hyphens: verbs

Compound verbs may be either hyphenated or written solid. The only safe rule is to check your dictionary:

  • freeze-dry
  • mass-produce
  • age-harden
  • spoon-feed
  • bad-mouth
  • extra-bill


  • waterproof
  • downgrade
  • sidetrack
  • proofread

If the infinitive form of the verb (e.g. to air-condition) is hyphenated, retain the hyphen in all other forms, except in the case of certain gerunds (see below):

  • The theatre was air-conditioned.
  • You need an air-conditioning expert.


Hyphenate gerunds formed from hyphenated compound verbs only if they are followed by a noun object:

  • Dry cleaning is the simplest way to clean a sweater.


  • Dry-cleaning the sweater should remove the stain.
  • Air conditioning is sometimes needed in summer.


  • Is air-conditioning the building feasible?

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