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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Hello agie

If you say you want your coffee black, it means with no milk. Everywhere I've been, they give you a packet of sugar so you can add it yourself if you want it. The same is true for an espresso.

If I were in a place where the server added the sugar, I'd say 'just a little sugar' to communicate that.

A suburb is technically outside a city. I'd probably say the 'northern part of Madrid'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

html 提交于 周五, 18/01/2019 - 11:43

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Good day! I would like to know why it's ungrammatical to say I am AN English and I am AN American? I read in some books saying that it's grammatical to say I am An English or I am AN American. Is there any grammar rules when to use an + nationality or no article + nationality. Thanks.

Hello html,

It depends whether you are using a noun or an adjective.

 

The correct forms for nationalities using a noun are as follows:

I am an Englishman.

I am an American.

 

If you use an adjective then no article is needed:

I am English.

I am American.

 

Note that the noun and the adjective sometimes look the same (American, for example).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

chrisp 提交于 周二, 27/11/2018 - 13:12

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Hello, which of these two options is right? black wavy hair or wavy black hair? short curly black hair or short black curly hair? Thank you for your answer!

Hi chrisp,

What I'd say is 'wavy, black hair'. To be honest, I don't think I'd ever say the second combination of adjectives -- it's quite rare to use more than a couple. But if I had to, I suppose I'd say 'short, curly, black hair'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

anie1 提交于 周一, 05/11/2018 - 06:25

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Hello, I would like to ask what the following sentence means; I work funny hours funny means, not 9 am-5 pm? Thank you in advance

Hello agie,

In this context 'funny' means strange or odd. That would suggest hours which are not typical or hours which are not regular, and certainly not regular 9-5.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

anie1 提交于 周六, 27/10/2018 - 05:41

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Hello, I would like to ask which of the following words is correct When we want to describe a city with many people and restaurants, bars. We can say that this city is full of life? It is a vivid city? or it is a living city? Thank you in advance

Hi anie2,

Yes, 'full of life' is good. You could also say 'vibrant', but I wouldn't say 'vivid' or 'living' here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sasan1989 提交于 周三, 03/10/2018 - 08:11

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Hi every one. Could you please help me to find out how can I use these pair-adj next to each other? Healthy Distinct Sport or Distinct healthy Sport? Which one them is Correct? Thank you ^.^

Hi Sasan1989,

My ear tells me that the correct order if 'distinct healthy sport'. I'm afraid, however, that since I don't understand what a 'distinct sport' would be, it's difficult for me to justify or explain my intuition. If you could explain what you mean by this and what context it would be in, I can try to help you understand it a bit better.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

amol 提交于 周三, 22/08/2018 - 06:28

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Hello Sir, Do we need to use articles before both the adjectives used for the same person? She is a tall and a beautiful lady. Or She is a tall and beautiful lady. Kindly help. Regards

Hello amol,

You only need to use the article once. It is not grammatically incorrect to repeat it, but it is poor stylistically.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Elusik 提交于 周五, 13/04/2018 - 21:47

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Hello!!! Could you please help me with the words "big" and "large", "small" and "little"?? which one is correct large room, or big room?? small baby, liitle baby....etc??

Hello Elusik,

All of them are correct and it is really a question of style and context as to which is preferable in a given example.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

what is Task 3 for ? The different couple words are not explained here or I do not understand this lesson ? I do not understand the answers of task 3, why its answer choose this but not that. afraid and frightened. alive and living. asleep and sleeping. well and healthy. ill and sick.

Hi mitykg,

Task 3 covers characteristics of some adjectives. 'afraid', for example, is not used predicatively, i.e. before a noun -- this is mentioned in the explanation above where it says that some adjectives are used only after a link verb. Therefore, the third option in the first sentence is incorrect, since 'afraid' is not used this way.

The other pairs of adjectives work similarly -- the first ones are not use predicatively, whereas the second ones are.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Van Hua 提交于 周四, 22/03/2018 - 11:38

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HI, Could you please have a check "adjective" part. I can't see the content, except "the order of adjective" Thanks and Best Regards Van

Van Hua 提交于 周四, 22/03/2018 - 10:58

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HI, Could you please have a check of " adjective-ed and -ing". I pressed the next button, but that part didn't come up. I tried on the computer and my phone as well. I think it's possible the error system Thanks a lot

Peter M. 提交于 周五, 23/03/2018 - 06:28

Van Hua 回复

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Hi Van Hua,

Thank you for letting us know about this. It seems that some of the links here are not working correctly. I have passed it on to our technical team and I hope they will fix the problem quickly.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

David Araque 提交于 周四, 04/01/2018 - 23:25

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Good afternoon dear Peter and Kirk. I have a problem with the order of the following sentence and I will really appreciate your help. The__________(two, afternoon, interesting, teacher's, classes) are large. I don't know where to put the genitive in those structures. The two interesting afternoon teacher's classes are large. Or The two teacher's interesting afternoon classes are large. The teacher's interesting two afternoon classes are large.

Hello David Araque,

We generally do not provide answers to questions that are from elsewhere (other sites, books or tests) as we cannot become an answering service for people's homework! However, I can give you a clue which should help you. The clue is that the word teacher's here refers to only one teacher and so the word two must refer to classes, which is the only plural noun. That should help you as it is clear what the other adjectives can describe.

If you try to answer it yourself we will tell you if you have it right or not.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much dear Peter for your assistance. So the correct sentence would be: The teacher's two interesting afternoon classes are large.

Hello David,

Yes, that sounds right to me and as far as I can see is the only correct answer.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

html 提交于 周四, 21/12/2017 - 11:40

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Hi Sir, I'd like to know if these two sentences have the same meaning and are they both considered exclamative sentences or not? "How beautiful you are" and "You are so beautiful" Thank you

Hello html,

Both sentences can be exclamatory. Exclamatory sentences usually have one of three structures (see the bottom of this Cambridge Dictionary page) but really exclamative clauses don't have specific structures -- in other words, you can't tell from just the structures whether a sentence is exclamatory or not, nor does the structure determine the sentence type.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

mohamad hafez 提交于 周二, 14/11/2017 - 10:43

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Order of adjectives 3 why the correct answer is :" Tom looked like an afraid rabbit " ? i knew that Afraid is not normally used before a noun. It goes after the verb.

Hello mohamad hafez,

In Task 3 you are supposed to identify the sentence that is incorrect. You are right, 'Tom looked like an afraid rabbit' is not correct!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Adya's 提交于 周五, 20/10/2017 - 16:52

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Hi How to differently use 'cool' and 'cold'? Thanks.

Peter M. 提交于 周六, 21/10/2017 - 06:07

Adya's 回复

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Hello Adya's,

If you are talking about temperature then 'cool' is less extreme than 'cold'. 'Cold' is generally not pleasant unless we are talking about ice-cream or similar, while 'cool' can have pleasant connotations. For example, on a very hot day we might talk about 'a nice cool breeze'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I often find it confusing to use the -ed adjectives. Which of the examples below is correct? (1). I want to do COLOUR photocopy. (2). I want to do COLOURED photocopy. OR (1). Could you pass the COLOUR copies to me? (2). Could you pass the COLOURED copies to me? AND (1). The red STRIPED sofa (2). The red STRIPED sofa

Hello MarkJide,

Sometimes more than one answer is possible and which is more common depends upon the particular noun which is being described. Collocations (words which usually appear together) are often arbitrary: there is no rule but rather a tendency or frequency. For example, we always say 'salt and pepper' rather than 'pepper and salt'. There is no grammatical reason for this - it is simply a convention.

We tend to use 'colour' as a collocation with 'photograph', 'photography', 'photocopier' and 'television' as a contrast to 'black and white'. With 'photocopies' or 'copies' we can use either 'colour' or 'coloured'. I would not like to guess which is more common, and I suspect this will vary in different dialects.

The last pair of sentences both have the same word. We would not use 'stripe' here as an adjective; 'striped' is correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Andrew international 提交于 周五, 15/09/2017 - 14:40

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Hello Sir Please help me to understand this: What about a cold drink? Is it wrong to say "what about a cool drink. Shall we have a cool drink or cold drink. Is it wrong to use cool instead of cold.? Thank you Regards

Hello Andrew international,

The collocation here is generally 'cold' rather than 'cool'. That's simply a convention of use, just as we say 'a hot drink' rather than 'a warm drink' and we say 'salt and pepper' rather than 'pepper and salt'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

masri.ahm04 提交于 周三, 13/09/2017 - 12:26

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Hello team; I wanna be sure about difference between using 'to' and 'for' after adjective, so when we use adj. to describe a noun or a pronoun, we shall say that: 'This book is difficult to me' not 'This book is difficult for me' While when we use adj. to describe verb, we shall say that: 'This book is difficult for read' not 'This book is difficult to read' Is this correct? I'm not sure

Hello masri.ahm04,

The correct forms are the other way round:

This book is difficult for me.

This book is difficult to read.

We say something is difficult for a person but difficult to do (using the infinitive with 'to' here).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Scenesoflondon 提交于 周二, 12/09/2017 - 18:29

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Hi Sir, Is it correct to use late in this way: "he asked me to receive a call in late November" (i would like to say that he asked a call for the end of november) If "late" is an adjective, is the meaning I need correct? Hope it make sense! Sara

Hello Sara,

Yes, that is correct -- good work! 'late' means 'near the end'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Andrew international 提交于 周一, 11/09/2017 - 17:10

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Hello Sir The adjective elephantine (formal) means according to the dictionary I use is 'very large.' The example it has given is: 'She is so tiny she makes me feel elephantine, I can't understand this example. Could you please explain the above sentence for me.? I mean the adjective 'tiny.' The reason why the writer has used that adjective. Is it to show that the writer compare to her feel very big.? I am I correct ? Thank you. Thank you.

Hello Andrew international,

Yes, that is correct. Size here is relative: she is so small (in the speaker's view) that she makes the speaker feel huge.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

JamlMakav 提交于 周日, 10/09/2017 - 20:18

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Hello, Can a phrasal verb function as an adjective? For example, ''Got-over situation'' Thank you.

Hello JamlMakav,

With a bit of searching, I expect you could hear or find 'got-over' used as an adjective in this way, but I doubt anyone would consider it correct outside an informal context. Even in informal situations, many people would find it odd or even say it is incorrect. It is creative, but I would mark it is incorrect in my students' writing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Pavan Kaur 提交于 周五, 08/09/2017 - 16:35

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Hello Team Please tell me the difference between the meaning and usage of "asleep" and "sleep".

Hello Pavan,

Please check the dictionary for these two words. Then if you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask, though we ask that you explain in detail what you understand and don't understand.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Pavan Kaur 提交于 周五, 08/09/2017 - 16:14

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Hello Team Could you please explain what is a link verb?

blakecat 提交于 周二, 27/06/2017 - 02:25

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"Some of the commonest -ed adjectives are normally used only after a link verb: annoyed; finished; bored; pleased; thrilled" The annoyed man threw his newspaper at the troublemakers. The finished project glimmered in the morning light. The bored child threw paper airplanes. The please teacher gave out gold stars. The thrilled executive gave out bonuses to everybody. What? Is this some British-only "rule"? It strikes me as totally arbitrary. As does the following: "but we do not say: The district he lives in is eastern The problems with the new machinery were countless."

Hello blakecat,

Research on words such as these using a corpus (e.g. BYU's COCA or the BNC -- these are essentially databases of a huge number of sentences from both spoken and written English) has shown that these adjectives are used much more frequently after some form of the verb 'be' (or some other link verb). This is why it says the adjectives 'are normally used' after a link verb.

This doesn't mean they aren't used at all before nouns and of course the examples you provide are perfectly correct. Perhaps it's just me, but these sentences sound a bit forced, kind of like examples from a textbook rather than sentences you'd hear in natural conversations.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Marcela Santos 提交于 周一, 26/06/2017 - 17:39

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Hello! I need some help plis. For me it's not clear the use of adjectives only after a link verb, because in the task 3 the sentence "Is your great-grandmother still alive?" the adjective alive is after adverb, there's something here that I'm not see?

Hello Marcela,

When it says 'only after a link verb', this doesn't mean that an adverb can't be used, it means that it's unusual to use 'alive' before a noun in a noun phrase. In 'Is your great-grandmother still alive?', 'alive' is a complement of the link verb 'is', which is natural and correct.

But a sentence like 'I love my alive great-grandmother very much' (here 'alive' is a part of the noun phrase 'my alive great-grandmother') is so unusual that native speakers would find it strange or even incorrect.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team