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

Hello,
I don't quite understand why "specific opinion" is placed before "size" since you say "horrible big fierce" and not the other way around. Is this an exception, and are there any other exceptions?
Thanks.

Hello bethlimshiyu,

The rules given for adjective order are not really rules but are rather tendencies  - examples of common or typical use - which are quite flexible. They are intended as a guide to natural use rather than a fixed system.

Certain phrases may not follow the sequence, and speakers may change the order because they wish to emphasise certain elemments or because they feel a certain order sounds better for some reason. The only way to get used to this is by being exposed to many examples of natural English and, fortunately, you can find plenty of those on LearnEnglish.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

I´m having trouble on task 03. As for example, why does the sentence "I don't like hospitals. They 're full of ill people." is incorrect?

Thanks,

Christopher

Hi cwbrasil,

ill and sick mean essentially the same thing, but ill has a more limited use. You can say:

My sister is ill. (or) My sister is sick.

But we don't normally use ill before a noun - ill is used only after a link verb such as the verb be (as in the sentence above). Therefore, the first sentence below is not correct, but the second is:

She's taking care of her ill sister. --> She's taking care of her sick sister.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

is there any problem for my user because i did n,t get any answer all my comments

Hi kush1,

There's nothing wrong with your account, but please know that responding to user comments is just one of part of our job. We are a small team with a lot of other work as well - these days, for example, we are publishing one new episode of Word on the Street every week - and have dozens of comments to respond to every day.

When you ask a lot of questions, sometimes it takes us longer to reply because we also have many others' comments to respond to. In addition, our primary interest is in helping users make the best use of the site, so questions that are directly related to the pages get faster answers. Finally, please remember that we do all of this for free!

We'll get to answering your other questions when we can.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Is it right to say: "he's the fastest of the two"

Hello Zeeman,

It's possible to say this, but generally when you are speaking of two people, the comparative form ('faster') is better. When it's three or more, then the superlative ('fastest') is the appropriate form.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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