Zusammengesetzte Nomen: „Compound Nouns“

Kommen wir zurück auf „brain drain“ vom Anfang dieser Ausgabe und auf die Frage, ob dieser Begriff im Englischen zusammengeschrieben wird wie etwa das Wort „housekeeper”, in zwei Worten wie im Deutschen oder mit Bindestrich wie im Englischen der Begriff “grown-up”.

Gute Frage. Im Deutschen ist das eindeutig geregelt, wie so vieles. Die Briten sind da normalerweise lockerer. Bevor wir richtig zur Sache kommen, ein kleiner Test auf der übergeordneten Grammatikebene: Wissen Sie, wie die Briten die möglichen Schreibweisen bezeichnen?

Exercise: „ Compound Nouns“

Bitte entscheiden Sie und fügen den richtigen Begriff ein:

1. Zusammenschreibung heißt „: spelling“. together, solid, narrow 2. Schreibung mit Bindestrich heißt „:_ spelling“. hyphenated, dashed, connected 3. Getrenntschreibung heißt „:__ spelling”. separate, two-word, unconnected

Answer key

Diese drei Varianten sind also im Englischen möglich, um zusammengesetze Nomen zu bilden.

Verschiedene Arten von Kombinationen

Now let’s get down to the “nitty gritty” and find out what kind of combinations are possible to create a new noun.

  • noun + noun: show room, screwdriver, suitcase, database, eye-opener, can opener
  • noun + particle: non-standard, jobhunted, web-related, co-worker
  • noun + verb + ing ending: problemsolving, novel writing, marathon running, driving licence, washing machine
  • verb + particle: handout, giveaway, checkout, output, income
  • adjective + noun: software, whiteboard, real estate
  • three word compounds: sister-in-law, face-to-face

Exercise: Fahrradfahren

BTW: Do you know how to translate the following German words into English? Write them down:

  1. Fahrradfahren :::___
  2. Reiten ::::____
  3. Brotbacken ::::

Answer key

Keine Regeln

So there are a lot of different possible combinations. But as we have seen, we can’t draw definitive conclusions from that as only the verb + particle combination appears consistently as non-hyphenated or split words. But can we really trust these examples?

You can always use a hyphen in the verb + particle combination if the particle is a prefix and comes first: co-worker, sub-conscious, non-verbal.

What we can gather from the examples is: There are no rules about how to write compound nouns.

Aber Empfehlungen

There are only some suggestions, such as being well-known, lack of clearness or – in spoken sentences – of emphasis.

The more well-known the compounds are, the more likely they are written hyphenated or unbroken. Newer creations tend to be separated. But can you rely on this? No, you can’t.

It is best to learn those compounds you use frequently by heart. And look up the others. If you use our favourite dictionaries www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/ for British and www.merriam-webster.com/ for American English you will learn that they differ in this question too. And you will see moreover that different spellings are possible.

So checking how to spell compound nouns is a bit boring. But sometimes you can decide on your own whether to use a hyphen, unbroken spelling or not. This is your decision in all cases of ambiguity.

Mangelnde Eindeutigkeit

Ambiguity or lack of clearness occurs if you read separate words and have to make up your mind about their meaning. If you hear them you can gather from the stressed syllable whether a compound noun is used or it is one of the other combinations e.g. an adjective with a noun.

Exercise: Betonung schafft Klarheit

Here are some examples for you. Please decide if you want to use a hyphen or not. Our tip: Read the sentences out loud!

  1. Please put the flowers into the green house.
  2. Take a left turn behind the green house.
  3. Do you know what kind of bird the blue bird over there is?
  4. May the blue bird of happiness sing on your birthday.
  5. Can I offer you the black board or the yellow?
  6. Write it down on the black board, please.
  7. Can you tell which syllable has to be stressed in a compound noun?

Answer key

So at last we found one rule for compound nouns: We can identify them when we hear them. But that doesn’t help much about the spelling, does it?

In our next issue we will show you how to build the plural of compound nouns.

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