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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 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

Thank you :D !

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.

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

thank you

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

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

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