General Writing and Grammar Help/meaning of "soon-to-be"

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Question
Dear Ted,
I know there is an expression "soon to be". Does the expression need hyphens, I mean should it be "soon-to-be", or are both ways correct? Is it an adjective or a prefix? I think the expression is used to indicate what someone, or something, will be in the very near future. Is my understanding of the expression correct? In other words, do the following sentences make sense and are they grammatically correct?
1. She is my soon-to-be bride.
2. I'm a soon-to-be doctor.
3. I get along very well with my soon-to-be mother-in-law.
4. These are some pictures of my soon-to-be car.
5. I'd like to show you my soon-to-be house.

Answer
Dear Glen:

I know there is an expression "soon to be". Does the expression need hyphens, I mean should it be "soon-to-be", or are both ways correct? Is it an adjective or a prefix? I think the expression is used to indicate what someone, or something, will be in the very near future. Is my understanding of the expression correct? In other words, do the following sentences make sense and are they grammatically correct?
1. She is my soon-to-be bride.
2. I'm a soon-to-be doctor.
3. I get along very well with my soon-to-be mother-in-law.
4. These are some pictures of my soon-to-be car.
5. I'd like to show you my soon-to-be house.

The common term for your example is "compound adjective."  All three words are put together with hyphens, and they are use as one "unit" to describe the noun that follows.  All of your sentences are correct.

Here is another explanation from an internet site:


"Enumeration of adjectives" occurs when two or more adjectives are linked to form a compound adjective, to show they are part of the same adjective.
Examples:
white-tailed deer
snow-covered mountain
all-too-common mistakes
soon-to-be-forgotten experience

*** The "test" for determining whether these words should be hyphenated is to try them alone to see if they make sense.  For instance, can you have a "snow mountain" and a "covered mountain"?  Since the answer is "no," you hyphenate the two words so that they act as one -- a compound adjective.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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