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I want to use full-sized, as in:

Click here to download a full-sized version of this image.

But Google NGrams disagrees:

"Full size" wins overwhelmingly, with "full sized" marginally above zero.

So, given:

  1. full-size
  2. full-sized
  3. full size
  4. full sized

which would you employ and why?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

From Collins Cobuild English Dictionary:

full-size or full-sized A full-size or full-sized model or picture is the same size as the thing or person that it represents.

So, I would choose one of those options and trust the dictionary.

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But this is my issue: what motivates the choice of one over the other, since they're not really in free variation? Instinctively, which would use you first? –  msanford Apr 19 '11 at 13:07
1  
According to Collins Cobuild they are equal. I would use full-size. While my husband would use full-sized. It comes down to what you think is right. –  masarah Apr 19 '11 at 19:10

I really couldn't decide between full-sized and full-size in your example: both would be perfectly fine and common. Note that you need the hyphen in either case, because it is a compound adjective (an adjective composed of more than one word) and it comes before the noun it belongs to. If you put it after, you don't need the hyphen: this picture is not full size. (Note that it is often more stylistically pleasing to use a different construction in that case.)

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Indeed, I always hyphenate this compound but thought to include the others because I have seen them 'in the wild'. –  msanford Apr 19 '11 at 13:05

The Google Ngram in the original question is flawed. You must put parens around a term containing a hyphen. Try the search again using these terms: (full-size),(full-sized),full size,full sized

You will get a completely different result with 'full-sized' being by far the most common followed by 'full-size'.

Try this corrected Google Ngram

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This is incorrect. The ngram documentation explains that parentheses are used to force it to be interpreted as a "composition"; it is doing some kind of subtraction of the terms "full" and "sized" rather than searching for "full-sized". –  pdg137 Jul 28 at 20:45

Either option is correct and usable. Both they have slightly different emphases. "Full-size" indicates that it is of the right size, while "full-sized" may additionally imply that it was deliberately made to that size. It's a very slight difference.

@Cerberus is correct that no hyphen is used when you put it afterwards.

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I would use full-size. Compound adjectives preceding a noun should be hyphenated, unless the compound modifier includes something like more, less, least, etc.

Another pretty reliable test for hyphen necessity is to check whether the second element in your compound modifier can stand on its own.

In the case of 'full-size file', for instance, could we just have a 'size file'? In the case of 'full-sized' file, it seems to me that we could have a 'sized file,' but as shipr pointed out, this gives the impression that the file had the action of sizing applied to it.

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