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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

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'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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!

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').

 

Peter

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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