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Compound Nouns


Spelling reform

A spelling reform was adopted in France in 1990 but it is not mandatory. Under this reform, the rules applying to compound nouns were changed when the noun is composed of a verb + a noun or a preposition + a noun. In these cases, the noun takes an -s only and always if the noun is plural.

Traditional spelling

Reformed spelling

Un pare-brise Un pare-brise
Des pare-brise Des pare-brises
Un compte-gouttes Un compte-goutte
Des compte-gouttes Des compte-gouttes

Compound Nouns

The plural of nouns is generally formed by adding an “s” to the end of of the noun.

For example:

un chien des chiens
une amie des amies
un chanteur des chanteurs
un canard des canards
une voiture des voitures

“des” is the plural of the indefinite articles “un” and “une”.
“les” is the plural of the definite article “le” and “la”.

Today’s lesson will be about the plural of compound nouns. The plural of compound nouns depends on the function of the words that compose the noun: adjective, noun, verb, adverb, preposition etc.. Remember to always check the dictionary for accurate answers as there are so many exceptions.

Noun + Noun

When the noun is composed of two nouns, both nouns take the plural form.

For example:

une porte-fenêtre des portes-fenêtres
un oiseau-mouche des oiseaux-mouches
un chou-fleur des choux-fleurs


un timbre-poste des timbres-poste
une pause-café des pauses-café

Noun + Preposition + Noun

When the noun is composed of a noun, a preposition and another noun, only the first noun takes the plural form.


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