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 Experts,
It would be great help to eliminate the big confusion on following sentences:

1. Following both sentences are present continuous, then what is the difference between them and why both are correct:

Is your great-grandmother still alive?
&
Is your great-grandmother still living?

2. What is wrong with following sentence:
Tom Looked like an afraid rabbit.
because, afraid is an adjective and rabbit is noun (object), so this sentence should be correct. Isn't it?

thanks in advance...!!

Hi Peter,
Following sentence is related to adjective, as per result from above exercise it is incorrect. Could you please suggest that what is wrong with it:

"Tom Looked like an afraid rabbit."

my assumption that, because, afraid is an adjective and rabbit is noun (object), so this sentence should be correct. Isn't it?

thanks in advance...!!

Manoj

Hello manojparmar,

We'll be happy to answer your questions but first I have a request. Could you please post the questions on a relevant page? This page is about adjective order and neither of your examples deal with that. A page on the present continuous would be fine, for example.

The reason we ask is because if questions and answers are on relevant pages then it makes them more useful as other people who are learning about the same topic will see them.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,
Actually, these sentences are from above adjective exercise. Now, its my opportunity to post on Present continuous page. Waiting for your response asap.

Thanks

Manoj

Is "fierce" an opinion?
In your example, "that horrible big fierce dog," you have 3 adjectives. If "fierce" is an opinion of the dog, why does it come after "big" (size)? It seems you have opinion, size, opinion. Just looking for clarification.

Hello Mada,

What you say makes sense. The order of adjectives is actually quite flexible and some adjectives can be used in different ways. You could certainly write that another way. If you have a specific question about another way to order those adjectives, please feel free to ask it.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter
the reason why I consider 'the' also as an adjective is because I saw an English text book that classifies determiners and quantifiers as limiting adjectives. The book gives example s as follows
ARTICLE - a an, the,
DEMONSTRATIVE, this, that these, those
INDEFINITE: some, more, many, few
,INTEROGATIVE: whose, what
NUMERICAL: one, three
POSSESIVE: my, its,
RELATIVE : whose
Thank you

Hello grammar2015,

You can find such classifications. However, I would say that the standard approach today is to identify nine parts of speech in English: adjective, adverb, conjunction, determiner, interjection, noun, preposition, pronoun and verb.

i think trying to classify determiners as adjectives is not helpful as we end up describing them as 'special' adjectives which do not follow normal adjectival rules (no modifiers, no post-modification etc).

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Please advise!

within the list of adjectives that must be used only in front a noun are these:

Eventful
Occasional
Countless

I can't seem to get my head around why? The example given "The problems with the new machinery were countless" actually seems like an acceptable sentence.

The problems with the new machinery were countless. [There were countless problems with the new machinery]
The number of stars in the sky are countless. [There are countless stars in the sky]
My grandfather used to smoke occasionally [My grandfather used to occasionally smoke]
The party was eventful [It was an eventful party]

These all seem like acceptable ways to express those sentences.

I think I might be missing something?

Hello EnglishIsSquidgy,

Most adjectives can be used in both attributive (i.e. with a noun, normally just before it) and predicative (i.e. after a link verb such as 'be' or 'seem') position. The three adjectives you ask about do sound a bit strange in predicative position, but this doesn't mean using them that way makes no sense – most of the time, it just means that native speakers don't use them that way. I wish I could give you a more satisfactory explanation, but I'm afraid that in the end much of the way we speak is a matter of usage.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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