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Adjective order

Level: intermediate

Two adjectives

We often have two adjectives in front of a noun:

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

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

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

He's a good/wonderful/brilliant/bad/dreadful teacher.

That's a good/wonderful/brilliant/bad/dreadful book.

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

Food Furniture, buildings People, animals
delicious
tasty
comfortable
uncomfortable
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

We usually put an opinion adjective in front of a descriptive adjective:

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

Order of adjectives 1

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Order of adjectives 2

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Adjectives after link verbs

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
bored
finished
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.

Order of adjectives 3

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Level: advanced

Three or more adjectives

Sometimes we have three adjectives in front of a noun, 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
Order of adjectives 4­

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Adjectives in front of nouns

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

north
south
east
west

northern
southern
eastern
western
countless
occasional
lone
mere
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.

Comments

I just went to Google, and searched for 'descriptive adjectives' and then read about them in a few websites and found out that I felt confused between the 'descriptive adjectives' and 'opinion adjectives'.

Hello Sopheakharry,

A descriptive adjective generally describes characteristics of a noun that are fairly objective. For example, a book that measures 90cm by 120cm and weighs 4kg and is red in colour can generally be called 'a large red book'. Some people might say it's a slightly different colour or that it isn't really that big, but most people would agree with this.

An opinion adjective describes a characteristic that more people would disagree about.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Why do we say a big, juicy steak and not a juicy, big stake?
Thanks

Hello Fernando 73,

When we talk about food we put flavour after size but before colour:

a big, juicy steak

a huge, cheesy burger

a spicy, yellow sauce

 

Adjective order is really a question of convention rather than fixed rules. You'll find a lot of it is context dependent, I'm afraid. On this page we give the best general guidance we can, but we know there are a lot of cases where the order is different.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! That's very helpful thanks!!! But I have one question: there are some adjectives which match with none of this categories. For example "horizontal". Where should I put them?

Hello
Would you please tell me if this sentence is grammatically correct or not?
" They are newly graduated students."
Is the use of "graduated" here as an adjective right?
PS:
MY POINT OF VIEW
the verb "graduate" is either a transitive or an intransitive verb.
We know that transitive verbs can be used in the pasive voice.
In OXFORD dictionary, sense number 3 you can find this example:
The college graduated 50 students last year.
If we change it into the passive form it will read:
50 students were graduated last year.
The word graduated here may act as an adjective. We can use the past participle as an adjective.
Am I right????

Hello Mr Ahmed Adel,

Yes, that is a grammatically correct sentence. 'newly' is an adverb and 'graduated' is an adjective. Many adjectives are essentially past (or present) participles that get used as adjectives, but not all past participles can be used as adjectives.

Your argument about using the transitive verb 'graduate' in the passive voice is sound, but I don't think you'd ever see that in writing or hear it in speaking.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

As a native English speaker I have to say almost all or those crossed out sentences are perfectly valid; they might convey a different tone or register but most are definitely constructions I would employ.

Hello Purple_Pixie,

I think it is someting of a sliding scale from odd-sounding to highly unnatural, so I take your point. However, I think it's useful to clarify for learners which forms sound natural and which do not.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear teacher, I'd like to ask you.
Which one is correct?
A terrifying big black dog, or
A big terrifying black dog.

Thanks in advance.

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