Hyphen (-) When to Use a Hyphen in English

What is a hyphen? What is (-) called in English? When to use a hyphen in English with rules and example sentences. Learn the difference between hyphen vs dash with ESL printable worksheet.

What is a Hyphen?

The symbol (-) is called a hyphen in the English language. A hyphen is a short horizontal line used within words.

The hyphen (-) is different from en dash (–) and em dash/ long dash (—). It is a symbol (-) that is slightly narrower than an en dash (–). The em dash (—) is twice as long as the en dash (–). They are different in appearance and usage.

A hyphen is a punctuation mark with three main uses. Many people confuse this punctuation mark with the dash, but the two are quite different. The hyphen can be used in compound words, to link words to prefixes, and also as a way to show word breaks

The hyphen examples:

  • They came home to find their father-in-law in a lot of pain. 
  • She’s a widely-recognized expert in technology.
  • I noticed two middle-aged passengers.
  • His books are world-famous.
  • We have 20 part-time members of staff .

When to Use a Hyphen

Using Hyphens to Form Hyphenated Words

Hyphenated words are compound words that are made up of two or more words usually with hyphens (-) between them. In simple words, hyphens are used between words to form hyphenated words.

Hyphenated Adjectives

We use hyphens to join adjective, adverb, noun, past participle, present participle… to form compound adjectives in English.


  • An English-speaking country
  • A twenty-story building
  • Well-known writer
  • Good-looking person

Hyphenated adjectives in sentences:

  • full-length portrait of the Queen hung on the wall.
  • Writing a dictionary is a never-ending task.
  • He was stuck in a line of slow-moving traffic.
  • He was tall and quite good-looking.
  • He is an obedient and well-behaved child.

Hyphenated Verbs

We use a hyphen to join two nouns to form a verb.


  • Color-code
  • Double-click
  • Water-proof

Hyphenated Nouns


  • Dry-cleaning
  • Daughter-in-law
  • Editor-in-chief
  • Mother-in-law
  • One-half

Using Hyphens to link Prefixes to Words

In English, a prefix is a few letters put at the beginning of a word to change its meaning. We use hyphens in words beginning with the prefixes co-, ex-, pre-, post-


  • Co-worker, co-pilot, co-operation
  • Ex-president, ex-boyfriend
  • Extra-terrestrial
  • Post-mortem, post-natal
  • Pre-intermediate
  • Sub-category

Using hyphens in example sentences:

  • These things happened before the pre-enlightenment era. 
  • A study was undertaken in co-operation with oil companies.
  • This was the ex-president of the Union talking!

Hyphens in Numbers

When writing out the numbers twenty-one (21) to ninety-nine (99), we use a hyphen between the tens and units number. Other numbers don’t require a hyphen.


  • Twenty-two 
  • Eighty-six million dollars
  • Twenty-four thousand

Example Sentences:

  • The old man was pushing eighty-five.
  • Nineteen eighty-two was probably the high-water mark both of the fascination and the frustration with literary theory in this country.
  • He’s working maybe twenty-five hours a week.

Hyphen vs Dash | Infographic

Learn the differences between hyphen vs dash in English with useful punctuation rules and examples.

Hyphen (-) When to Use a Hyphen in EnglishPin

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1 year ago

can you give full description about hyphens

1 year ago

is “time- and energy-consuming “ a correct word?

11 months ago
Reply to  Dizzyizzy

No, it’s not.

4 months ago
Reply to  Scott

What is the correct way of writing it?

1 month ago
Reply to  Delle

This is correct. I searched it up. You can see the word ‘time-consuming’ in both Merriam Webster’s and Cambridge dictionary. I’m not sure with energy-consuming although there are results, the websites aren’t trusted ones.

11 months ago

its something else ok

11 months ago

i don’t know.

11 months ago


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