1. Joey logged in.
  2. The logged-in person is Joey.

What grammar rule applies to the hyphenated word logged-in?

  • 2
    It is explained in the 'hyphens between words' section of this guide to punctuation. grammarbook.com/punctuation/hyphens.asp
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 4 '17 at 13:12
  • Hi @JavaLatte, I couldn't see that that page mentions anything related to adjectives formed from phrasal verbs. Could you please point out which rule from that page covers this case? Thanks! Aug 4 '17 at 15:12
  • 1
    I suppose we could say it's covered by Rule 5. Unfortunately, that rule boils down to "avoid confusion" -- useful to a native speaker, perhaps, but not of much use to a foreign-language student. Aug 4 '17 at 15:48
  • 1
    Logged-in is a compound adjective that qualifies person, so rule 1 applies. The fact that it's a phrasal verb is irrelevant.
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 4 '17 at 20:37

Why hyphenate a participial phrasal verb when it is used like an adjective?

The logged-in person is Joey.

"In" is a preposition.  Usually, it takes an object.  Phrases like "in fact" and "in person" are common and unremarkable.  However, the "in" in the sentence above does not take an object.  The phrase "in person" is not a constituent of that sentence, even though the words "in" and "person" are right there, standing next to each other. 

With the hyphen, the structure of the clause is easy to see.  "Logged-in" acts as a tightly bound unit.  As a constituent, it modifies "person", which in turn stands as the subject of the sentence. 

Without the hyphen, the intended structure is far less clear.  We could easily mistake "in person" as a constituent that modifies "logged".  That would leave "logged" to stand as the subject or the complement in the clause, with "person" buried inside a prepositional phrase. 


It's all about making sure that the words are grouped correctly:

The logged in person is Joey.
{ {The} { {logged} {in person} } } | { {is} / {Joey} }

The logged-in person is Joey.
{ {The} { {logged in} {person} } } | { {is} / {Joey} }


Another option that English makes available to us is to change the word order of this clause:

The person logged in is Joey.
{ {The} { {person} {logged in} } } | { {is} / {Joey} }

In this version, there is no reason to hyphenate "logged in".  We don't mistake the verb "is" or the predicate "is Joey" as a possible object of the preposition. 

By the way, this "logged" is not in the past tense.  It's a participle.  It's in the perfect aspect.  The only word in this clause that marks tense is the present-tense "is".

  • Hi @Gary, thanks for pointing out the "participle". Isn't in a particle and not a preposition? In the phrasal verb logged in, in is a particle and not a preposition. Now in the adjective form (participle) logged-in, it becomes a preposition? Aug 4 '17 at 17:14
  • 1
    Particle is a useful label, but not everyone uses it. Some call the "in" of "logged in" a particle, an adverb, an intransitive preposition -- different people using different frameworks have different terminology for the same underlying idea. Even so, most of us agree the "in" of "in person" is a preposition. One person says "the hyphen keeps us from mistaking the particle for a preposition". Another says "the hyphen shows us that this preposition is intransitive". The underlying idea is the same: the hyphen attaches "in" to "logged" without dragging "person" along for the ride. Aug 4 '17 at 17:55

The hyphen in this instance developed as an orthographic/typographic convention whose purpose was to represent a prosodic feature of such adjectives: the elements of logged-in are spoken in fairly rapid succession, so that they form a quasi-unit. The intervening pause is very brief.

These phrases have quite similar rhythms:

The logged-in user.

The wooden handle.

These phrases have quite different rhythms:

The logged-in user.

The sum[,] in dollars.

With the latter, "in dollars" is a prepositional phrase which would be demarcated by its micropauses; where I have the comma [,] there would be a brief syntactic pause separating the noun sum from the prepositional phrase.


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