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I was curious about making new words in English and comparing this process to my native language. I wanted an adjective that describes a person who is actively involved in attacking different places.

Consider a person named John. John is actively involved in attacking different places. So a person who is involved with John may hear expressions like "John attacked on Place1.", "John is attacking on Place2.". And the leader of John may say "Attack on Place3." to John as an obligative sentence. And so many other expressions about John attacking some place.

In my native language, Over a long time, repeated usages of "attack on" in different sentences can result in the construction of "attack-on" as a new word. Then people can describe John as being attack-on.

Examples include: "John is attack-on.", "I've seen attack-on John." and "attack-on john is coming.".

You may use "attacking" as in "attacking john" for this purpose, but I am curious if the new word mentioned is correct in the English Language. And I also think the sentence "john is attacking" implies that at this particular moment, John is attacking on someplace. But John should be described as a frequent attacker.

I want to know if "attack-on" can be an English word. And if the process I mentioned for constructing "attack-on" as a new word can happen in an English-speaking community? Also, I want to know if the hyphen can be dropped and "attack-on" be used simply as "attack on"?

As a complication, the verb "attack" can be used without "on". I would also like to know how this issue affects the mentioned process.

I've checked a dictionary of about 80k words and found about ten similar words. I'll provide two of them as an example:

spot-on or "spot on": Oxford dictionary, Merriam-Webster dictionary, Longman dictionary,

Note that "spot on" can be used without the hyphen. As an example on Wiktionary: I was spot on with my guess.

clip-on: Oxford dictionary, Merriam-Webster dictionary, Longman dictionary

Please note that this question is about the construction of new words in English.

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    In English it's not normal to use "*attack on" as a verb - you will often hear of "an attack on (somewhere)", but the verb is "to attack (somewhere)" (with no "on"). So it's unlikely that "attack-on" would start to be used in this way. So it might be worth editing your question to use a better phrase :)
    – psmears
    Aug 2 at 14:32
  • Don't forget that there are also run-on sentences. That said, one cannot just create words ex-nihilo like that. It just does not work.
    – Lambie
    Aug 2 at 14:45
  • I think the word you're looking for is "belligerent".
    – Spencer
    Aug 2 at 16:17
  • Many younger Anglophones include the extraneous preposition in {detractors are always} hating on {victims of hate / ridicule}, but most dictionaries will say this is at best "slangy". At least it's possible to discern a slight semantic / syntactic difference with that preposition, though. That's not the case with the utterly pointless extraneous preposition in {assailants / detractors} attack on {victims}, so I can't see any real justification for the usage. I think it just sounds ignorant. Aug 2 at 17:27

1 Answer 1

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As it stands, all the usages of "attack on" you cite are incorrect, if "Place 1" is the target of the attack. The only valid uses of "attack on" are when "attack" is a noun. For example:

John took part in the attack on Place 1.

But "John attacked on Place 1", "John is attacking on Place 1", and the imperative "Attack on Place 1." are all incorrect English. So is "I want John to attack on Place 1". Instead we say:

John attacked Place 1.

John is attacking Place 1.

Attack Place 1.

I want John to attack Place 1.

Coining new words depends entirely on usage. If enough people use it and accept its use then it will become accepted as a "new word". Whether this is likely to happen is entirely a matter of speculation. It certainly isn't accepted now.

For myself I don't see why "attack-on" is likely to become accepted. In almost all of the cases you cite "attack-on" could and should be correctly replaced by "attack". Why would we want a longer word when a shorter correct one will do?

You should also note that the two examples you give derive from correct usages of "on". A clip-on tie is called a "clip-on" tie because it is clipped on to something. Something is "spot-on" because it is exactly "on the spot". It would seem irrational to introduce an entirely unnecessary word "on" to a phrase and then try to make a new work out of the combination, especially one that means the same as an existing word.

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  • Especially one that means the same as an existing word. 1000%. Aug 2 at 15:54

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