You’ve probably already learned that we can use -ED adjectives to describe how a person feels, and -ING adjectives to describe the thing, person, situation, or event that causes the feeling:
- I’m tired. My job is very tiring.
“tired” describes “I”, and “tiring” describes “job”
- We’re bored. This movie is boring.
“bored” describes “we”, and “boring” describes “movie”
- She was surprised. The news was surprising.
“surprised” describes “she”, and “surprising” describes “news”
- I was interested in his stories. John’s an interesting person.
“interested” describes “I”, and “interesting” describes “John”
The English language has a HUGE number of compound nouns and collocations with -ING adjectives. One thing you might not know is that the stress is different:
- With compound nouns, we stress the FIRST word:
a swimming pool
- With collocations, we stress the SECOND word:
a developing country
There’s no easy way to know, at a glance, whether a word is a compound noun or a collocation – so here are 50 common compound nouns and collocations for you to learn!
Compound Nouns with -ING
swimming pool & diving board
parking meter, parking space, parking lot
- a balancing act = a situation that requires careful balancing of opposing groups, opinions, or activities
- an eating disorder = a medical/psychological problem in which a person consumes too much or far too little food
- a drinking problem = when a person drinks too much alcohol; he/she is an alcoholic
- a shouting match = when two people are angrily shouting (talking loudly) at each other
- a running mate = the companion of a candidate for a political position; for example, when someone is trying to get elected president of a country, he/she will pick a person to be their “running mate” and be elected vice president
- growing pains = difficulties experienced by a person or company/organization as they grow
- asking price = the price suggested by the seller, but which is usually open to bargaining (negotiating for a lower price)
- a turning point = an important moment/event at which a change in direction or progress occurs
- purchasing power = the ability of a person to buy things with their available money/income
- a breeding ground = “ground” means “area,” and “breeding” means for animals to reproduce. However, this expression is used metaphorically to mean a place or situation that greatly encourages the development of ideas/activities
- breathing space/room = sometimes this means literal space, sufficient for comfortable respiration and movement. Other times it is used metaphorically to mean sufficient time/money/etc. for you to relax
- a shopping spree = when you do a lot of shopping and spend a lot of money freely, without restraint
- a stepping stone = something that helps you progress towards a bigger goal
- a sounding board = a person whose reactions to an idea/proposal serve as a way to evaluate the idea or proposal’s potential or effectiveness
English Collocations with -ING Adjectives
- a developing country = a country that is still developing its infrastructure and in the process of establishing a strong economy and social systems
- a cutting remark = a strong comment that causes feelings to be hurt
- diminishing returns = when you keep doing something for a long time, but it gives fewer and fewer results as time goes on, we say it has “diminishing returns.”
- excruciating pain = extremely strong pain that is difficult to endure
- a leading role = when someone has “a leading role” in something, they have an important position or activity in that project
- a compelling argument = in this context, “argument” means a logically-supported opinion (not a fight or verbal conflict), and “compelling” means it can convince you; it seems believable and true
- a moving speech = when someone gives a talk that affects you emotionally (usually either inspiring you or making you sad)
- a nursing mother = a woman who has a baby that is still breastfeeding
- a standing ovation = when people stand up and applaud after a great performance, concert, or presentation, this is called a “standing ovation”
- a pressing engagement = an urgent/important appointment or commitment
- a promising future = a future with a high potential for success
- a raving lunatic = someone who is crazy/insane (“lunatic”) and who is very loudly expressing their views (“raving”)
- a recurring dream = a dream that is repeated a number of times; “recurring” means it keeps coming back
- a sitting duck = this is an idiomatic expression that means someone is an easy target for attack – like a duck (a type of bird) would be very easy to kill if it was just sitting, and not flying.
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