Posts Tagged ‘adjective order’

Adjective Order Before Nouns

March 16th, 2010 in English Grammar, English Learning

When several adjectives are used to modify a noun, they need to be put in a particular order. For example, we say a fat old woman, and not an old fat woman. Similarly we say, a large shiny brown leather bag, and not a leather large shiny brown bag. There are no comprehensive rules for adjective order. The few rules we have are complicated and different grammars disagree about the details. Nevertheless, some of the most important rules are explained here.

Adjectives of color, origin, material and purpose usually go in that order.

A blue German leather bag
A brown Spanish glass mug
An Arabian glass flower vase

Adjectives of size, length and height usually go before words of color, origin, material and purpose.

A round glass table (NOT a glass round table)
A tall ancient oak tree (NOT an ancient tall oak tree)

Adjectives which express judgments and attitudes usually go before all other adjectives. Examples are: lovely, nice, wonderful, surprising, silly, foolish etc.

A silly fat woman

Numbers usually go before other adjectives.

Eight large stones
The third big shock

Note that the ordinal adjectives first, second, third etc., usually go before the cardinal adjectives one, two, three etc.

The first two chapters
My last two jobs

Note that when more than two adjectives come before a noun, we generally use commas to separate them especially if the adjectives are long.

An expensive, ill-planned, wasteful project

Note that commas are usually dropped before short adjectives.

A tall fair beautiful girl
A tall dark handsome fellow