order of adjectives

 

Sometimes we use more than one adjective in front of a noun:

He was a nice intelligent young man.
She had a small round black wooden box.

Opinion adjectives:

Some adjectives give a general opinion. We can use these adjectives to describe almost any noun:

 

good bad lovely  strange
beautiful nice brilliant excellent
awful important wonderful nasty

 

Some adjectives give a specific opinion. We only use these adjectives to describe particular kinds of noun:

Food: tasty; delicious
Furniture, buildings: comfortable; uncomfortable
People, animals: clever; intelligent; friendly

We usually put a general opinion in front of a specific opinion:

Nice tasty soup.
A nasty uncomfortable armchair
A lovely intelligent animal

Usually we put an adjective that gives an opinion in front of an adjective that is descriptive:

a nice red dress; a silly old man; those horrible yellow curtains

We often have two adjectives in front of a noun:

a handsome young man; a big black car; that horrible big dog

Sometimes we have three adjectives, but this is unusual:

a nice handsome young man;
a big black American car;
that horrible big fierce dog

It is very unusual to have more than three adjectives.

Adjectives usually come in this order:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
General
opinion
Specific
opinion
Size  Shape Age  Colour Nationality Material

We use some adjectives only after a link verb:

afraid alive alone asleep
content glad  ill ready
sorry sure unable well

Some of the commonest -ed adjectives are normally used only after a link verb:

annoyed;  finished;  bored; pleased; thrilled

We say:

Our teacher was ill.
My uncle was very glad when he heard the news.
The policeman seemed to be very annoyed

but we do not say:

We had an ill teacher.
When he heard the news he was a very glad uncle
He seemed to be a very annoyed policeman

A few adjectives are used only in front of a noun:

north
south
east
west

northern
southern
eastern
western

countless
occasional
lone

eventful
indoor
outdoor

We say:

He lives in the eastern district.
There were countless problems with the new machinery.

but we do not say:

The district he lives in is eastern
The problems with the new machinery were countless.

Try these tasks to improve your adjective ordering.

Task 1

Exercise

Task 2

Exercise

Task 3

Exercise

Task 4

Exercise

 

 

Comments

hi,
in the exercise 1 of task 3, the phrase " tom looked like an afraid rabbit" is correct while " tom looked like a frightened rabbit" don't, why ?

then, in the rules AFRAID should be used after a link verb. which are the link verbs? thanks

Hi VR94,

Please note that the Instructions for Task 3 are 'Click on the sentence which is not correct.' That's why!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Is there an exception to this rule with the word order of adjectives in British English?
"I'm a native English speaking actor"?
I heard an actor say the following "I'm an English native actor..."

Hello richmck,

The order of adjectives in English has some rules but is quite flexible and we often change the order so we can emphasise certain words or phrases. Your sentences could be examples of this, although it is hard to say exactly without knowing the particular context.

You can find my answer to a similar question a little further down the list of comments (probably on page 2 by now). It's always a good idea to look at earlier comments as often the same (or very similar) questions have been asked before.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello! I know "Well" is an adverb, no an adjective and it is never writen after a linking verb. Could you tell me if that´s right or not; because in the chart there is as an adjective. I always write "Good"

Hello Maria Huitrón,

'Well' is an adverb, as in 'You did well', but it can also be an adjective with the meaning 'not sick' (i.e. the opposite of 'ill'), as in 'This child is not well' or 'The medicine will make you well again very quickly'.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I have to describe a fat squirrel that's on fire. Is it "fat flaming squirrel"/"flaming fat squirrel"/"fat burning squirrel"/"burning fat squirrel"? I really can't make any difference between them.

Hello csrcsr,

I would say that 'fat burning squirrel' is the most natural.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello ttalone,

Thank you for letting us know about this. We're investigating the cause of the problem and will correct it as soon as we are able.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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