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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MCWSL 提交于 周六, 17/09/2016 - 13:40

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Hello, Sarah[subject] should not be[verb] held[?] responsible[adjective] for what her brother does. Adjective ''responsible'' modifies subject ''Sarah''. How does ''held'' work in this sentece?

Hello MCWSL,

The phrase here is 'hold somebody responsible for something', and there is a perfect modal auxiliary before it. There are many phrases like this in English where a very is followed by a direct object and then an adjective:

keep someone honest

make someone happy

do something right

In your setence the adjective is followed by a prepositional phrase (for someone).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Piyush100990 提交于 周一, 22/08/2016 - 09:27

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It is generally said to avoid Double superlative and comparative degree then why He is more cleverer than John . ( this is wrong ) Who is more intelligent - Ram or Shyam . (This is correct) When we compare using comparative degree then the thing which is compared is excluded from which it is being compared by the word "other" The population of Mumbai is greater than any other town in Europe. but when second term of comparison is given , it must correspond in construction with the first The population of Mumbai is greater than that of any town in Europe. Does both of the last two examples are correct or is there any difference which i am not getting ?

Hello  Piyush100990,

This sentence is correct:

The population of Mumbai is greater than that of any town in Europe.

This sentence is not correct:

The population of Mumbai is greater than any other town in Europe.

The reason it is not correct is that Mumbai is not in Europe, and using 'any other' suggests that it is.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sibtid Pocachang 提交于 周一, 22/08/2016 - 09:13

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Hello! Please look at the following sentence: The weather is freezing cold. Is the word "freezing" an adverb? I saw this statement and it reminded me of a formulation I once heard: "violent hot." I understand that "violent hot" is quaint and now improper, maybe coming from the seventeenth century. Is "freezing" an adverb in that sentence? Thank you very much.
"Freezing" can be an adj or adv. In the sentence, "freezing" functions as adv because it modifies the adj "cold". You should take a look at adjective phrases lessons for further understanding.

jthamsa 提交于 周二, 09/08/2016 - 08:46

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When should a comma be added between adjectives? A book published by Macmillan says a comma should be used between adjectives in an order. For example, a beautiful, big book a strange, little, round dot black, Russian bears brown, leather riding boots I don’t remember a comma for the order of adjectives in American English. Is this a difference between American and British English?

Hell jthamsa,

Sometimes commas are used between adjectives and sometimes they are not - it depends on how the adjectives are being used. You can find many explanations of this on the internet - here's one example. I'm not sure exactly how the noun phrases you ask about are being used, but probably the first two would have commas whereas the latter two would not.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

huycomf 提交于 周四, 28/07/2016 - 10:49

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Hello, May I ask you a question, please? I see (on the web) the order of shape and age is inversed (Age --> Shape). So is it right or wrong? (here are the links: http://4thgradeela.weebly.com/uploads/2/0/7/7/20771340/1159935_orig.jpg https://www.theenglishstudent.com/uploads/2/4/1/5/24150879/5801151_orig.png?361 ...) I feel so confused. Thanks for giving me the way to go.

Hello huycomf,

The order of adjectives is not completely fixed in English. Some of the sequence is strongly fixed - for example, we would rarely place colour before age - but much of the sequence is quite flexible. You can say either of these, for example:

An old round table.

A round old table.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Abou Maro 提交于 周二, 26/07/2016 - 13:02

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Hello I see that the kinds of adjectives are complication and quite hard to memorize. Is any easy way to get remember each kind of adjectives referred to? for example Witch one is general opinion and other is specific.... Thank you

Hello Abou Maro,

I'm afraid you'll just have to memorise them. There is no rule to identify which is which; you need to remember the meanings.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

ritameireless 提交于 周一, 18/07/2016 - 16:13

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In the song "What a Wonderful World" there is the construction noun + of + adjective like "skies of blue" and "clouds of white". What's the difference? Is that grammatically correct?

Hello ritameireless,

In poetry and songs, artists often break the rules a bit and I'd say that's what's happening with the lyrics of this song. It's certainly not something you would hear or see in ordinary speaking or writing, where you'd likely find 'blue skies' and 'white clouds' instead. There are all kinds of interpretations of this song, but at least on one level, it refers simply to blue skies and white clouds.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

nkmg 提交于 周三, 06/07/2016 - 17:14

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Hello everyone : why we put the adjective after the noun in this case truck bomb week alone something odd

Hello nkmg,

Some adjectives do not appear before nouns. For example, we use 'alone' after a link verb but not before a noun. Some words can be both adjectives and adverbs, such as 'alone'. Some adjectives always follow the noun, such as 'galore'.

You need to look at the items in context. For example, 'truck bomb' is a compound noun and if you want to identify one part of it as an adjective then it would be 'truck', which describes the kind of bomb it is.

'Alone' is both an adjective and an adverb. I suspect it is an adverb here, though without the context it is hard to say.

It is possible to say 'an odd something' but we more often say 'something odd'. Again, however, you need to look at the context. It may well be a reduced relative clause: 'something which is odd'.

The context is important to understand why certain forms are used. Without the context we can only guess, I am afraid.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello nkmg,

This page deals with the order of adjectives when placed before the noun. We do not have a page devoted to postpositive adjectives at the moment - this is somethign we might add in the future. The Wikipedia page on the topic provides a good summary and examples, however.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

The_Unknown 提交于 周五, 01/07/2016 - 03:11

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Sir, in the above example [ He lives in the eastern district. ] can we say[ The district he lives, is in eastern side ]. In the exercise [ afraid and frightened : why ' Don't be afraid ' can not be correct ans? ]. Sir i am really enjoying here and learned a lot. Thank you for your kind support

Hello The_Unknown,

In this sentence 'eastern' is not just a description of location but a division of the city, like 'southern London' or 'northern England'. It would not be used in the way you suggest, but if you wanted to describe something else in this way then you would need to say '...in which he lives is on the eastern side'.

In the exercise, you are asked to select the incorrect sentence. 'Please, don't be afraid' is a correct sentence.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

leticiaana 提交于 周一, 13/06/2016 - 21:52

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Hello, In task 3 some sentences are wrong because, in my opinion, use some adjectives in front of a noun. How can I formulate a right sentence using the same adjectives (afraid, alive, asleep, well)? Can be right say: Tom looked afraid like a rabbit. The tsunami destroyed everything alive. The thief walked quietly past the dogs asleep. Bright dog's eyes are a sign of well. Have a better way to say these sentences? thank you.

Hello leticiaana,

As the information on the page says, some adjectives are used only before a noun, while others are only used after link verbs. It is also important to remember that the adjective must be with the noun which it describes. That is why some of your examples are not correct. For example:

Bright dog's eyes are a sign of well.

The problem here is that the adjective 'bright' needs to be linked to the noun 'eyes' and in your version it looks like the dog which is bright, not the eyes! The sentence needs to be formulated differently:

Bright eyes are a sign of a dog's health.

Bright eyes on a dog are a sign of health.

 

Similarly, your example Tom looked afraid like a rabbit changes the meaning of the sentence slightly, though it is grammatically correct. 'Afraid' needs to be linked to rabbit, not to 'Tom' here. Since 'afraid' cannot be before a noun we need to use 'frightened'. 

It is the same with The thief walked quietly past the dogs asleep. You could use a non-defining relative clause ('...the dogs, which were asleep') but I think makes the sentence inelegant and wordy; using 'sleeping' is much better here.

The tsunami destroyed everything alive is fine.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Can we say [ Dog's bright eyes are a sign of well ] as i put bright (Adjective) before eyes(Noun)?. [ Tom looked like a frightened rabbit ] this is correct?

Joaquim Pose 提交于 周二, 03/05/2016 - 06:37

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Which one is better: The French blonde girl or The blonde French girl ?

Hello Joaquim Pose,

Generally, we would say hair colour (blonde) before nationality (French). However, the context is important and can change this. For example, if we are answering the question 'Which blonde girl?' then we might answer 'The French blonde girl'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ambitious learner 提交于 周一, 02/05/2016 - 05:28

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hello ELT. as per this topic some adjectives can only be used in front of noun e.g. eventful. so I can say: I had an eventful trip. but is it wrong to say "my trip was quit eventful"? best regards

Hello Ambitious learner,

Yes, that's fine - except that you should spell it 'quite' not 'quit'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

mariaidabertocchi 提交于 周四, 28/04/2016 - 12:53

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Hello teacher, could you pleas tell me which of these following order of words are correct?: the 13 bus stop the number 13 bus stop, number13 bus stop, the bus stop of number 13, bus stop number 13 I've got another couple of doubts if I can dare to ask: Can I say"I'm going out for some shopping"?

Hello mariaidabertocchi,

The most natural way to say this, in my opinion, is 'the number 13 bus stop'. I think you can also say 'the 13 bus stop', but it does not sound as good, I would say.

We would use 'I'm going out for' in a different context to this. For example:

I'm going out for a meal

I'm going out for a run

With shopping we would be more likely to say:

I'm going out to do some shopping.

I'm going to out to do the shopping.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

mastermohammed 提交于 周四, 28/04/2016 - 11:14

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Can I say and write Diploma professional

Hello mastermohammed,

That does not sound like a correct formulation but without knowing the context - at least the sentence in which it would be used - it is hard to be sure.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

iru87 提交于 周四, 17/03/2016 - 14:49

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Hello teacher, what kind of adjectives are "fat" and "young"? Can "fat" be classified as "size"? Can "young" be classified as "age"? Thanks a lot.

Hello iru87,

There is no official 'classification' for such adjectives, so any kind of grouping of this kind is subjective. 'Fat', when used about a person or creature, describes body shape, so 'size' would be a possible category, though it misses much of the meaning (that it is pejorative, for example). 'Young' does describe age, so that would be a useful category.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

sumanasc 提交于 周五, 11/03/2016 - 12:25

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Dear Sir I would like to know what is meant by weakest to strongest adjectives . How to find out which one is the weakest in the following 3 words Wreck , damage and destroy your answer is much appreciated Sumanasc

Hello sumanasc,

I'm afraid none of those words are adjectives. They are all verbs, and damage can also be a noun.

The only way to know which verb is stronger is to learn its meaning, I'm afraid. There is nothing in how the word looks which can tell you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

sachinmore57 提交于 周日, 06/03/2016 - 10:59

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Dear Sir, Could you please explain the answers of the section 'Order of adjectives 3'? 1.afraid and frightened (Why not 'Tom looked like a frightened rabbit') 2.alive and living 3.asleep and sleeping (Why not 'The thief walked quietly past the sleeping dogs') 4.well and healthy 5.ill and sick (Why not 'I don't like hospitals. They're full of ill people') Regards Sachin More

Hello Sachin,

All you need to know to do this exercise is found in the explanation at the top of this page. Please look through it and then if you have a specific question, we can help you with that.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

pedro alfaro 提交于 周四, 03/03/2016 - 12:08

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hi teacher. can you tell me pelase if necessry memorize the list of adjetives. and so be able to have a fluent on english and how many adjetives are there and where can I find the list . thanks

Hi pedro alfaro,

There's no particular type of word which must be memorised ahead of any others. I recommend developing your English in a broad way rather than focusing on one particular type of word. You can find our suggestions and tips regarding vocabulary, and other areas, in our Help section.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

chiarencher 提交于 周日, 28/02/2016 - 13:30

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Dear sir, Which is correct?the big,fat,king or the big fat king? Thanks.
Dear Sir, Why there has used a preposition after the verb in following sentences? Can we take the same meaning without using a preposition after the verb? 1. I called on my friend Sherlock Holmes. 2. Telephone down to the shop.

Hello WharshaW,

To 'call on someone' means to visit; it is different from 'call someone', which means to phone them or shout to them.

We would say 'phone down to something' if we lived above it - on a higher floor, for example.

 


Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Mala Mukherjee 提交于 周三, 17/02/2016 - 06:36

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Could you please let me know which one is correct- two big beautiful peacocks or two beautiful big peacocks?

Akanksha Jones 提交于 周二, 16/02/2016 - 04:30

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Hello, Which is more appropriate two big beautiful peacocks or two beautiful big peacocks? Thanks

Hello Akanksha,

Although a specific order is suggested above on this page, the order of adjectives is somewhat flexible in some cases. Both of the forms you ask about are fine.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team