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
can you advise task 3 what is the procedure because I have unable to do the activity

Hello Ghosh,

In Task 3, you have to click on the incorrect sentence. There are three correct sentences, and one incorrect one - you click on the incorrect one.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi every one I would like to know more about adjectives end --ive such as digestive , primitive and so on ,when add IVE to form an adjectives and where its not excuse to do so.
thank you very much

Hello Abomohab,

'-ive' is an example of a suffix and is one of the suffixes used to make adjectives, as you say. I'm not familiar with any rule which will tell you when the correct suffix to form the adjective is '-ive' - this is simply something you will have to learn along with the vocabulary. Keeping a vocabulary notebook can help with this, as you can note common prefixes and suffixes down when you learn a new word.

If you want a list of words containing certain letters then you can find such things on the internet. For example, here is a list of words ending in '-ive' (including adjectives).

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Could you please tell me which is correct? a beautiful old round table or a beautiful round old table. You mention above that shape goes before age, but the book I'm using to teach at school says that age goes before shape. The book is Grammar for IELTS. You have mentioned that you can change the order, is this the case?

Hello Mila74,

It is indeed the case. As we have said before, adjective order is quite flexible in English and there are often different alternatives, depending on what the speaker wishes to emphasise, on the number of adjectives and, sometimes, on convention (some phrases just tend to be used in a certain way). The rules here are a guide, not a fixed system, and I would say that both alternatives sound perfectly fine to me.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi,

which is correct:

1. Six hardworking small boys OR
2. Six small hardworking boys?

1. Sweet big Swedish chocolate OR
2. Big sweet Swedish chocolate?

Hello gayle_0817,

I would say that either of the first pair sounds fine and that the choice depends on what the speaker chooses to emphasise (just as you can say hardworking boys who are small or small boys who are hardworking).

In the second pair I would generally place 'big' before 'sweet'; however, the example is a little odd as we would not use 'big' with an uncountable noun such as chocolate.

Please remember that the rules for adjective order are not fixed and inviolable. They are common patterns which can often be overridden by a given speaker's choices regarding emphasis or style, or by certain idiomatic conventions of use in certain phrases. Treat the rules as a guide rather than an inflexible system.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi,
please make me understand how to differentiate between general and specific opinion?because i was having lots of difficulties to do task 1.so please help me..

Hi archijais,

Take a look at the examples on the page:

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

The three general opinions (nice, nasty and lovely) all give an opinion which could be caused by any number of characteristics. For example, the soup could be nice because it is sweet, spicy, hot, colourful, tasty, aromatic, healthy etc. However, the specific opinions are more concrete; they describe a particular characteristic, not a general opinion.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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