A twenty(-)minutes(-)late bus


Senior Member
I'm pretty sure there is a hyphen needed between twenty and minutes, but would one also write one between minutes and late, in: a twenty(-)minutes(-)late bus?
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    If I ever used that construction -- and trust me, I never would -- I would say a twenty-minute-late bus. Like a six-foot-tall woman.

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    This phrase raises similar issues to those in your earlier thread Huge car theft. In English we don't naturally form constructions like this for ad hoc descriptions, by which I mean descriptions of something particular, unique or transient, rather than general. A twenty minute late bus is not a kind of bus, it's the description of a bus in a certain situation. For this we would use a relative phrase or similar, such as sound shift has given. I have to say though, that I would like to see your phrase in a full sentence to decide how the situation would best be described.

    Copyright gives a good example of the type of description where we do put this kind of descriptive phrase before the noun; e.g. ages, heights, etc. I guess there are other constructions which may be natural, for example, "an out of work man". All these phrases describe a permanent or lasting condition, or innate quality, rather than a very transient one (as in your bus), which may also be that factor that makes them acceptable. Another example is "an over the shoulder hairstyle": this is a type of hairstyle and "over the shoulder" describes an innate quality that makes it what it is.
    < Previous | Next >