Unit 17: Additional grammatical structures

17.1 Formation of Compound Nouns

Many compound nouns are formed by the third person singular of the present tense of an infinitive, followed by the plural (or, occasionally, singular) form of the noun that would be the object of the verb.

For example, take the verb parar, “to stop.” What stops a fall is a parachute, thus para caídas (“falls”) = paracaídas (“parachute”). What stops water is an umbrella, thus para + aguas = paraguas (“umbrella”). (These nouns, in spite of ending in –s, remain grammatically singular and masculine.) A sampling of such nouns, the meaning of which can often be deduced and some of which you have already seen, follows:

Compound Noun


el cumpleaños birthday
el lavaplatos dishwasher
el limpiaparabrisas windshield wiper
el parabrisas windshield
el pararrayo(s) lightning rod
el parasol parasol
el pasamano(s) handrail
el pisapapeles paperweight
el quitamanchas stain-remover
el quitanieves snowplow
el rascacielos skyscraper
el salvavidas life jacket, life guard, life boat
el tocadisco record player
el trabalenguas tongue twister

Although the above combination is common, other compound nouns are also possible, such as the following:

el hazmerreír laughingstock
el sabelotodo know-it-all


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