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:


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

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


Order of adjectives 2


Adjectives after link verbs

We use some adjectives only after a link verb:


Some of the commonest -ed adjectives are normally used only after a link verb:


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


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


Adjectives in front of nouns

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.

Average: 4.2 (52 votes)
Profile picture for user novia

Submitted by novia on Tue, 30/04/2024 - 15:04


Hello teacher! I would like to ask about this sentence:

"This lovely new wooden Italian rocking chair is in my office"

Here I consider the word "wooden" as material, which means we have to put "wooden" after nationality. But in this sentence "wooden" was put before nationality. Does it mean this "wooden" is not a part of the material? What category of wooden is in this sentence?

Hello novia,

On the page we are careful to use the word 'generally' when describing the order of adjectives. The first few (general opinion, specific opinion, age) are quite fixed, and adjectives which describe type or use come immediately before the noun (a ... Christian church, a ... maths book, a ... sports car etc). Other than those, adjective order is quite flexible. Although the order we give here is the most common, a speaker can change the order to emphasise certain items, which is what is happening in your example. Putting 'Italian' before 'wooden' would also be fine.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ulyasafitrii on Mon, 23/10/2023 - 07:35


hello teachers,

I'd like to ask the orders of adjectives .I found that adjective can be constructed from participle, like smiling girl and an English-based program. my question is when it comes to order of adjectives, is the participle categorized as opinion or other categories?

thank you in advance teachers

Hello ulyasafitrii,

Yes, that's true that some adjectives are formed from present or past participles. Be careful, though, as this is not true for all participles.

When it comes to the order of adjectives, it really depends on the meaning of the participle, but many such adjectives could be put in one of the categories.

If you have a specific example in mind, please feel free to ask us.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by sumpa on Tue, 18/07/2023 - 01:08


"A past participle is a word with the following three traits."
in this sentence "three" don't follow the order

Hi sumpa,

"Three" is a determiner, not an adjective. Numbers can be placed before the head noun ("traits").

You may be interested in this Cambridge Dictionary page (linked) with information about the structure of noun phrases, including numbers. I hope it helps.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Julia mona on Thu, 15/06/2023 - 07:48


I`d like to know why we say
''British international school or company''' not ''international British school''..?
Is British and international at the same category "nationality" and we start with the specific then the general or what?

Hello Julia,

This isn't actually a matter of adjective order; it's because an 'international school' is a kind of school (other examples are 'private school' and 'public school'). Then we add an adjective before 'international school' to say more about what kind of international school it is.

'International schools' are schools that use a curriculum that is different from the curriculum used in the schools where the international schools are located. So, for example, an international school that uses the German curriculum in Spain is called a 'German international school'. A 'British international school' uses a British curriculum but is located in a country that isn't in Britain.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by User_1 on Wed, 12/04/2023 - 13:57


About three or more adjectives.
Since it is difficult to remember the adjectives' order, is there any way to learn their correct position instead of memorizing the above schema?
Thanks for your reply

Hello User_1,

I'm afraid not. You could use a mnemonic, I suppose, but I don't think that's really helpful when trying to speak or write fluently!

I can give you several positive comments, however.

First, more than two adjectives in a row is quite uncommon. It's something you might find in literary fiction, for example, or certain kinds of rhetorical speech, but not in many other contexts.

Second, these are really tendencies which show common patterns rather than fixed rules. The first three places are the most important to remember (general opinion>specific opinion>size); the rest are much more flexible.

Third, the best way to deal with things like word order (and also collocation and article use) which have rule systems with a lot of exceptions is to read. The more you read, the more you'll develop a sense of what sounds right, even if the reason why (the precise rule) is not clear to you.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,
Thanks for your several positive comments, they are really useful.
I manage to memorize the first three places:
general opinion>specific opinion>size.
Thanks for your exhaustive explanation.

Submitted by Hosni 2ibra on Thu, 08/12/2022 - 06:28


What about the order of the following phrase "Documents required"?

Hello Hosni 2ibra,

I can't say for sure without knowing the situation this phrase is used in, but it's probably a case of ellipsis, i.e. leaving out words. In other words, I suppose that this is an abbreviated form of 'Documents are required' or 'The documents that are required are the following'. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Trev on Fri, 18/11/2022 - 07:44


This is a good, but standard introduction, and as such it misses out the next stage: 2 equivalent adjectives, such as colour.

This is important if you are trying to translate, say, the two colours used for a flag: 'white and red' or 'red and white'.

In Polish we might say 'biało-czerwony flagi', literally 'white-red flags',
while in English we say 'red and white flags', because we use longest sound last for general meaning adjectives.

This might not sound significant, but only because no one really looks at the actual adjectives they use all the time.

Submitted by Tanydelakiz on Wed, 26/10/2022 - 20:55


Please help me figure this one out as I can't find peace otherwise.

So the example above gave "A horrible big fierce dog". What category fierce relates to? Why does it come after SIZE? For me it is an opinion adjective as it doesn't go together with any other category.

Thank you for clarifying this one for me!!

Hello Tanydelakiz,

To my mind, 'fierce' doesn't really fit well into any of those categories. I'd that its fierceness is part of the dog's character -- a characteristic more like colour or nationality or material -- and so perhaps this is why it follows size.

In any case, it's really rather unusual to use three adjectives in a row like this, so such a combination will often sound a little odd. I'd say the most important rule to remember is to put opinion before other characteristics.

Hope this helps you find some peace.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

You have identified a terrible, awful,glaring flaw, in these categorisation activities. Fierce, is, fundamentally, an opinion, as you quite rightly noticed, in the same way 'aggressive' can be considered an opinion.
You've found linguistic freedom. Congratulations!
Language is to be played with, messed about with, and enjoyed. After all, for phonetic reasons, we might talk about a big, horrible, fierce dog (no one seems to talk about the addition of commas) or even a horrible, fierce, big dog, and no one, anywhere, except the most studious and fossilised self-styled Guardians of English would disagree with either description. Each, by dint of playing with the order of adjectives, emphasises different things, and this is OK. Its more than OK, it's effective.
It's true that to pass an exam, it's a safe bet to follow the ancient and exceptionally dull order of adjectives. However, to speak, and to speak clearly, remember, always, that language (including the adjective) is a tool, that can be used in myriad ways.

Hi AnEnglishTeacherwithOpinions,

You're of course quite right that language is to be enjoyed and creativity to be encouraged. That said, creativity requires familiarity with what is standard - with the conventional usage. Knowing the rules (tendencies/conventions) means that you know when you are breaking them, which means your creativity is not random but by design and therefore serves the communicative purpose you intend. There is nothing 'dull' about this; indeed, it is the fact that we have norms that enable us to be creative in meaningful ways.The purpose of activities such as this is to teach what is normal or expected so that the learner can, when appropriate, depart from it.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by NavamH on Thu, 04/08/2022 - 16:43


"This is a car with a high head-turning quotient."

Sir, in relation to the above sentence, i assumed the following:

quotient = noun
head-turning = (n + ing compound) adjective
high = adjective

Sir, if 'high' is an adjective, does it modify 'head-turning' or 'quotient'
can it be an 'adverb' modifying the compound adjective

This is a car (SVC)
with a high head-turning quotient = Adverbial?

Thank you in advance

Hello NavamH,

'high' modifies 'quotient'; 'quotient' is also modified by 'head-turning'. The phrase 'with a high head-turning quotient' is adjectival because it tells us more about the car.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by O on Mon, 04/07/2022 - 09:48



Does the adjective order also apply when the adjectives comes after the verb to-be?
For example, I think according to the article, I can say: 'She is a beautiful young woman.'
But can I also say: 'She is beautiful and young.' ? This sounds a bit weird to me. 'She is young and beautiful' sounds more natural. Am I missing something?

I hope I have not misunderstood any of the material.

Thank you!

Hello O,

The order described above applies to adjectives before a noun, not when the adjectives come after a link verb.

As you say, 'young and beautiful' is probably more common than 'beautiful and young', but it really depends on the situation and the speaker's intentions.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mark Allum on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 09:15


I think you have the general adjective order wrong, Age and Shape are transposed in normal spoken English compared to your list.
"an old square table" just sounds right,
"a square old table" is certainly grating to the ears.

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your comment. I agree that 'an old square table' sounds better than 'a square old table', which goes to show that there's some flexibility in the middle of the range and is why the explanation above indicates it's the usual order. At least a couple of other sources (Cambridge Dictionary and have an order similar to the one Dave Willis (the author of this page) describes, so it seems to be a matter of some debate.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Basheer Ahmed on Tue, 15/03/2022 - 14:15


In an example above it is written as: "that horrible big fierce dog". Wouldn't it be like "that horrible fierce big dog" because the adjective "fierce" looks like a Specific Opinion?

Hello Basheer Ahmed,

The order in the table is a general rule, but the reality is that adjective order is quite flexible. General opinion is always first but the rest are more fluid. Position of adjectives relative to the noun they modify is along a continuum: what the speaker considers intrinsic to the item goes closer to the noun, and what is subjective goes further from the noun.

There's also the issue of collocation – we tend to put collocating adjectives closer.

In this case, personally, I'd avoid saying 'that horrible big fierce dog' and would use two adjectives instead, but if I had to use three, I'd use them in the order in the example on this page.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sat, 17/07/2021 - 08:21

Hello. Could you please help me? Which form is correct? Why? 1- a long wide street. 2- a long, wide street. 3- a long and wide street. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

There's a useful and detailed explanation of how to punctuate two adjectives on this Grammar Girl page; notice that the explanation is spread across two pages.

In many situations, you could probably choose any one of these three forms and it would be OK.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 12/07/2021 - 12:07

Hello. I have read that the two following sentences don't mean the same. Also, in the dictionary, the word "bloody" has two definitions. However, I can't understand the difference. 1- It was a bloody nightmare. 2- It was a nightmare that was bloody. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The second sentence is a literal description: the nightmare contained a lot of blood and, presumably, violence.

The first sentence could mean the same thing. It could also be 'bloody' used as a mild swear word to add emphasis. In this case it would have the same meaning as 'a complete nightmare' or 'a total nightmare'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 12/07/2021 - 11:59

Hello. I have been reading in different references about the order of adjectives and I have found some differences. I would like to help me with the following classes. Are these in the correct order? Are two or some of them one thing? Also, could you give an adjective as an example for every class? I need you help! 1- numbers 2- Opinion 3- Size 4- other qualities 5- shape 6- Age 7- Colour 8- Origin=Nationality 9- Material 10- Type 11- Purpose=use Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Iman,

The order of adjectives is not completely fixed, so while general guidance can be given I don't think a list as detailed as this is appropriate. As we say on the page, opinion usually precedes description and general opinions precede specific opinions.

I think this is the most detail I would go into:

opinion - size - age/shape - colour - origin - material - purpose

Age and shape are not really fixed. There is quite a lot of variability in the sequence of other physical descriptors too, but the order above is the most common, I would say.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Sun, 25/04/2021 - 19:18

Hi fantastic team, I want to know sth. Can we say all adjectives with -ing have an active and adjectives with -ed have a passive meaning? If it isn't, could you give me an example? Thank you and best wishes!

Hi Nevi,

I think that's accurate and is also true of participle phrases and clauses. I cant think of any exceptions.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Sun, 07/03/2021 - 10:03

Hi team!, I want to know one more thing about adjectival prepositional phrases. Can we say they have the same meaning? "a restaurant on the tenth street" = 'a restaurant is on the tenth street' If we can, could you please explain why?and which one I should use and when? Thanks a lot!
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 08/03/2021 - 07:41

In reply to by Nevı


Hi Nevı,

This isn't a question about prepositional phrases but rather about the grammar of the sentence. Every sentence requires a verb, so the first sentence is not complete. It may be grammatically fine, but that would depend on the rest of the sentence. The second example is a complete sentence, but whether or not it is correct will depend up the context in which it is used.


If you're talking about US addresses and cities then you would say 'on tenth street' (without 'the').



The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry teacher, I couldn't write well. So, If I wrote these two sentences in UK. 1)I went to a restaurant on the tenth street. 2)I went to a restaurant which is on the tenth street. Would they have the same meaning? And which one should I use? Thanks a lot!

Hello again Nevı,

In the UK streets have names rather than numbers. This is also true in the US outside of certain major cities with grid-plan layours. As I said, you would not use 'the' before them. Thus the sentences would be as follows:

  • I went to a restaurant on tenth (street).
  • I went to a restaurant which is on tenth (street).

The difference is minimal and you can interchange the sentences. I think you might be more likely to use the second if the conversation is about the street and you want to say that you know the area, for example.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nagie23 on Sun, 07/03/2021 - 08:38

Hello, I would like to ask the following. What is the difference in meaning between smart and clever? Who/what is smart? Who is clever? Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 08/03/2021 - 07:38

In reply to by Nagie23


Hello Nagie23,

This is really too general a question to answer in the comments section. You can find definitions and examples in any good online dictionary. For example:


If you have a particular example or context you'd like to ask about then we'll be happy to comment, of course.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sopheakharry on Sun, 28/02/2021 - 06:21

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Fernando 73 on Fri, 26/02/2021 - 16:04

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.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ant0nfreeman on Wed, 03/02/2021 - 09:05

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?

I don't think there is a specific rule for position (horizontal). An "iron horizontal bar" or a "horizontal iron bar" both sound fine to me as a native English speaker.


Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 25/01/2021 - 12:41

In reply to by Mr Ahmed Adel


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,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Purple_Pixie on Thu, 07/01/2021 - 02:01

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.



The LearnEnglish Team