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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

It's really helpful.

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?

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

Hello all.
Can someone tell me the difference in meaning between his first beautiful book and his beautiful first book? Thank you in advance.

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

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

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

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

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.

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