In recent times,more often, I come upon "noun- verb combos", operating as verbs such as dry-clean, kick-start, bad-mouth, sweet-talk, cherry-pick....
some of which have hyphens and others are unhyphenated.

Occasionally, they serves as pseudo-idioms as well eg:- "cherry- pick". and have adjective derivatives too.

Much to my surprise and delight, I see people coin such words on their own in their writing (perhaps as a means of being succinct) eg:- They chill-serve; oil-fry it; We deep-meditate; The machine is noise-controlled...

I understand that a few of them are informal and not standard English.

First of all, is there a special name / term that identifies these combo- verbs grammatically? Secondly, do rules permit us to coin so? Clarification will be appreciated.

  • Just a pedantic note that "dry-clean" is an adjective-noun combination, as is "bad-mouth".
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 10:15
  • 2
    @StuartF: I suspect "sweat talk" is supposed to be "sweet talk", where "sweet" is also an adjective. (I'd say "dry-clean" was adjective-verb, though?)
    – psmears
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 10:18
  • Yes, sweet - talk to be exact. Sweet talk >sweet talked> sweet talking. Bad moth> bad mouthing. and so on.... In coming future, why not be there good mouth and bitter- talk and all.over the time, it 'd evolve into idioms, if let this practice grow Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 10:35
  • Obviously they do exist, but English is nowhere near as naturally inclined to create new compound words (of whatever part of speech) as German, Dutch, or Orwellian Newspeak. I doubt the percentage of compound forms has or will increase significantly in "everyday" usage - only in domain-specific technical areas where innovation keeps producing "new" things and actions that need to be uniquely identified. Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 12:09

2 Answers 2


They are generally referred to as compound verbs. People can easily create new ones, and as all neologisms they will enter the current lexicon if people will use them.

Compound verbs:

Typically, a compound verb is defined as a verb that consists of multiple words combined together. Compound verbs can take the form of: a single word as in backslide or sidestep; a multiple word phrase as in open up or turn back; or multiple words connected by a hyphen as in jump-start or double-click.



First of all, is there a special name / term that identifies these combo- verbs grammatically?

I agree with Gio, they are compound verbs.

Secondly, do rules permit us to coin so?

Let's make this very, very clear. There is nobody, no institution, person or book, that has the authority to forbid you to doe anything with the English language.

Your teacher may fail you when you don't follow certain rules, your employer may have an opinion on your use of the language, and in general, people may not understand what you mean if you take too many liberties, but you can certainly use your creativity to coin new words or combinations of words.

Especially in this case, combining an adjective and a verb, we are looking at a productive process. A dictionary will never try to list all possible combinations of adjectives and verbs because they are very easy to combine, and people are free to come up with new combinations when the need arises.

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