I want to describe a database that is offline and turned off. I'm considering either "the shutdown database" or "the shut down database".

I'm having trouble determining which one of these sounds better. In the Microsoft style guide, they clearly state "two words as a verb, one word as a noun," but things aren't so clear cut in this case, because shutdown is used as an adjective.

  • Why don't you look that up in a real dictionary?? shutdown is a noun; shut down is a phrasal verb
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 17:37
  • Which of these is more suitable as an adjective? That was my question... Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 17:49
  • It probably depends on exactly what you mean by each. On their own, both are ambiguous. Without context they could be, for instance, a database which contains the information to enable shut down, or one that is unfortunately offline right now. Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 18:27
  • The meaning I'm looking for is "a database that is unfortunately offline right now". Does the noun or the phrasal verb sound closer to the target meaning to you? Or are they equally close/distant to it? Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 18:36
  • 'shut down database' points more towards the second meaning, but without both to compare, if you just saw it alone & out of context, there's no single conclusion you would be unequivocally likely to draw. Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 18:44

3 Answers 3


"As a verb" would mean that "database" is the object of the verb.

Before modifying any tables shut down the database.

If on the other hand, you mean a database of shutdowns (perhaps list of each time a system is shut down) you can use an attributive noun.

Attributive nouns are a little like adjectives. The precede a noun to modify it. Examples might be "chicken soup" or "golf course". The nouns "chicken" and "golf" describe the type of soup or course. But "golf" isn't an adjective (you couldn't say "*this course is very golf") Clearly not every word that is used to describe a noun is an adjective.

"Shutdown" is therefore a noun in the phrase "shutdown database" and, as per the style guide, should be written as one word.

If, however you mean a database that is offline at the moment, you should say "an offline database".


For a database that's offline, it should be separate words. You can put a hyphen between them, especially for longer phrases: "The already-been-shut-down database." This is really a past participle, which is a form of a verb that acts like an adjective.


shut down as two separate words is a verb. shut is an unusual verb, in that the past participle is the same as the infinitive. So, just as a closed book is a book that is closed, a shut down database is a database that is shut down. As James says, though, it would make it completely unambiguous to describe it as an offline database.

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