Order of adjectives in English

Photo by Magda Ehlers on
Adjectives follow a specific order

Have you ever wondered why we say “a lucky black cat ” and not a “black lucky cat” ? Or why it sounds wrong to say a “green square big” object ?

If you are a native English speaker, this is something you have probably never studied, but you automatically know which order adjectives should be placed in, because they sound really strange if not, right ?.For non-native speakers of English, there is a grammatical rule which you can learn to make sure you always have your adjectives under control.

What you need to know

1) Opinion e.g. attractive, fascinating, silly, disgusting, foolish, beautiful

2) Size e.g. massive, huge, tall, tiny, minuscule

3) Dimension e.g. heavy, weighty, round, rectangular, lengthy, tall

4) Age e.g. old, ancient, antique

5) Colour e.g. pink, black, greenish, pearly white

6) Pattern e.g. striped, spotty, flowery, splotchy

7) Origin e.g.African, Irish, Mediterranean, Roman

8) Material: e.g.wooden, linen, metal, silicone

And then we add the noun – the object/person/situation we are describing.

It is unlikely we are ever going to use 8 adjectives in a sentence. The amazing, tiny, weightless, ancient, grey, spotty, French paper doll doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. But we often use two, and sometimes three……beautiful, blue sky, or big, round, yellow, spotted ball. And the words in any other order are going to sound extremely weird. So welcome to this incredible, new, red-hot working week !

By paulinell

I am an EFL teacher, examiner, Spanish to English translator and English-stuff is my blog on English history, culture and language.

One reply on “Order of adjectives in English”

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