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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BunnyBunny 提交于 周六, 16/01/2016 - 12:35

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Hi teachers! Could you please tell me the adjective form of communicate? Is it correct to say "i'm doing it for communicating reasons or communicational reasons or communicative reasons"?

Hello BunnyBunny,

You can't find 'communicational' in the dictionary (note there's a search box in the dark grey area on the right side of this page) so that answers your question about that one. If you check the other two words there, you'll see that 'communicative' is the best option.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

crusoe 提交于 周三, 25/11/2015 - 06:32

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Hello, I would have great relief if you could help me out here. Demonstrative adjectives are words which point out to the exact noun we wish to refer to, isn't it? This, that, these and those are examples of demonstrative adjectives. Why is it noticed that, this and that are used with singular nouns;these and those are used with plural nouns??????

Hello crusoe,

It's true that most adjectives in English do not change according to the number of the noun they modify, but, as you've noticed 'this' (singular) becomes 'these' (plural) and 'that' (singular) becomes 'those' (plural). I suspect this has to do with the evolution of the English language over time; I don't know Old English, but I do know that in Old English adjectives were inflected according to the number and gender of the nouns they modified. Most of this has dropped away in modern English, but what you ask about is a remnant of that.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Mai Sayed 提交于 周五, 21/08/2015 - 14:29

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Dear Sir, I would like to ask about the reason why we say: " Secretary General" although we know that the adjective comes before the noun. Thanks. Mai

Hello Mai Sayed,

This is a word of French derivation and follows the French word order. The plural is 'Secretaries General'. A similar example is 'Attorney General'.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

MayelaM 提交于 周日, 19/07/2015 - 18:04

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What is the difference in saying "Maybe another time" vs "Maybe in another time" ? When the preposition "in" is included and how the meaning of the phrase changes? Thanks

Hello MayelaM,

'Maybe another time' means 'not now, but maybe in the future'.

'Maybe in another time' would only be used if you could travel to another time - i.e.  in some kind of science-fiction time-travelling story. In other contexts it is not standard use.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

adtyagrwl3 提交于 周六, 11/07/2015 - 09:39

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Dear Sir, Thanks for this nice informative article! I have just one question here. It says above that this sentence would be wrong: "The problems with the new machinery were countless.", while that sounds right to me. Is it because we just don't use 'countless' in spoken English this way, or there's some other reason, for not putting 'countless' anywhere but at the front of the noun? Thank you!

Hello adtyagrwl3,

As far as I know, there is no 'logical' reason that this group of adjectives are used only in attributive position (i.e. before the noun) – I believe it's just a question of use. Using 'countless' in predicative position (i.e. after the verb) is still perfectly comprehensible.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team 

manojparmar 提交于 周四, 02/07/2015 - 22:26

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Hi Experts, It would be great help to eliminate the big confusion on following sentences: 1. Following both sentences are present continuous, then what is the difference between them and why both are correct: Is your great-grandmother still alive? & Is your great-grandmother still living? 2. What is wrong with following sentence: Tom Looked like an afraid rabbit. because, afraid is an adjective and rabbit is noun (object), so this sentence should be correct. Isn't it? thanks in advance...!!

Hello manojparmar,

We'll be happy to answer your questions but first I have a request. Could you please post the questions on a relevant page? This page is about adjective order and neither of your examples deal with that. A page on the present continuous would be fine, for example.

The reason we ask is because if questions and answers are on relevant pages then it makes them more useful as other people who are learning about the same topic will see them.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, Actually, these sentences are from above adjective exercise. Now, its my opportunity to post on Present continuous page. Waiting for your response asap. Thanks Manoj
Hi Peter, Following sentence is related to adjective, as per result from above exercise it is incorrect. Could you please suggest that what is wrong with it: "Tom Looked like an afraid rabbit." my assumption that, because, afraid is an adjective and rabbit is noun (object), so this sentence should be correct. Isn't it? thanks in advance...!! Manoj

MadaMoore 提交于 周四, 02/07/2015 - 07:11

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Is "fierce" an opinion? In your example, "that horrible big fierce dog," you have 3 adjectives. If "fierce" is an opinion of the dog, why does it come after "big" (size)? It seems you have opinion, size, opinion. Just looking for clarification.

Hello Mada,

What you say makes sense. The order of adjectives is actually quite flexible and some adjectives can be used in different ways. You could certainly write that another way. If you have a specific question about another way to order those adjectives, please feel free to ask it.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

grammar2015 提交于 周一, 22/06/2015 - 05:53

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Hello Peter the reason why I consider 'the' also as an adjective is because I saw an English text book that classifies determiners and quantifiers as limiting adjectives. The book gives example s as follows ARTICLE - a an, the, DEMONSTRATIVE, this, that these, those INDEFINITE: some, more, many, few ,INTEROGATIVE: whose, what NUMERICAL: one, three POSSESIVE: my, its, RELATIVE : whose Thank you

Hello grammar2015,

You can find such classifications. However, I would say that the standard approach today is to identify nine parts of speech in English: adjective, adverb, conjunction, determiner, interjection, noun, preposition, pronoun and verb.

i think trying to classify determiners as adjectives is not helpful as we end up describing them as 'special' adjectives which do not follow normal adjectival rules (no modifiers, no post-modification etc).

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

EnglishIsSquidgy 提交于 周一, 15/06/2015 - 05:00

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Please advise! within the list of adjectives that must be used only in front a noun are these: Eventful Occasional Countless I can't seem to get my head around why? The example given "The problems with the new machinery were countless" actually seems like an acceptable sentence. The problems with the new machinery were countless. [There were countless problems with the new machinery] The number of stars in the sky are countless. [There are countless stars in the sky] My grandfather used to smoke occasionally [My grandfather used to occasionally smoke] The party was eventful [It was an eventful party] These all seem like acceptable ways to express those sentences. I think I might be missing something?

Hello EnglishIsSquidgy,

Most adjectives can be used in both attributive (i.e. with a noun, normally just before it) and predicative (i.e. after a link verb such as 'be' or 'seem') position. The three adjectives you ask about do sound a bit strange in predicative position, but this doesn't mean using them that way makes no sense – most of the time, it just means that native speakers don't use them that way. I wish I could give you a more satisfactory explanation, but I'm afraid that in the end much of the way we speak is a matter of usage.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

soon_hl 提交于 周日, 07/06/2015 - 14:28

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Dear sir, Pls help me how to differentiate adjective and noun. I always confuse how to apply in my grammar. Please advise (adjective ) vs Please advice (noun) Thanks.

Hello soon_hi,

'advise' is not an adjective - it's a verb. A noun indicates a person, place or thing, whereas an adjective describes a noun. I'd suggest you look up 'advice', 'advise', 'noun' and 'adjective' in the dictionary - see the search box under Cambridge Dictionaries Online on the lower right side of this page - to see definitions and examples, as well as what part of speech (e.g. noun, adjective, verb) they are.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

grammar2015 提交于 周五, 29/05/2015 - 06:45

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If every thing that modifies a noun is adjective, determiner and quantifier are adjectives. For example. The classroom of the English subject is opened. 'The' is playing the role of an adjective. Am I correct?

Hello grammar2015,

I'm afraid your initial supposition is incorrect: not everything which modifies a noun is an adjective. Determiners and quantifiers are different categories.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

ANAMIKA SAXENA 提交于 周四, 28/05/2015 - 16:52

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What is link verb ?

value4education 提交于 周日, 10/05/2015 - 07:31

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Hello, There is a great deal of confusion involving: size, shape and age. Some grammarians go for: size + shape + age. Others go for: size + age + shape. Please, which is acceptable based on British English? Kindly provide example sentences to buttress your submission. Thanks a lot.

Hello value4education,

There are tendencies rather than fixed rules in this area of the language. Common use establishes what is normal and typical, but it is not grammatically wrong to change the order, and sometimes the speaker does this deliberately for effect (to emphasise one item, for example). The most common sequence is that given on the page: size, shape, age. For example:

I have a big round old table.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Daeiou RK 提交于 周日, 03/05/2015 - 14:42

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Hello Mr.Peter M, Thanks for your kind information. With best regards, Ravikumar.

Daeiou RK 提交于 周六, 02/05/2015 - 19:07

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Sirs, Please tell me the differences between 'Adjectives ' and 'Determiners' with best regards, Ravikumar.

Hello Ravikumar,

These are different kinds of words which fulfil different functions in the sentence. You can find a definition and examples of determiners here, and a definition and examples of adjectives here.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

VR94 提交于 周三, 18/03/2015 - 16:14

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hi, in the exercise 1 of task 3, the phrase " tom looked like an afraid rabbit" is correct while " tom looked like a frightened rabbit" don't, why ? then, in the rules AFRAID should be used after a link verb. which are the link verbs? thanks

Hi VR94,

Please note that the Instructions for Task 3 are 'Click on the sentence which is not correct.' That's why!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

richmck 提交于 周一, 09/03/2015 - 06:40

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Is there an exception to this rule with the word order of adjectives in British English? "I'm a native English speaking actor"? I heard an actor say the following "I'm an English native actor..."

Hello richmck,

The order of adjectives in English has some rules but is quite flexible and we often change the order so we can emphasise certain words or phrases. Your sentences could be examples of this, although it is hard to say exactly without knowing the particular context.

You can find my answer to a similar question a little further down the list of comments (probably on page 2 by now). It's always a good idea to look at earlier comments as often the same (or very similar) questions have been asked before.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Maria Huitrón 提交于 周三, 25/02/2015 - 04:26

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Hello! I know "Well" is an adverb, no an adjective and it is never writen after a linking verb. Could you tell me if that´s right or not; because in the chart there is as an adjective. I always write "Good"

Hello Maria Huitrón,

'Well' is an adverb, as in 'You did well', but it can also be an adjective with the meaning 'not sick' (i.e. the opposite of 'ill'), as in 'This child is not well' or 'The medicine will make you well again very quickly'.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

csrcsr 提交于 周五, 13/02/2015 - 15:53

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Hello. I have to describe a fat squirrel that's on fire. Is it "fat flaming squirrel"/"flaming fat squirrel"/"fat burning squirrel"/"burning fat squirrel"? I really can't make any difference between them.
I can't resist adding that in Australia, "flaming" can be used in colloquial speech as an adverb (often without the 'g'). In which case, "A flamin' fat squirrel" must have eaten all the acorns!

Hi Anthony,

(Smile.) How true! Thanks for your observation, and please note everyone that this meaning of 'flaming' is also found in our dictionary (Cambridge Dictionaries Online) on the lower right.

Hooroo,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry. can i have a question for you? Have a link i can't do the excercise, please show me the way i can do it. http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/adjectives/adjectives-ed-and-ing Because when i click on that link i see the words "xmlConfigLoadingError". i really don't know how to do.

Hello ttalone,

Thank you for letting us know about this. We're investigating the cause of the problem and will correct it as soon as we are able.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi can you advise task 3 what is the procedure because I have unable to do the activity

Kirk 提交于 周二, 13/01/2015 - 08:29

Ghosh 回复

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Hello Ghosh,

In Task 3, you have to click on the incorrect sentence. There are three correct sentences, and one incorrect one - you click on the incorrect one.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Abomohab 提交于 周日, 11/01/2015 - 20:47

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Hi every one I would like to know more about adjectives end --ive such as digestive , primitive and so on ,when add IVE to form an adjectives and where its not excuse to do so. thank you very much

Hello Abomohab,

'-ive' is an example of a suffix and is one of the suffixes used to make adjectives, as you say. I'm not familiar with any rule which will tell you when the correct suffix to form the adjective is '-ive' - this is simply something you will have to learn along with the vocabulary. Keeping a vocabulary notebook can help with this, as you can note common prefixes and suffixes down when you learn a new word.

If you want a list of words containing certain letters then you can find such things on the internet. For example, here is a list of words ending in '-ive' (including adjectives).

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team