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.

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Ahmed Imam 提交于 周六, 17/07/2021 - 08:21

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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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Ahmed Imam 提交于 周一, 12/07/2021 - 12:07

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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

Ahmed Imam 提交于 周一, 12/07/2021 - 11:59

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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

Nevı 提交于 周日, 25/04/2021 - 19:18

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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

Nevı 提交于 周日, 07/03/2021 - 10:03

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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

Nagie23 提交于 周日, 07/03/2021 - 08:38

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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

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:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/smart

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clever

 

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

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sopheakharry 提交于 周日, 28/02/2021 - 06:21

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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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Fernando 73 提交于 周五, 26/02/2021 - 16:04

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

ant0nfreeman 提交于 周三, 03/02/2021 - 09:05

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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?

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

Purple_Pixie 提交于 周四, 07/01/2021 - 02:01

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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

Renita 提交于 周三, 06/01/2021 - 14:13

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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.

Jack 提交于 周六, 19/12/2020 - 16:03

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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 !

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

Jack 提交于 周四, 17/12/2020 - 10:51

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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

xeesid 提交于 周二, 24/11/2020 - 05:08

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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

Joz Frank 提交于 周五, 20/11/2020 - 14:50

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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

Elen Nikol 提交于 周三, 28/10/2020 - 19:52

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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

Sourav Bhatia 提交于 周日, 18/10/2020 - 16:04

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can someone explain me use of expected in following sentence and what if i replace expected with expect. In my opinion what can be expected is a change of the teachers’ role, but not their disappearance from the classroom.

Hello Sourav Bhatia,

'be expected' is a passive form here. If you simply changed 'expected' to 'expect', the sentence would not be correct, but if you said 'what we can expect', that would correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sourav, The choice of the words - expect and expected - depends on whether you'd like to use active or passive voice. In my opinion, what we can expect is a change of the teachers' role, but not their disappearance from the classroom. (active - you make it clear it is 'our' expectation) In my opinion, what can be expected is a change of the teachers' role, but not their disappearance from the classroom. (passive - you omit the subject here, i.e. you are not indicating whose expectation it is) Almost all tenses (perfect continuous tenses aren't used in passive form) can be used in active or passive form. We generally use the passive form when we don't know or don't wish to reveal who the doer of the action is, or when we wish to highlight the result of something. Irrespective of the tense, the main verb of a passive sentence is always in past participle form - that's the reason why you can't use 'expect' (it's the base form of the verb) in your sentence. Since there is also the modal verb 'can' in your sentence, the helping verb 'be' has to be present too. Here's another example: I can beat John at tennis. (active) John can be beaten at tennis. (passive) Here's a slightly different version: I'm sure I can beat John at tennis. (active) I'm sure John can be beaten at tennis. (passive) Do you see how in the passive version, the speaker sounds less pompous, because it doesn't say who is going to defeat John. Hope the explanation makes sense. :-)

Najmiii3579 提交于 周四, 20/08/2020 - 06:18

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Dear English Team, 1. The government's response seems to have been at best confused and at worst dishonest Why is "confused" instead of "confusing" used here? 2. its unique group of investors is equipped with the appropriate long-term investment horizon, expertise and capital required to realize its potential Does "required" modify capital only or "investment, horizon, expertise and capital"? Could I say "with the appropriate and required long-term...and capital to realize..."?

Hello Najmiii3579,

Confused is used in your example because it describes the characteristic of the response, not how it makes other people feel. When we say something such as a response, an answer or an explanation is confused, we mean that it is incoherent, not well constructed or illogical. It may also be confusing - hard for others to understand.

 

In your second example, there is some ambiguity, but the normal understanding of this kind of sentence unless there is some reason to think otherwise is that the adjective describes the whole list and not only the final element. If the speaker wanted the adjective to refer only to 'capital' then they could break the sentence up to make that clear:

its unique group of investors is equipped with the appropriate long-term investment horizon and expertise, as well as the capital required to realize its potential

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter, As to the 2nd example, "as well as" would put less emphasis on the noun that follows it (in this case, the capital). If I want to avoid this effect while ensuring that 'required' modifies only 'capital', could I say: "its unique group of investors is equipped with the appropriate long-term investment horizon, expertise, and the capital required to realize its potential"

Hello again Najmiii3579,

Yes, that correct.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

PabloTT 提交于 周五, 07/08/2020 - 05:47

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Hello teachers, I would like to ask two questions 1. The companies are unable to undertake the huge investment necessary to build out the numbers of factories required. - Could I say "...build out the required numbers of factories." instead? 2. The government should take all measures possible to ensure elections are properly carried out. - Could I say "...all possible measures to ensure..." Thank you in advance.

Hello PabloTT,

The second sentence is fine and you could use either form without any change in meaning.

With the first sentence, your suggestion is also fine, but the sentence itself does not seem very natural to me. I would use build rather than build out; build out does not seem a correct form to me.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team