I have a question about grammar terminology.

There are some adjectives like cold-blooded, absent-minded, kind-hearted, old-fashioned. They look like past participles but very rarely, if at all, carry passive meaning as typical past participles do. Plus, the -ed part never works on their own i.e. blooded, minded, fashioned wouldn’t make sense.

Do we have a name for this family of adjectives? Could it be “pseudo-past participles”?

Original Post

Hi, Kinto,

@Kinto posted:

I have a question about grammar terminology.

There are some adjectives like cold-blooded, absent-minded, kind-hearted, old-fashioned. They look like past participles but very rarely, if at all, carry passive meaning as typical past participles do. Plus, the -ed part never works on their own i.e. blooded, minded, fashioned wouldn’t make sense.

Do we have a name for this family of adjectives? Could it be “pseudo-past participles”?

Isn't this category of adjectives called 'compound adjectives'? I think you do know that this is one of the most common patterns for forming compound adjectives. Or are you asking about something else?

Hi ahmed_btm,

Thank you for your encouragement to better formulate my question, and I feel I need to.

I’m in fact more interested in the -ed part blooded, minded, etc in these compound adjectives and wonder what they can be called grammatically. I have observed that there are two types of compound adjectives; one is adjective/adverb/noun + present participle/past participle, e.g.

award-winning (noun + present participle)
hard-working (adv + present participle)
good-looking (adj + present participle)
well-educated (adv + past participle)
homemade (noun + past participle)

But when it comes to compound adjectives such as able-bodied, absent-minded, quick-witted, strong-willed, high-spirited, I would like to tell my students the formula but I don’t feel I can call it adj + past participle, because these -ed words do not act like typical past participles at all for reasons I stated in my first post. I may confidently call it adj + N + -ed but as a formula or grammar rule it seems it could use a more technical or accurate name so I yearn for one.

Last edited by Kinto

Hi, Kinto,

Actually, the noun+ed in those adjective compounds has undergone a word-formation process known as "affixation," whereby a word category changes to a different word class by means of the addition of an affix (in this case, a suffix). What is remarkable is that, unlike cases like far-fetched, new-laid, quick-frozen (I've taken these examples from A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum, page 447), where the second component is a past participle, in cases like the ones you mention:

@Kinto posted:

able-bodied, absent-minded, quick-witted, strong-willed, high-spirited

the noun has been converted into an unconventional participle. I'm not sure if it has a specific name other than being the second component of these adjective compounds. On the Internet I have found they are sometimes called "noun-based or denominal participles."

I have found that Walter Hirtle calls those compounds "modified -ed adjectives," as opposed to "bare -ed adjectives" (Hirtle, Walter H. (1969) "-Ed Adjectives like ‘verandahed’ and ‘blue-eyed’" in Journal of Linguistics 6, 19-36)

@Kinto posted:

I may confidently call it adj + N + -ed

That is in fact the formula I use to explain these highly productive compound adjectives (long-legged, short-sighted, quick-tempered, fat-bellied, fresh-scented, blue-eyed, middle-aged) to my students.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor

Hi Gustavo. Thank you for sharing with me your great knowledge.

On the Internet I have found they are sometimes called "noun-based or denominal participles."

 “Noun-based participles” is a subversive, thought-provoking name to me and I like it, subversive because I suppose participles by definition derive from verbs.

@Gustavo, Contributor posted:

I have found that Walter Hirtle calls those compounds "modified -ed adjectives," as opposed to "bare -ed adjectives" (Hirtle, Walter H. (1969) "-Ed Adjectives like ‘verandahed’ and ‘blue-eyed’" in Journal of Linguistics 6, 19-36)

So if I understand this correctly, “able-bodied” is a modified -ed adjective and “blue-eyed” a bare -ed adjective, which has brought me a new question: How are they different? They both look the same to me as adj + N + -ed, and the root words are “able bodies” and “blue eyes”.

 That is in fact the formula I use to explain these highly productive compound adjectives (long-legged, short-sighted, quick-tempered, fat-bellied, fresh-scented, blue-eyed, middle-aged) to my students.

You are adding to my confidence in keeping using this formula. Thank you. And I can’t agree more that they are highly productive in communication.

And thank you ahmed_btm once again, for helping me clarify my question.

Last edited by Kinto
@Kinto posted:

 

So if I understand this correctly, “able-bodied” is a modified -ed adjective and “blue-eyed” a bare -ed adjective, which has brought me a new question: How are they different? They both look the same to me as adj + N + -ed, and the root words are “able bodies” and “blue eyes”.

 

No, the example Hirtle provides of bare (non-modified) -ed adjectives is "verandahed" (or the more usual verandaed). Another example would be bearded. Whenever the -ed component is preceded by an adjective (which is much more productive as a word-formation process), we call the compound modified.

No, the example Hirtle provides of bare (non-modified) -ed adjectives is "verandahed" (or the more usual verandaed). Another example would be bearded. Whenever the -ed component is preceded by an adjective (which is much more productive as a word-formation process), we call the compound modified.

Excellent. For the last few months I’ve been racking my brain to think up adjectives formed by N + ed that can work on their own, i.e. not in compound adjectives. The only word that came up is “talented”. And now you’ve just given me two more. 

So “talented” must be a bare (non-modified) -ed adjective. It fits Hirtle’s description.

Thank you very much, Gustavo.

@Kinto posted:

Excellent. For the last few months I’ve been racking my brain to think up adjectives formed by N + ed that can work on their own, i.e. not in compound adjectives. The only word that came up is “talented”. And now you’ve just given me two more. 

So “talented” must be a bare (non-modified) -ed adjective. It fits Hirtle’s description.

Another one is "gifted."

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