Why doesn't

A three room house

have the "ed" ending while

A three-headED dog


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    Sometimes, it can be either; there are four-engine jets in some newspapers and four-engined jets on others.
    – choster
    Mar 12 '19 at 16:47
  • @ColleenV: Your second link is not really germane to this question, and the first is somewhat suspect as well. What's at issue here is not the verbing of nouns but why we use a past participle of a verb as a noun in combination with other modifiers without actually verbing a noun. Where do "long-bearded man" and "whiskey-voiced singer" fit in? My comment, which you appear to have deleted, was a more frank and realistic assessment of the situation.
    – Robusto
    Mar 12 '19 at 17:41
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    @Robusto I linked the questions as “related” because I thought it was likely that learners who found this question in a search might also be interested in those questions. If I had thought they were more than just “related”, I would have indicated that.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 12 '19 at 17:56
  • The main point regardless of engined, voiced, bedroomed, etc. is that one would not say: three-leg dog. One always has to say: three-legged dog. If body parts describe the person or animal, the ed is used when adjectivizing.
    – Lambie
    Mar 12 '19 at 21:08

As in the other answers, you can indeed say a three roomed house. Either three roomed or three room sound perfectly natural to me (a native English, Australian dialect speaker).

I'd like to offer a few words on what the two different forms tend to imply to me. I emphasize these connotations are extremely subtle, and, as in other answers, any real connotations are probably dying out, with the "right" form increasingly simply defined by customary usage or preference.

Let's take two phrases:

three bedroomed house as against three bedroom house


one eyed man as againts one eye man.

The last, "one eye man" is not incorrect, but it would be extremely seldom usage. I don't even believe I've ever heard it.

For me, one would tend to say, "she's building a three bedroomed house" instead of "three bedroom house", but "three bedroom house" is likely more common in real estate advertisements. I believe the former emphasizes the house as a "growing" or "built" entity: it evokes something evolving towards the described form or state. Hence it is used with parts of living animals: they grew in a womb or an egg and came out like that. On the other hand, "three bedroom house" simply, barely denotes a subclass of object with a certain attribute: you don't care that the house was at one stage built into its present form if you're renting it, you simply want to know whether it will fit your needs.

On the other hand, the connotations of "one eye man" are very subtle to describe for me. The best I can do is that I can imagine it might describe a member of an alien race in a scifi movie - a humanoid being whose species' phenotypes only ever have one eye as opposed to a human being. Likewise, I feel it would be more correct to say a "one eye cyclops" as opposed to "one eyed cyclops": cyclopses by definition only ever have one eye, so you would only say the first to poetically emphasize the one eyedness thay they are known for. "One eyed cyclops" would imply that there might be other, many eyed cyclopses walking around.

If you know a bit of German, the effect is, for me, not unlike the distinction between past participles paired with sein as opposed to werden to make a passive, although it is subtler and less "living language" than the German usage.

  • one-eyed man is the usual usage. Not: one eye man.
    – Lambie
    Mar 14 '19 at 15:04
  • @Lambie Indeed, you are absolutely right. But "one eye man" is not incorrect grammatically, or even probably in usage, even though I don't believe I have ever heard it. So I am trying to describe in my answer about what such an unwonted usage as "one eye man" might convey to a natural English speaker, and when one might hear it. It is VERY subtle to describe, but, nonetheless, I think there are at least some aspects of my answer above that would be evoked in the mind of most native English speakers if they heard this unusual phrase. Mar 24 '19 at 6:04

Regarding the alternative between 'three-room' and 'three-roomed', Google Ngram Viewer shows strong differences between American and British usage. 'one-room' to 'five-room' has been far more common in AmEng since about 1900, while 'one-roomed' etc is occasionally used. 'one-roomed' etc remained more common in BrEng until about 1950, the two forms were equally used until about 1970, 'one-room' is now more common but 'one-roomed' is still used about 25-50% as often as 'one-room' (compared with about 5% as often in AmEng).

"three-roomed house is wrong" - Not in British English, and not even in American English. Very rare, but not wrong.

  • I have never heard three-roomed house in my entire life, which so far, has been pretty long. It is indeed non-standard in the US. That does not make it wrong. It is unusual. Everyone thinks non-standard means slang or bad or some other oddity. It's doesn't. As you yourself state: room is more common in AmE since 1900. So, I am right: it is not standard in AmE today. No one,except some quirky cultural historians, would be expected to know this factoid.
    – Lambie
    Mar 12 '19 at 23:34
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    At the risk of sounding parochial, I will mildly say that "non-standard in US English" does not imply "non-standard in English". Mar 13 '19 at 10:09
  • @MichaelHarvey Yes, and I have changed my answer to reflect that.
    – Lambie
    Mar 14 '19 at 15:01

Often, a phrase like: a house with three rooms, can be made to function like an adjective by writing:

  • a three-room house [many sites with leave out the hyphen, but in formal writing, it should be there]. This is standard in the AmE.

Here is a full explanation of this, which is called a noun adjunct, attributive noun or noun pre-modifier: noun adjunct. This can get complicated but the Wikipedia entry is rather thorough.

The second point in the question concerns parts of the body used as adjectives in English. This point is more straightforward. It so happens that traditionally English adds ed to body parts to form adjectives with numbers:

  • a two-headed monster [with two heads]
  • a three-legged dog [a dog that has lost a leg]
  • a one-eyed man [in literature, often a pirate with a black patch over one eye. :)]
  • a three-toed sloth [a very cute animal, by the way]
  • a six-toed cat [polydactyl, can also have seven, by the way].
  • a one-armed man [a man with one arm]
  • a fleet-footed animal [a deer, it can run fast, for example]
  • Three-eared Rabbit [a restaurant in Trussville, Alabama]
  • a dog-eared book [worn or in bad condition at the corners]
  • a knock-kneed child [the legs curve inward]
  • a scatter-brained person [one who gets confused easily]
  • harebrained or hare-brained [similar to scatter brain]

So, generally, heads, eyes, arms, legs, feet, toes and fingers, and the brain (less often ears and knees) can have ed added to them to form adjectives. There is also lily-livered meaning cowardly. livered comes from liver. And various items with brain.

[I am sure I probably missed some. But that's the general idea.]

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    @Lambie "No, three-roomed house is wrong" - Not in British English. If it's OK in national (serious) newspapers, it's good enough for me. And I don't see any reference for your assertion about "traditionally" adding -ed to body parts. Ever heard of a "two-finger salute," or "two finger scroll" and "two finger zoom" on computer touch screens? That's what Microsoft calls them - not "two fingered".
    – alephzero
    Mar 12 '19 at 20:04
  • @alephzero Of course, you can say what you like. As for the British English thing, I dunno. It's definitely English. But not standard. Standard is the noun adjunct version: three-room house. Some people still wear three-cornered hats. My answer deals "with the use of body parts as adjectives with ed" and not noun adjunct usage as in two finger scroll. That is not the same case. I thought I made that clear? Two finger scroll is like three room house: scrolling using two fingers. It doesn't mean the scrolling has some number of body parts as in every one of my examples.
    – Lambie
    Mar 12 '19 at 20:17
  • @MichaelHarvey I guess you don't agree with two-finger salute, no ed above. Anyway, it's a pity my point is being obscured.
    – Lambie
    Mar 12 '19 at 22:13
  • What about a three-cornered hat, or a double-edged sword?
    – aschepler
    Mar 12 '19 at 22:52
  • @MichaelHarvey In the US, we don't use three-bedroomed house or anything like that. It is only UK. So, it is standard in the US. I can't give you a source. It is simply not used.
    – Lambie
    Mar 12 '19 at 23:30

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