Lesson 95 – Baseball – Compound Nouns and Compound Adjectives

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IN YOUR LANGUAGE (Top right > Select language > Click on the flags).


  • Its most direct ancestors
  • Rounders
  • Cricket
  • The first published rules of baseball
  • Firefighter
  • Volunteer
  • Bank clerk
  • Baseball club
  • It formed the basis
  • The diamond-shaped field
  • Foul lines
  • Three strike rule
  • Establishment
  • National League game
  • Baseball catcher mask
  • America’s national religion
  • It has broken records
  • Baseball caps
  • The little league
  • It tackled race issues
  • At the centre of controversy
  • Steroid use
  • The sport remains a country favourite
  • Whatever lays ahead
  • One thing is for sure
  • Prolific
  • Baseball terminology
  • A broad area of approximation
  • Within reasonable bounds
  • A ballpark figure
  • Out of the ballpark
  • To ensure safety
  • To throw a curveball
  • To achieve some initial goal
  • An appointment with a potential customer
  • Business transaction
  • To play hardball
  • To act tough or aggressive
  • A heavy hitter
  • A commanding person
  • Hit or miss
  • Completely fail
  • Coming out of left field
  • Caught off base
  • Caught unawares
  • Way off base
  • Misguided
  • Faulty
  • To take a rain check
  • To step up to the plate
  • To rise to an occasion


– Baseball –


Learn English – Lesson 95 – Baseball

There are many controversies and debates as to the origin of baseball.  Its most direct ancestors appear to be rounders and cricket. The first published rules of baseball were written in 1845 by volunteer firefighter and bank clerk, Alexander Joy Cartwright, for a New York City « baseball » club called the Knickerbockers. These rules would form the basis for modern baseball, introducing the diamond shaped field, foul lines and the three strike rule. A summary of its establishment is believed to be as so:

1845: Alexander Cartwright’s set of baseball rules was published.

1871: The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players was established.

1876: Over 3000 spectators watched the Philadelphia Athletics lose to Boston Red in the first National League game.

1878: Frederick Thayer, the captain of Harvard University Baseball Club, received a patent for the baseball catcher mask.

Baseball became increasingly popular, so much so that in 1919, philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen described baseball as America’s national religion. It has broken records, brought it outrageous amounts of money, through merchandise such as baseball caps and shirts, spawned the little league (children’s baseball teams) and the women’s league, tackled race issues and has unfortunately been at the centre of controversy for steroid use.

The viewing audience is now half of what it was 30 years ago but the sport remains a country favourite and is played globally. Whatever lays ahead no one knows, but one thing is for sure, so prolific was the sport’s effect that baseball terminology has made its way into everyday language. Here are a few you may recognise:

Ballpark, in the ballpark, ballpark figure, and out of the ballpark

  • Ballpark has been used to mean a broad area of approximation or similarity, or a range within which comparison is possible.
  • In the (right) ballpark means to be within reasonable bounds.
  • A ballpark figure means a figure that is reasonably accurate.
  • Out of the ballpark means to do something well.

To cover one’s bases

Cover all the bases is also used and means to ensure safety. In business, covering one’s bases means being prepared for every contingency.

Curve, curveball

To throw a curveball is to surprise, often completely and totally unexpected, and usually unpleasant.

First base

In interpersonal relations, an individual who can’t get to first base with another person is unable to achieve some initial goal or to establish a relationship. A kiss might be first base in a romantic relationship. Getting an appointment with a potential customer might be first base in a business transaction or negotiation.

Hardball, play hardball

To play hardball is to be or act tough or aggressive. Mostly used in the business world.

Heavy hitter

A heavy hitter refers to a powerful or commanding person, a leader. In business, the heavy hitters may be those who draw the most clients or make the most sales.

Hit or miss

To describe something as hit or miss is to suggest that it can either achieve success or completely fail.

Left field

When we describe something as « coming out of left field » we say that it is unusual, unexpected, or irrational.

Off base

Being « caught off base » could mean that you are caught unawares or by surprise. “Way off base” means misguided, mistaken, or working on faulty assumptions.

Rain-check (rain-cheque)

“Take a rain check” is usually used to promise to accept a social offer at an unnamed later date. An equivalent of saying “another time”.

Step up to the plate
“Step up to the plate” can be shortened to step up and means to rise to an occasion.

Touch base
“Touching base with someone” is to make contact with someone or to inform someone of one’s plans or activities.


Interactive Video Comprehension Quiz 1

Summary Statements Comprehension Quiz 2:

Drag and Drop Quiz 3: 


1. Often, we use two nouns or two adjectives together which then become a compound-noun or compound-adjective:


2. When put together, the first nouns plays the role of an adjective, giving more information about the second noun, and therefore becoming singular. The same applies to compound adjectives, where the first adjective is also singular:

A painting class A class that teaches painting
A paintbrush A brush specially designed to use with paint
A baseball cap A cap generally used by baseball players and fans
A shop assistant An assistant that will help customers in shop
A two-year contract A contract that lasts two years
A five-year old girl A girl who is five years old

3. In some cases, the words can be given in both order, meaning both two different things:

A vegetable garden A garden where vegetables are grown
Garden vegetables Vegetables that are grown in the garden
A shopping bag A bag used to go shopping, that might be empty
A bag of shopping A bag full of shopping

4. Those nouns can themselves be preceded by yet another noun, reaching up to three consecutive nouns:

Country garden vegetable Vegetables that are grown in the country garden
Table tennis table The table you need to play table tennis

Please note that there are no specific rules on when to write these nouns as one or as two separate words.


  • Related Pronunciation Video Lesson and interactive exercise(s):


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