Order of adjectives simplified

The arrangement of adjectives has been quite a task for a number of English language users.

Let’s go through it right away.

The arrangement

Sometimes, we use more than one adjective before a noun, that’s why we need to know how to arrange them.

If you have a car, red in colour, expensive, salon and small, how do you arrange these attributes in a sentence? Generally, adjectives which describe opinions or attitudes (e.g. wonderful) usually come first, before more neutral, factual ones (e.g. blue):

You have an expensive small red salon car.

How did we arrive at the above answer?

This is the order:

Opinion – expensive

Size – small

Physical quality

Shape

Age

Colour – red

Origin

Material

Type – salon 

Purpose

Other examples

  1. He was the first executive president.
  2. My mom has a big cracked round brown wooden pestle (cracked represents physical condition, wooden represents material)
  3. Our priest adored his beautiful twenty-six-year-old ebony Nigerian daughter.

*Note: When you write someone’s age (as in 3 above), you don’t use a plural form because you are describing the person, using adjective. Adjectives don’t have plural forms.

It is different from a sentence like:

  1. He was imprisoned for twenty-six years.

Here, the ‘years’ is a noun and the plural form is influenced by the preceding number.

Use of and

When more than one adjective is used after a verb such as be (a linking verb), the second last adjective is jusually joined with last adjective by and:

  1. The ocean was the best thing I’ve seen so far. It was all beautiful, vast and calm.  

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, and is less common when more than one adjective comes before the noun (e.g. a warm, welcoming place). However, we can use and when there are two or more adjectives of the same type, or when the adjectives refer to different parts of the same thing:

  1. It was a blue and green cotton shirt.

Exception

Example:

  1. He is the big bad wolf in the company. (see last part below for vital information)

Look at the above example (big bad wolf), what do you see?

‘…big bad’ shows size before opinion, which does not follow the rule. Why?

‘Big bad wolf’ is a phrase, a popular saying from fairy tale stories. It means someone or something that is bad and causes all the problems in a situation. It is one of those fixed sayings we have in English.

 

 

 

 

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