Abstract This study reports the difficulties of aphasic patients in producing nominal compounds in German. In a picture naming task with semantically relatively transparent targets it was found that the word frequency of the components determined the accuracy of the patients' performance. A second picture naming task using relatively opaque targets, and a further naming task in which patients were confronted with aurally presented object paraphrases using very opaque targets, are reported. The error patterns of all three tasks give evidence for morpheme-based mis-productions (e.g., componential substitutions), however, in declining proportions with decreasing semantic transparency. Access to final (or basic) components was clearly superior to initial (or determinative) components suggesting position-specific access routines.