Compound adjectives with numbers

Monday, November 25, 2013

English learners sometimes have confusion when writing numbers of things in one specific way: as a compound adjective. A compound adjective is an adjective that contains two or more words. In general we put a hyphen between two or more words (before a noun) when we want them to act as a single idea that describes something (a part-time worker, for example).

So when talking about something involving a number, a castle that is 800 years old, for example, we write the compound adjective: an 800-year-old castle. I'm highlighting this fact about numbers because they are often used incorrectly as adjectives.

What kind of hotel?
- a three-stars hotel (incorrect)
- a three-star hotel (correct)

What kind of garage?
- a two-cars garage (incorrect)
- a two-car garage (correct)

What kind of document?
- a four-pages document (incorrect)
- a four-page document (correct)

Don't feel compelled to make the adjective plural by adding the "s". It's wrong. You can only add the "s" if you write your sentence without the compound adjective (and then, without the hyphen).

For example:

- The hotel is rated with three stars.
- The garage holds two cars.
- The document is four pages.

Remember this rule and you'll speak and write in English like a native.

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