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I want to know whether these nouns have the same meaning.

1.large machine like clocks

2.large machine–like clocks

3.large machinelike clocks

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These aren't nouns, but noun phrases. However, they all usually mean the same thing: clocks that are large and are like machines. There is another, unusual reading of #1 ("clocks that are like large machines"), but this would be a very uncommon interpretation.

Although in spoken language there would be no distinction between these three uses, in English writing we'd usually write:

large, machine-like clocks

The comma is a convention that divides adjectives in sequence from each other. The hyphen in "machine-like" is because "machine-like" isn't a word we use commonly, but still one that can be produced in English by combining two words together. Thus, we link the smaller words that make it up with a hyphen so you can still see the original words.

  • I would read #1 differently. Clocks are typically small, but someone could be referring to the giant clock mechanisms used in clock towers. #1 would use such a giant mechanism as an example of a large machine (although the singular/plural doesn't match, should be "machines"), and some people would set off "like clocks" with commas. – fixer1234 Jun 10 '17 at 4:26

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