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
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:





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


Task 2


Task 3


Task 4





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,



The LearnEnglish Team


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,



The LearnEnglish Team

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,



The LearnEnglish Team

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?

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,



The LearnEnglish Team


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?



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,
The LearnEnglish Team