several derivations are plausible. Blacklist, for instance, might be analyzed as an adjective+verb compound, or as an adjective+noun compound that becomes a verb through zero derivation. Most compound verbs originally have the collective meaning of both components, but some of them later gain additional meanings that may predominate the original, accurate sense. Therefore, sometimes the resultant meanings are seemingly barely related to the original contributors.
Compound verbs composed of a noun and verb are comparatively rare, and the noun is generally not the direct object of the verb. In English, compounds such as *bread-bake or *car-drive do not exist. Yet, we find literal action words, such as breastfeed, taperecord and washing instructions on clothing as for example hand wash.
Compound verbs with single-syllable modifiers are solid, or unhyphenated. Those with longer modifiers may originally be hyphenated, but as they became established, they became solid, e.g.,
There was a tendency in the 18th century to use hyphens excessively, that is, to hyphenate all previously established solid compound verbs. American English, however, has diminished the use of hyphens, while British English is more conservative.
The first three sentences are possible in English; the last one is unlikely. When to hold up means to raise, it is a prepositional verb; the preposition up can be detached from the verb and has its own individual meaning "from lower to a higher position". As a prepositional verb, it has a literal meaning. However, when to hold up means to rob, it is a phrasal verb. A phrasal verb is used in an idiomatic, figurative or even metaphorical context. The preposition is inextricably linked to the verb; the meaning of each word cannot be determined independently but is in fact part of the idiom.
The Oxford English Grammar (ISBN 0-19-861250-8) distinguishes seven types of prepositional or phrasal verbs in English:
English has a number of other kinds of compound verb idioms. There are compound verbs with two verbs (e.g. make do). These too can take idiomatic prepositions (e.g. get rid of). There are also idiomatic combinations of verb and adjective (e.g. come true, run amok) and verb and adverb (make sure), verb and fixed noun (e.g. go ape); and these, too, may have fixed idiomatic prepositions (e.g. take place on).