Modal auxiliaries

Topic: Vocabulary

Sub-topic: Plurals of compound nouns


Plurals of compound nouns

A compound word is a word which is formed from two or more other words.


* Compound noun: headmaster (=head of the masters (teachers)

* Compound adjectives : remote-controlled (=controlled by a remote device)

* Compound verbs: sleep work (=to walk and sleep at the same time)

Only nouns can be counted in English. The usual way of making ordinary nouns (table, chair, girl, house, fly, lady, etc.) countable is to add -s, -es and -ies, to the ending, e.g. tables, girls, flies and buses. However, the rule changes when it comes to compound nouns. A compound noun is a noun made up of two or more words (e.g. toothpaste, haircut or daughter-in-law). Most compound nouns can be formed as follows:

*noun + noun                    e.g. train station

*noun + adjective             e.g.    handful

*adjective + noun                e.g. blackberry , full moon

*verb (ing) + noun                e.g. breakwater, swimming pool

*noun + verb (ing)            e.g.    haircut, skydiving

*verb + preposition.          e.g. check-in

*noun + preposition          e.g. passer-by

*preposition + noun          e.g. vunderground

*noun + preposition + noun.   e.g. father-in-law

Some compound nouns are spelled as one word (e.g. handful), but others with hyphens (e.g. father-in-law) or separated by a space (e.g. full moon).

Forming the plural of compound nouns

The plurals of compound nouns are generally formed by adding ‘s’ to the principal word (i.e. the most significant word in the compound), also called the head of the compound. The head informs us about what the compound refers to. The other elements of the compound modify the head and are called the head’s dependents.


car parkparkCar parks
taxi driverdrivertaxi drivers

Compound nouns with -ful

Compound nouns with ‘-ful‘ (e.g. truckful, handful) may have two possible plurals. The ‘s’ can be added either to the head noun (e.g. trucksful, handsful)

or to ‘-ful ‘ (e.g. truckfuls, handfuls).

It is just a question of consistency.

More examples:

Compound with ‘-ful’Plural
handfulhandsful or handfuls
mouthfulmouthsful or mouthfuls
spoonful spoonsful or spoonfuls
bucketfulbucketsful or bucketfus

Compound nouns ending in a preposition

When the compound is formed with a noun and a preposition, (e.g. passer-by), the plural is formed by adding an ‘s‘ to the noun.


Compound NounPlural

When neither element of a compound is a noun, the plural is formed by adding ‘s’ to the last word. For example, the compound noun ‘grown-up’ is made of the word ‘grown’, which is the past participle of the verb ‘grow’, and the preposition ‘up’. The plural of ‘grown-up’ is formed by adding ‘s’ to ‘up’ (i.e. ‘grown-ups).

More examples:

Compound NounPlural


Complete with the right plural of the compound nouns

1- The elderly spend most of their time looking at the… 

a) passer-bys  b) passers-by c) passers-by/passer-by

2- Does this hotel allow early…. ?

a) check-ins   b) checks-in c) check-ins/ check-ins

3- The association planted some … .

a) apples tree  b) apple trees, c) apples tree/ apple trees

4- The relationship between women and their ….. is often fraught.

a) mother-in-laws b) mothers-in-law   c) mothers-in-law/ mother-in-laws

5- Are there any ……  nearby?

a) shoe shops   b) shoes shop c) shoe shops/shoes shop

Topic: Grammar

Sub-topic : Relative clauses


Relative clauses

Relative clauses are also known as adjective clauses. Like adjectives, the main function of a relative clauses is to qualify a noun, noun phrase or pronoun. Relative clauses are introduced by relative pronouns such as who, whom, which, that, whoever, when and where.


* I saw the boy who stole the money.

* The dress is from my sister whom you met yesterday.

* Gambo has a dog that has three legs.

There are two types of relative clauses: the defining relative clause and the non-defining relative clause

1- The defining relative clause identifies characteristics and describes the particular person or thing being talked about in a sentence. It gives the necessary information you need to identify that particular person or thing.


* I let the lady who found the bag.

* That is the man who bought the remaining food.

In the first example, the defining relative clause ‘who found the bag’ identifies the particular lady being referred to.

 2- The non-defining relative clause, unlike the defining relative clause, is not required to identify the person or thing you are talking about. Rather, it gives additional information about that person or thing.


* Her sister Rebecca, who lives in Kano, lost her husband.

* He works for the Prime Minister, who lived in Downtown Street.

In both examples, the non-defining relative clauses are not needed to identify the individuals being talked about. They merely provide additional or further information about the noun phrases, ‘Her sister Rebecca’ and ‘the Prime Minister’.


Identify the relative clauses in the following sentences and state whether each is a defining or non-defining relative clause.

1- My neighbour Mr Chile, who works in a law firm, has just arrived.

2- Dakova, whose real name is David Kola Vaughn, was born in Lagos.

3- Samuel Eto’o is a footballer who is very passionate about playing football.

4- Tunde’s favourite pastime as a youth was painting, which no doubt has helped his career as a fashion designer.

5- Bato grew up in a poor neighbourhood that was far from happy.