Why do we say "a one-legged man", with a final "-ed", but also say "a one-person job" without the "-ed"? We also say:

A two-minute walk.

A six-hour flight.

But then we say:

A green-eyed woman

Black-eyed peas

When I think about it, it seems to me the pattern with a final -d/-ed suggests the idea of having, as in having green eyes. But this theory doesn't seem to work with some other compound adjectives like:

A two-storey building

It should be two-storeyed because it means made of or having two storeys.


1 Answer 1


The past participle formed from a part of the body(eye, arm, leg, foot, etc) means "having said body part", as you say; a number in front indicates how many there are:

a three-legged stool

a one-eyed pirate

a four-armed deity

a seven-headed dragon

a three-headed dog

With units of measure we do not do this; rather we use the unit of measure in the singular:

a twelve-inch ruler

a six-hour flight

With buildings, storey can be understood as unit of measure or as a component of the building, so that both are possible:

a ten-storey building

three-storeyed terraces

storeyed dwellings

P.S. In American English, storey can be spelled storey or story.

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    Technically, it's a bit wider than just number. You can also say "a blue-eyed pirate", "a bare-legged person", etc.
    – Laurel
    Sep 18, 2018 at 22:58
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    @Beanluc en.wiktionary.org/wiki/storeyed Having the stated number of storeys (building levels)
    – CJ Dennis
    Sep 19, 2018 at 0:20
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    A good example might be "A one-man boat" vs "a manned boat". The implication in the second in this case would be that someone is currently in the boat. Sep 19, 2018 at 1:42
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    @Beanluc "Storyed" is, but "storied" isn't (as usual).
    – trolley813
    Sep 19, 2018 at 6:52
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    @Roland Heath: Interesting example with the manned and one-man boat. I think manned, while it could indeed mean "with human beings operating it or on it currently", is not limited to that very specific meaning; the sense of "currently" is imparted by context. Compare "manned vehicle" versus "unmanned vehicle", where "unmanned" means "designed so that there are no humans on board" and "manned" means "designed so that one or more human operators must be on board". Context tells us whether there is an implication of "currently" or "at this moment".
    – TimR
    Sep 19, 2018 at 11:42

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