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.

Average
Average: 4.2 (52 votes)

Submitted by Renita on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 14:13

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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.

Hello Renita,

The first version (...terrifying big...) is correct. We put opinion before size.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jack on Sat, 19/12/2020 - 16:03

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Hello teacher, in this lesson, i see the list (1) : Opinion-Size-Shape-Age-... But in orther source, i see them use the list (2) : Opinion - Size - Age - Shape-... (1) is correct and (2) is wrong or we can use both of them. Thank you :D !

Hello Jack,

To be honest, the order of adjectives is only partially fixed. Opinion is always first and origin and material come last. Between those, there is some flexibility. It's often a question of convention and how something sounds rather than fixed rules.

For example, I think both of these sentences sound fine:

I have a beautiful big old round Spanish leather sofa.

I have a beautiful big round old Spanish leather sofa.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sopheakharry on Sun, 28/02/2021 - 04:00

In reply to by Peter M.

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Hi, The LearnEnglish Team I don't think I understand the descriptive adjectives. I can't differentiate between descriptive and opinion adjectives. Please kindly help me out with this. Regards,
Hi, Jack. I have the same problem as you. I've been using the order of your List 1 for years.

Submitted by Jack on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 10:51

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Hello teacher, I would like to ask: When search dictionary, leather, cotton is noun. So in " a leather jacket " . Leather is adjective or noun ?

Hi Jack,

Yes, that's right! Cottonleather and many other materials are nouns. But they function like adjectives in phrases like a leather jacket or a cotton shirt.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by xeesid on Tue, 24/11/2020 - 05:08

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Sir, Do these sentences sound OK? Being awake, I saw an angel. I saw an angel in wakefulness. Is the sentence with Adj 'awake' better than the one with the noun 'wakefulness'? Please note that I mean to say: I wasn't dreaming. I was awake, and I saw that angel.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 24/11/2020 - 08:08

In reply to by xeesid

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Hello xeesid,

I think there are problems with both sentences. The first sentence suggests that you saw the angel because you were awake, and I don't think you aim to show this kind of causal connection. The second sentence does not sound natural to me.

 

I think the best option would be a simpler construction, but I have to emphasise that we are dealing with issues of style here and so it is a subjective choice, dependent on how the author wishes to sound and what the conventions of the genre (a novel, a speech, a poem, a song etc) are. However, I would suggest something like this:

Awake, I saw an angel.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Joz Frank on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 14:50

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I will have to disagree with the order of 6 and 7, Color and origin respectively. I believe the right order to be origin first, and color second. e.g. Cynthia loves Chilean red wine. right Cynthia loves red Chilean wine. wrong A quick google search will prove my point. I'd like to know whether there are exceptions to the adjective order provided or there's a mistake.

Hi Joz Frank,

Yes, your example is correct! But I think red wine is a bit different because 'red' is part of the noun. For example, the Cambridge Dictionary lists 'red wine' as a noun. So, the two words wouldn't be separated by other adjectives. A similar example is 'the White House' - if there was another White House in (for example) Canada, it would be the Canadian White House (not the White Canadian House), because 'white' is part of the noun.

But when the adjective is not part of the noun, colour does come before origin (see also the Cambridge Dictionary's explanation). For example, a Ferrari is a red Italian sports car.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Elen Nikol on Wed, 28/10/2020 - 19:52

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Hi, teachers. I would like to aks you about the following sentence: ``My sister's got two young children.`` ( it is part of the adjectives exercise) Why ``sister`s`` is followed with an apostrophe and shows possessive? Thank you

Hello Elen Nikol,

Besides indicating possession, an 's can be a contracted form of 'is' and 'has'.

In this case, 'my sister's got' is a contracted form of 'my sister has got'. The verb 'has got' indicates possession, but there is no possessive apostrophe in this case.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sourav Bhatia on Sun, 18/10/2020 - 16:04

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can someone explain me use of expected in following sentence and what if i replace expected with expect. In my opinion what can be expected is a change of the teachers’ role, but not their disappearance from the classroom.

Hello Sourav Bhatia,

'be expected' is a passive form here. If you simply changed 'expected' to 'expect', the sentence would not be correct, but if you said 'what we can expect', that would correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sourav, The choice of the words - expect and expected - depends on whether you'd like to use active or passive voice. In my opinion, what we can expect is a change of the teachers' role, but not their disappearance from the classroom. (active - you make it clear it is 'our' expectation) In my opinion, what can be expected is a change of the teachers' role, but not their disappearance from the classroom. (passive - you omit the subject here, i.e. you are not indicating whose expectation it is) Almost all tenses (perfect continuous tenses aren't used in passive form) can be used in active or passive form. We generally use the passive form when we don't know or don't wish to reveal who the doer of the action is, or when we wish to highlight the result of something. Irrespective of the tense, the main verb of a passive sentence is always in past participle form - that's the reason why you can't use 'expect' (it's the base form of the verb) in your sentence. Since there is also the modal verb 'can' in your sentence, the helping verb 'be' has to be present too. Here's another example: I can beat John at tennis. (active) John can be beaten at tennis. (passive) Here's a slightly different version: I'm sure I can beat John at tennis. (active) I'm sure John can be beaten at tennis. (passive) Do you see how in the passive version, the speaker sounds less pompous, because it doesn't say who is going to defeat John. Hope the explanation makes sense. :-)

Submitted by Najmiii3579 on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 06:18

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Dear English Team, 1. The government's response seems to have been at best confused and at worst dishonest Why is "confused" instead of "confusing" used here? 2. its unique group of investors is equipped with the appropriate long-term investment horizon, expertise and capital required to realize its potential Does "required" modify capital only or "investment, horizon, expertise and capital"? Could I say "with the appropriate and required long-term...and capital to realize..."?

Hello Najmiii3579,

Confused is used in your example because it describes the characteristic of the response, not how it makes other people feel. When we say something such as a response, an answer or an explanation is confused, we mean that it is incoherent, not well constructed or illogical. It may also be confusing - hard for others to understand.

 

In your second example, there is some ambiguity, but the normal understanding of this kind of sentence unless there is some reason to think otherwise is that the adjective describes the whole list and not only the final element. If the speaker wanted the adjective to refer only to 'capital' then they could break the sentence up to make that clear:

its unique group of investors is equipped with the appropriate long-term investment horizon and expertise, as well as the capital required to realize its potential

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter, As to the 2nd example, "as well as" would put less emphasis on the noun that follows it (in this case, the capital). If I want to avoid this effect while ensuring that 'required' modifies only 'capital', could I say: "its unique group of investors is equipped with the appropriate long-term investment horizon, expertise, and the capital required to realize its potential"

Hello again Najmiii3579,

Yes, that correct.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by PabloTT on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 05:47

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Hello teachers, I would like to ask two questions 1. The companies are unable to undertake the huge investment necessary to build out the numbers of factories required. - Could I say "...build out the required numbers of factories." instead? 2. The government should take all measures possible to ensure elections are properly carried out. - Could I say "...all possible measures to ensure..." Thank you in advance.

Hello PabloTT,

The second sentence is fine and you could use either form without any change in meaning.

With the first sentence, your suggestion is also fine, but the sentence itself does not seem very natural to me. I would use build rather than build out; build out does not seem a correct form to me.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Sun, 21/06/2020 - 18:55

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It's really helpful.

Submitted by Timothy555 on Tue, 09/06/2020 - 16:45

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Hi, If I say "tasty cookies, sweets or cakes in the box", does "tasty" modify each item, such that "tasty cookies, sweets or cakes in the box" = "tasty cookies, tasty sweets or tasty cakes in the box"? Also, is there any difference between "tasty cookies, sweets or cakes in the box" and "tasty cookies, sweets and cakes in the box", that is will the choice of "or" or "and" result in any difference in meaning?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 10/06/2020 - 07:09

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hi Tim,

It's really ambiguous whether the adjective tasty describes only the first noun or all nouns in the list. The listener would need to judge based on contextual clues.

 

As far as the conjunctions go, or implies a choice of some kind: you can have or take one of the items but not all, for example. Using and does not imply this.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MEGI MURRIZI on Sat, 06/06/2020 - 09:11

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Hello all. Can someone tell me the difference in meaning between his first beautiful book and his beautiful first book? Thank you in advance.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 06/06/2020 - 14:55

In reply to by MEGI MURRIZI

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Hello Megi Murrizi

I'm going to assume you're talking about a writer who had published some books. If you say 'his first beautiful book', it means he's published books but that the one you are talking about is the first one that is beautiful. If you say 'his beautiful first book', you are talking about his first book and are saying that it's beautiful.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Sat, 23/05/2020 - 09:21

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Hi, I know that adjectives which go before a noun are called attributive adjectives (e.g. "Old" as in "The old man"), while adjectives that come after the noun and which also follows a linking verb, are known as predicate adjective (e.g. The man is old). My question is, is there any difference at all in meaning between both clauses (the old man vs the man is old) since the adjective used (old) is simply describing a quality or characteristic of the man? Regards, Tim
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 24/05/2020 - 07:31

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hi Tim,

I don't think there is any difference. There may be with certain adjectives in certain contexts, though none come to mind, but I think it's more a question of style.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lizaantonova on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 13:05

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Hello! I have a sentence in my grammar book "She wore shiny silver wings" (the talk is about a costume party.) Could you please explain me, which type of adjectives these two "shiny" and "silver" are. One source says that shiny is an opinion, another says it is a condition/state. And is silver a colour (here)?

Hello lizaantonova

Yes, I'd say that 'shiny' is best seen as an opinion, though I can understand how that might seem odd. 'silver' could be a colour or a material, depending on what the wings are made of.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sun, 03/05/2020 - 19:46

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Hello. In the following sentence, which one is correct: "Rising food prices" or "Food rising prices"? - Rising food prices are a common concern for most people nowadays. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

The first one is correct.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ardalan on Fri, 17/04/2020 - 15:49

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Dear Kirk/Peter I am confused about adjective orders because in some references I saw "Age" before "Shape". Is it possible both of them could be true? thanks for your help and your amazing topics. Ardalan

Hello Ardalan,

Adjective order is somewhat flexible in English and there may be some variation – this is why we say adjectives usually come in the order given, not always.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Deviljin on Sun, 12/04/2020 - 17:47

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Hello respected Teachers. 1. The chicken in the farm are fatted up nicely. Please tell me whether this sentence is correct or not. If not why. what would be the correct answer and why. Is fatted a adjective, which is now archaic. Regards

Hello Deviljin,

The correct verb for this action is fatten. I think the best option is a present perfect passive form:

The chickens have been fattened up nicely.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Sun, 10/11/2019 - 07:10

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Hello, I would like to ask if the following is correct If a house is big can we say: Inside my house is quite spacious? This sentence is correct? Thank you in advance
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 11/11/2019 - 08:44

In reply to by anie1

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Hello agie

I'd just say 'my house is quite spacious' (without 'inside').

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Wed, 06/11/2019 - 07:28

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Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct In the question How are you? When we want to say that we are happy Which of the following is better Answer 1.I am good or 2.I am fine. Sometimes I have seen that I am fine can have a positive and or negative meaning? Thank you in advance
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 06/11/2019 - 07:42

In reply to by anie1

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Hello agie

In speaking, the tone of voice is really important in communicating what you really mean. In general, though, 'good' is stronger than 'fine', which can mean something more like 'OK' than 'good'. Many people say 'good' or 'fine' even when they are having quite a hard time, but I suppose that's a separate issue.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Mon, 04/11/2019 - 08:50

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Hello, I would like to ask you which of the following is correct When our house is full of sun, the sun comes from the windows inside the house, we say 1.Our house is bright or 2 Our house is light? Thank you in advance

Submitted by anie1 on Sun, 03/11/2019 - 12:18

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Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct When we really like the house we live we say 1.The house is suitable for us? Is suitable ok? Thank you in advance
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Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 04/11/2019 - 07:03

In reply to by anie1

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Hello agie,

'Suitable' sounds positive but not particularly enthusiastic. It tells us that the house is the right size/location etc, but not that we really like it.

You can use any thesaurus to find alternative ways to say 'good'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Cloudy Cloudy on Wed, 30/10/2019 - 02:50

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hello everyone ! I would like to ask something. Since some pages i found say that the order of adjectives could be : Opinion - Size - Age - Shape - Colour - Origin - Material - Purpose The order is a little bit different Would anyone tell me if it is acceptable ? I would be thankful If you guys could help Thank you in advanceeeeee !!!!