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

MultipleChoice_MTQwODE=

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

ReorderingHorizontal_MTQwODI=

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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Malinali 提交于 周四, 25/05/2017 - 00:28

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Hello everyone! Could someone explain to me why the sentence "Tom looked like an afraid rabbit." is not correct? Thanks in advance.

Hello Malinali,

There is a small group of adjectives, most of which begin with the letter 'a', which are usually only used after link verbs. 'afraid' is one of these adjectives -- examples of others are 'asleep', 'alive', 'alone'. This is indicated in the first entry for 'afraid' in the Cambridge Dictionary -- note how it says '[after verb]'.

You can correct the sentence by using 'scared' instead: 'Tom looked like a scared rabbit'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

grahamridley1985 提交于 周四, 18/05/2017 - 14:29

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Even for a native this can be tricky.

Daisy April 提交于 周四, 18/05/2017 - 08:04

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hi, please help me how I can complete task 1? I can not add more than 1 adj in a group.

Peter M. 提交于 周五, 19/05/2017 - 06:57

Daisy April 回复

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Hi Daisy April,

To add words to each group first click on the word and then click on the group. However, you need to click on the group itself (which should be coloured grey) not on a word you have already added as this will simply swap the words. The simplest way is to click on the name of the group.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, Thank you very much for your answer, I completed task 1. Best wishes,,

Adya's 提交于 周日, 14/05/2017 - 18:17

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Hi In the following sentences, is 'ahead' an adjective or adverb? 1. The ahead journey is long. 2. The journey ahead is long. Regards

Peter M. 提交于 周一, 15/05/2017 - 06:56

Adya's 回复

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Hello Adya's,

'Ahead' here is an adjective. 'Ahead' as an adjective always follows the noun so the first sentence is incorrect.

Please note that we do not provide answers for tasks from elsewhere. Unfortunately time does not allow us to help our users with homework or tests!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter M Thanks a lot for the reply. Please be assured that it was not​ a task from elsewhere that I requested your help for. In the Cambridge dictionary itself, 'ahead' is listed only as an adverb. There is also an example sentence, "The path ahead was flat and smooth", which caused the confusion. You may confirm with the following link: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/ahead?fallbackFrom=british-grammar&q=Ahead Regards

Hello Adya's,

Thank you for the clarification. We are often asked to help with homework but I see that this is a genuine query for understanding. I can't comment on the particular entry in the Cambridge Dictionary but I can confirm both that 'ahead' can be an adjective and that it is functioning as an adjective in your example.

In Mirriam Webster 'ahead' is categorised as 'adverb or adjective'.

In the Cambridge Dictionary it is categorised as 'adjective, adverb' when 'Learner's Dictionary' is searched.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Now in the light of what Cambridge dictionary says about "ahead", how should it be treated as, an adjective or an adverb? Please allay the confusion. Regards

Rita Hayati 提交于 周日, 09/04/2017 - 02:44

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What about 'CREAMY' and 'MILKY', which category of adjective it belongs to? Thanks

Hello Rita Hayati,

The categories given here are guides, not fixed rules. They are intended to show typical use but please remember that there is a lot of flexibility in this area.

I would say that adjectives like 'milky' and 'creamy' would generally follow colour:

a new white creamy/milky bar of chocolate

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

nimavaziri 提交于 周二, 04/04/2017 - 14:34

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Hello I would like to know which one of these following is grammatically correct and why? "English magnetic letters" or "Magnetic English letters" Thanks for your help Nima

Hello nimavazirir,

There is no fixed grammatical rule regarding this. Rather, there are conventions of use which represent the most common ways to express something. The most common order here, I would say, is 'magnetic English letters'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Walid baidas 提交于 周日, 19/02/2017 - 03:11

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Please answer me I know what an "adjective phrase" in general is, but my question is when I have a group of adjectives before a noun are they called an adjective phrase? For example, in this sentence, "There is a big black dog." Are the two adjectives "a big black" called an adjective phrase??

Hello Walid baidas,

An adjective phrase can include two adjectives. It can also include adjectives separated by other words. For example:

The house is large but stll comfortable.

In this sentence everything after 'is' forms the adjective phrase.

Please note that all comments are moderated before they are published. Posting the same question multiple times does not mean that it will be answered more quickly!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

pumbi 提交于 周六, 11/02/2017 - 16:20

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Hi Sir; The adjective can be used as an object complement. For example, he certified the document correct. But, can we say the same thing in following way he certified correct document.

Hi pumbi,

No, the second version is not correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Phyo Wai Maung 提交于 周五, 10/02/2017 - 10:19

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Dear Sir, Are these sentences correct. " a beautiful new large long bridge"," very beautiful red shiny theme". with regards,

Phyo Wai Maung 提交于 周五, 10/02/2017 - 09:58

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Dear Sir, I keenly would like to know why is this sentence going wrong. " Tom Looked like an afraid rabbit. Please guide me, Sir. with regards

jinleo2000 提交于 周一, 06/02/2017 - 10:33

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Hi. Is "even in her fragile long light gypsy skirt " a correct sentence?

Hello jinleo2000,

I'd put 'fragile' between 'light' and 'gypsy', but even after moving it there, the phrase still sounds unusual to me because it is extremely uncommon for a noun to be modified by more than three adjectives.

But I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

MCWSL 提交于 周二, 24/01/2017 - 18:07

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Hello Learning English team, ''I am reapeated/repeatable.'' Would it make difference between those sentences if I didn't say in the passive sentence who repeats me? In general, is there a big difference between an adjective and participle? Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

The words here are not synonyms and have different meanings.

I am repeated tells us that someone repeats you. It's hardly a likely sentence in most contexts, however.

I am repeatable tells us that it is possible for someone to repeat you. Again, hardly a natural sentence.

The broader question about adjectives and participles goes beyond our scope here and into linguistic theory. I think it's enough to say that participles often have adjectival roles but also have many other functions.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

JamlMakav 提交于 周五, 20/01/2017 - 18:30

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Hello, ''Soon-to-be-retiring detective X is partnered with Y.'' ''Blood on John is from a yet-to-be-identified victim.'' Is there a rule that would give information how to construct that kind of hyphenated adjectives? They are like whole phrases there. Thank you.

Hello JamlMakav,

There are some guidelines for using hyphens in compound adjectives in the Oxford dictionary I'd refer you to. As far as I know, you should apply those same rules to the adjective phrases you ask about. Hyphenated adjectives with more than one, and especially more than two, hyphens, are fairly rare and avoided in many styles of writing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

taj25 提交于 周四, 12/01/2017 - 12:39

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hi peter she is a beautiful young woman. are this sentence grammatically correct. many thanks

Hello taj25,

Yes. You should capitalise 'she' (it should be 'She'), but that it is a spelling error, not a grammatical one.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

JamlMakav 提交于 周二, 10/01/2017 - 18:47

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Hello, ''The physical evidence, such as fingerprints and handwriting samples, do not implicate him.'' Why is ''fingerprints'' plural, but not singular? ''The case's notoriety weighs on Toschi, who is bothered whe...'' Souldn't the beginning be ''notoriety of the case?'' Thank you.

Hello JamlMakav,

The singular of the word is 'fingerprint' and the plural is 'fingerprints'. I assume there is more than one fingerprint involved.

You can say either 'The case's notoriety' or 'The notoriety of the case' - both are perfectly fine. The choice is a stylistic one.

 

I'm not sure what relevance this question has to the topic of this page. We ask users to post questions on relevant pages so that the questions and answers can be seen by others interested in the same topic, making the comments section as useful as possible for our users.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

taj25 提交于 周日, 25/12/2016 - 13:49

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hi kirk i have a question about adjective & adverb. i mentioned below the sentence. pls see the sentence "That Dracula film was absolutely terrifying." why you using "adjective & adverb" together. is it possible to come together or some sentence will be?

Hello taj25,

The adverb here ('absolutely') modifies the adjective ('terrifying'), making it stronger. This is a common use for adverbs such as 'very', 'quite', 'extremely', 'absolutely' etc.

You can read more about this use of adverbials on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Kaung Nyi 提交于 周日, 18/12/2016 - 10:28

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Hello, I have once seen a phrase like "a old round table". In this case, age comes first before shape. Could it be possible to write the adjective "old" before "round"? Would you mind teaching me about this order? Many thanks! Kaung Nyi

Hello Kaung Nyi,

The order of adjectives is somewhat flexible - the phrase you mention is a good example, and it is indeed correct. There is another explanation of this on a BBC page which I think is also quite good and which may help you, but if you have any other specific questions, please don't hesitate to ask us.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

amol 提交于 周二, 06/12/2016 - 11:15

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Hello, I am curious to know the adjective form of 'language'

Hello amol,

'linguistic' is an adjective derived from 'language', though it doesn't work in all cases. English has quite a few noun + noun combinations, where the first noun acts like an adjective, e.g. 'language laboratory'. 

Hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

MCWSL 提交于 周一, 21/11/2016 - 18:35

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Hello. Does any kind of system exist in English that shows what preposition should take place after adjective, noun, or verb? Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

The various prepositions do have core meanings - 'in' suggests position, for example, whereas 'to' and 'from' suggest movement - but these are quite general and do not really help wiht collocations of the sort you are asking about. It really is a question of learning them, I'm afraid.

I would say that the best approach is to read widely and regularly in English. You will assimilate the patterns without actively learning them as you are exposed to them. We also have many pages which you might find helpful:

verbs & prepositions

adjectives & prepositions

adverbials of place (follow the links on the right)

prepositional phrases

two- and three-part verbs

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Chandni Vaswani 提交于 周六, 22/10/2016 - 16:36

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could you please help me to find out the mistake in the sentence given below: Tom looked like an afraid rabbit.

Hello Chandni Vaswani,

As it says on the page, there are some adjectives we use only after a link verb and not before a noun; 'afraid' is one of these. We could say 'He looked afraid', without a noun.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

MCWSL 提交于 周六, 22/10/2016 - 16:02

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Hello. Could you explain how to use past participle, present participle adjectives? I will give you an example that it is confusing to me. I ordered my (wanting or wanted) books?

Hello MCWSL,

The correct adjective here is 'wanted' because the meaning is 'wanted by me'. We would not use 'wanting' here.

-ed participle adjectives generally have a passive meaning:

I was frightened - something frightened me/I was frightened by something

-ing participle adjectives generally have an active meaning:

I was frightening - I frightened something

You can read more about this on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Petals 提交于 周四, 20/10/2016 - 06:23

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Hello, Is it possible to grade adjectives like perfect and outstanding ? Can I use more/most outstanding/perfect ? Regards, Petals

Hello Petals,

While this can be done in an ironic manner, or for literary purposes (deliberately breaking the rules for effect), it is not standard use. To qualify limit adjectives like 'perfect' and 'outstanding' we generally use one of four adverbs: completelytotallyabsolutely or utterly.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

html 提交于 周一, 03/10/2016 - 03:52

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What's the difference between "the commonest" and " the most common"? Because the only format I know is most + common, since it's a two-syllable word? Please correct my grammar also if it's incorrect. Thank you in advance.

Hello lingskie,

Both forms are correct and there is no difference in meaning. Some 2-syllable adjectives are used in both forms, and 'common' is one of these. Others include 'clever', 'stupid' and 'angry', for example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team