Compound Words
'Popcorn' is a compound word.

Compound Words

If you put two or more words together to make a new one, it is a compound word. For example: 'lighthouse' (light + house); 'mother-in-law' (mother + in + law) and 'post office' (post + office). The last word is an example of the so-called open form compound word: the two words are written separately to form a new word.

If you are unsure about whether a word should be one word, two separate words or hyphenated, the best thing you can do is look in a good dictionary, such as the Oxford English Dictionary or Collins. It's better than searching online as these dictionaries are authoritative and are very unlikely to make mistakes. It's also a handy thing to have in your collection of non-fiction books!

This topic is actually quite complicated; however, we'll stick to the common compound words in this 11-plus quiz.

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  1. Determine which word is NOT an acceptable compound word.
    high school, secondary school, little school, primary school
    'little school' could be used to describe ANY of the other schools mentioned in the list. 'primary', 'secondary' and 'high' are specific and can't be used to describe each other. This might be a good way of deciding if a 'word' is an open form compound word or just two words written next to each other
  2. Determine which word is NOT an acceptable compound word.
    heartbreak, heartbeat, heartattack, heart rate
    'heartattack' should be written as 'heart attack'
  3. Determine which word is NOT an acceptable compound word.
    fish hook, fish farm, fish cake, fish finger
    'fish hook' should be written as 'fishhook'
  4. Determine which word is NOT an acceptable compound word.
    daydream, day centre, day time, daylight
    'day time' should be written as 'daytime'. This is one of the tricky things with compound words: is it two words or one word? D'oh!
  5. Determine which word is NOT an acceptable compound word.
    rainbow, raindrop, rail way, popcorn
    'rail way' should be written as 'railway'
  6. Determine which word is NOT an acceptable compound word.
    greenlight, green belt, green fingers, greenhouse
    'greenlight' should be written as 'green light'
  7. Determine which word is NOT an acceptable compound word.
    bathrobe, bathtub, bathsoap, bathmat
    It looks like the soap has been left out of the bathroom!
  8. Determine which word is NOT an acceptable compound word.
    bookshelf, bookworm, book club, book reader
    'reader' is not specific enough to make 'book reader' a compound word
  9. Determine which word is NOT an acceptable compound word.
    grand-uncle, grand-aunt, grand-mother, grandfather
    'grand-mother' should be written as 'grandmother': no hyphen! It appears that this also applies to the following: grandma/pa/son/daughter/nephew/niece. It seems that only grand-aunt and grand-uncle take a hyphen
  10. Determine which word is NOT an acceptable compound word.
    post office, post man, postbox, postcard
    'post man' should be written as 'postman'

Author: Frank Evans

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