Adjectives order in English

Adjectives order in English

Adjectives order in English
Adjectives order in English

Sometime we need to describe something or someone, by more than just one adjective because it isn’t enough to use just one adjective to describe what we want to express. So in such situations we need to know which adjective should be used before the other(s). Based on these order we can put the adjectives in a correct way which helps our audience to understand what is going to be described better. This post is going to clarify Adjectives order in English, so  to let’s start this discussion by the following examples:

• She’s such a sweet little girl!
• She’s such a little sweet girl!

• He seemed like a nice polite boy.
• He seemed like a polite nice boy.

• It’s a really lovely, bright shade of red.
• It’s a really , bright 
lovely shade of red.

Do you think the first sentences are correct or the second ones in the above 3 examples? Which sentences have the right adjectives order? Notice the adjectives that are used first in first sentences – sweet, nice, lovely. They are all subjective descriptions – the words that show feelings or opinions about something. They do not actually tell us any precise facts about the girl, the boy, and the shade of red. They don’t give us any information about how big the children are or anything about the precise qualities of the shade of red.

The subjective adjectives, as you can see from the above examples, are the adjectives that go first. In other words, the feeling or opinion about something or someone (some adjectives like nice, nasty, gorgeous, unpleasant, etc.) would be used first.

Another way of thinking about adjectives order in English is related to the fairly general adjectives – the adjectives which can be used for describing almost anything (like people, things, experiences, etc.). So notice the following examples:

• The food has a nasty, bitter taste.
• She lives in a lovely calm atmosphere.
• She works in a nice, cosy room in the office
I watched an awful, depressing movie last night.

In all these sentences the second adjectives which are underlined (bitter, calm, cosy, depressing), are used for describing a much smaller range of nouns than the first, (nasty, lovely, nice, awful). So this is another useful rule to keep in mind – the general adjectives would be used before precise adjectives.

Adjectives order in English
Adjectives order in English

If we want to use several precise, factual adjectives to describe something there should be an order for using some adjectives before some others. Imagine we want to describe an item we have lost in a public place. We need to provide some information about how big is that lost thing. We also must say what shape it is, and what colour it is, etc. So we need to follow a particular order that depends on the type of adjective. It is as follows:

0- Determiner (a / an)
1- Subjective (opinion) as amazing, fantastic, terrible, awful, brilliant, horrible, wonderful 
2- Size; length, height as small, big, huge, large, tiny, enormous, massive, tall, short 
3- Shape; width as square, round, right-angled, cylindrical, circular, oblong, rectangular 
4- Physical Quality as thick, thin, smooth, solid, squishy, hard, soft, rough, sharp, blunt
5- Age as young, old, ancient, teenage, modern, mature, immature
6- Color as purple, white, black, blue, orange, red, green, pink, yellow 
7- Nationality (Origin) as German, Chinese, English, French, Spanish, American, Italian
8- Material as wooden, plastic, gold, leather, glass, silk, cotton, synthetic 
9- Purpose as washing, sewing, cooking, scrubbing, polishing, cleaning,
10- Noun

Please note that in some resource, the adjectives which are related t age would be used before shape related adjectives, while in some other it is vice versa, in other words while old rectangular door , for example, may be correct, the phase rectangular old door seems to be correct as well.

Adjectives order in English
Adjectives order in English

That order which most native speakers of English are probably not even aware of, is the right order of using adjectives in English. So notice the following examples:

It’s a small, rectangular, wooden box.
• I want to buy a stylish, black, woollen coat.
She’s bought a gorgeous, light-brown, Swedish sofa

So you can see the right adjectives order in the above examples and it’s very important to take these points into consideration while using English language.

Click here to find other English Grammar posts

About Ahmad Osmani

Ahmad Osmani
I am Ahmad Osmani, an English teacher, and translator. I have more than 15 years of experience. I have been the administrator and writer of the website since its creation. I have studied Translation Studies and English Language. I love learning and teaching different languages. My main profession is writing and translating and sometime I teach English in my free time.

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