Adverbs to. Adjectives

quickly to quick


well to good

My problem is:

He has earned the money over the years.

Can I say:

The money is his over-the-years earning?

Thank you.

  • "The money is his earnings accumulated over the years", maybe. – The Photon Mar 16 '19 at 5:58
  • Over-the-years earning is not something I've ever heard before, but forming a compound adjective in that way is quite common. So, yes, it's certainly possible to say that. Whether it's better to phrase it differently, I don't know. It would depend on the context. It's certainly not something that would be used in formal writing. – Jason Bassford Mar 16 '19 at 7:25

While there is a tradition of creating compound adjectives in that way, this one doesn't feel quite right. It would be obviously your own coining, of course, but it also isn't the way any native speaker would do it. I can't put my finger on why.

There's no word you can use, and I don't see a way to create a compound adjective for this purpose that would seem natural. However, there are ways to do it with the sentence structure you want - you just need more words, and they go in different places.

(Also, you want earnings rather than earning when using it as a noun; my examples will all make that change where necessary.)

The money is his cumulative earnings over several years.

Cumulative means everything added up, one after the other. If you have a statistics report, cumulative frequency is the frequency of a class, and all classes that are listed before it. However, this isn't a great choice here because technically, his cumulative earnings over a period is the total he earned in that period, including any he already spent.

(I also added several, as "over years" doesn't quite work naturally here.)

The money is his accumulated earnings over several years.

This is obviously related to cumulative, but doesn't have the same precise technical meaning. It just means the money "built up" over that time.

For either of those, you could also be less specific about the number of years, by going back to the original word choice, the.

The money is his cumulative earnings over the years.
The money is his accumulated earnings over the years.

"Over the years" is, you probably realise, a set phrase that just represents something that has happened over the course of a considerable but unspecified period of time.

Both of these end up much more technical and precise sounding than the original, however. If we change the structure a bit, we can get some more casual sounding options.

The money has been earned over the years.

This is the straightforward passivisation of the original sentence.

The money is several years worth of his earnings.
The money is several years worth of his excess earnings.

"Several years worth" is a phrase meaning that it's what you would expect of something for several years. It might be taken as "the total amount he would earn over several years", however. If you add the excess, it suggests "the total amount he could reasonably have saved over several years".

Hopefully that at least gives you some food for thought.

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