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I heard some people talking:

Do you have a favorite beach activity?

If one wrote this, what would seem proper, and, maybe, grammatically perfect:

. . . beach activity

or,

. . . beach-activity

?

  • Think of it this way: beach is functioning as an adjective here, and we don't put a hyphen between an adjective and the noun that it modifies. You wouldn't say "Do you have a red-towel?" or "Did you see a tall-man?", so you wouldn't use "beach-activity" here either. – stangdon Jul 26 '18 at 19:38
  • Ah. I feel, like, when I maybe hear others say this, it almost sounds like it connects . . . sounding like that . . . Thank you – saySay Jul 27 '18 at 16:23
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Compound nouns are common in English:

Bed frame
Side order
Dinner service
Police car

and possibly tens of thousands more. In fact people frequently make them up as needed:

Come on down to the park this Saturday for our first annual Watermelon Jubilee!

You won't find "watermelon jubilee" in the dictionary, but if you know a watermelon is a kind of fruit, and a jubilee is a big party, then you can assume it's a big party where lots of watermelon will be served.

Only a small percentage of compound nouns are hyphenated, usually if there is any ambiguity about what the noun means. For example:

ice-axe vs ice axe (Both are acceptable, but ice-axe makes it clear that the axe is not made of ice.)

More information

In your sentence, no hyphen is necessary. Beach activity is perfectly natural.

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  • I get a kick out of the fact that ice cream was originally iced cream (which actually makes more sense, although I can understand the shift due to pronunciation)—and I'm waiting to see if it ever becomes simply icecream at some point in the future. – Jason Bassford Jul 26 '18 at 18:49
  • @JasonBassford I think only children with unnaturally good diction have separated the words ever since it was created, "Icecream! We want icecream!" :) – Andrew Jul 26 '18 at 18:51
  • Not to be confused with I scream! ;) – Jason Bassford Jul 26 '18 at 19:04
  • I don't think beach activity is a compound noun. I think beach is merely used as an adjective. Work activity, leisure activity, etc. – Lambie Jul 26 '18 at 19:12
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    This may make most sense, using, “ . . . makes it clear that the axe is not made of ice.”, as a qualifier whether to hyphen, or not . . . I greatly appreciate it, Andrew. – saySay Jul 27 '18 at 16:30
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Without the hyphen please.

Do you have a favorite beach activity?

In the same way, we don't ask

What are your favourite farm-animals?

but

What are your favourite farm animals?

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  • beach activity
  • work activity
  • leisure activity

These are all nouns used as adjectives.

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  • Hm. I never saw beach used as an adjective, only noun, or, verb – saySay Jul 27 '18 at 16:26
  • It is very common in English to use nouns as adjectives. playtime activity is another. And yes, no dash. – Lambie Jul 27 '18 at 16:32

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