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.
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:
- A 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.
We use a hyphen to join two nouns to form a verb.
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
- Post-mortem, post-natal
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.
- Eighty-six million dollars
- Twenty-four thousand
- 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.