GrammarPhile Blog

Adverbs + Participles

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 7, 2012 5:30:00 AM

lovelyMany of our blog article topics are inspired by common mistakes we see in documents. Today's post is all about adverbs and participles.

Do not hyphenate an adverb-participle* combination if the adverb ends in ly.

  • a poorly constructed water ski
  • a highly valued employee
  • a clearly defined set of terms
  • a wholly owned corporation
  • a newly formed division
  • an extremely tiring trip
NOTE: Hyphenate adjectives ending in ly when they are used with participles.
  • a friendly-sounding voice
  • a motherly-looking woman
[Although the ly ending usually signifies an adverb, a few adjectives also end in ly -- for example, costly, timely, motherly, fatherly, friendly, neighborly, worldly, earthly, lively, lovely, lonely. A few common ly-ending words are used both as adjectives and adverbs -- for example, early, only, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.]

Other adverb-participle compounds are hyphenated before the noun. When these same combinations occur in the predicate, drop the hyphen if the participle is part of the verb.

  • a well-known consultant, but This consultant is well known.
  • much-needed reforms, but These reforms were much needed.
  • the above-mentioned facts, but These facts were mentioned above.

However, if the participle does not become part of the verb and continues to function with the adverb as a one-thought modifier in the predicate, retain the hyphen.

  • a well-behaved child, and The child is well-behaved.
  • a clear-cut position, and The position was clear-cut.
  • a well-intentioned proposal, and The proposal was well-intentioned.

A hyphenated adverb-participle combination can retain the hyphen even when the adverb is in the comparative or superlative.

  • a better-known brand
  • the hardest-working manager
  • the best-behaved child
  • a faster-moving water skier

A few words in this category are now written solid.

  • -going: ongoing, outgoing, thoroughgoing
  • far-: farseeing, farsighted, but far-fetched, far-flung, far-reaching
  • free-: freehanded, freehearted, freestanding, but free-floating, free-spoken, free-swinging
  • wide-: widespread, but wide-eyed, wide-ranging, wide-spreading


Source: Gregg Reference Manual
*Wondering what a participle is? It's simply a verb form that has the function of an adjective (describes a noun) and at the same time shows such verbal features as tense (-ed and -ing) and voice and capacity to take an object.



Topics: hyphenation, participles, adverbs

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