Compound Nouns Part 3

Compound Nouns Part 1 explained that compound nouns are stressed on the first word. However, for names and titles, the stress pattern is different. For proper names or official titles, the last word is the stronger word.

For example, if I say the name “Mary Jane”, the 2nd part (Jane) is stronger, but if I add her surname, then the stress moves to the last name “Mary Jane Smith”. This is also true for place names, for example, “New York” is stressed on the second part, but “New York City” is stressed on the the 3rd part.

Here are some more examples:
2 part titles: attorney general / assistant professor / vice president / notary public / mayor-elect
2 part people or business names: John Smith / George Washington / Queen Elizabeth / General Motors / Children’s Hospital / Home Depot
2 part place names: Los Angeles / St. Paul / South Dakota / Long Island / Tenth Avenue / Maple Lane / Eastern Boulevard / Lake Superior / Mississippi River / Paris, France / Houston, Texas
3-part names: Yellowstone National Park / Thief River Falls / Vice President Johnson / First Baptist Church / Mall of America

Names which use the words “street” or “store” actually use regular compound noun stress, which means that the first part is stronger: Sixth Street / Oak Street / Jackson Street / Wall Street / General Store / Target Stores.

Be on the lookout for compound nouns, you are likely to find them any time you hear or read something in English! (These are the ones I used to write this blog post: stress pattern / last name / place names / lookout / blog post.)

2 thoughts on “Compound Nouns Part 3

    • Sometimes it is hard to predict when it will be a compound vs. a phrase. The biggest takeaway for now is the awareness of the difference between the two, so that you can use the strategy of switching the stress if you discover that your first choice doesn’t seem to be right. (Perhaps some day I can dig deeper into this to uncover some clearer patterns!!)

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