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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 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.

Hello Renita,

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

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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 !

Hi, Jack. I have the same problem as you. I've been using the order of your List 1 for years.

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

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,

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