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Adjective Order

Adjectives cannot be written in any order. There are rules, so you should use the following order:

  1. Determiner or article
    • Determiners e.g. this, that, these, those, my, mine, your, yours, him, his, her, hers, they, their, Sam's ; or
    • Articles - a, an, the

  2. Opinion adjective
    e.g. polite, fun, cute, difficult, hard-working
     
  3. Size, including adjectives, comparatives and superlatives
    • height; e.g. tall, short, high, low; taller, tallest
    • width; e.g. wide, narrow, thin, slim; wider, widest
    • length; e.g. long, short; longer, longest
    • volume; e.g. fat, huge; fatter, fattest

  4. Shape
    e.g. circular, oval, triangular, square, 5-sided, hexagonal, irregular
     
  5. Age
    e.g. new, young, adolescent, teenage, middle-aged, old, ancient
     
  6. Colour
    e.g. red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, grey, black, black and white, light blue, dark red, pale blue, reddish brown, off-white, bright green, warm yellow
     
  7. Nationality
    e.g. Hong Kong, Chinese, English, American, Canadian, Japanese
     
  8. Religion
    e.g. Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, Moslem, pagan, atheist
     
  9. Material
    e.g. wood, plastic, metal, ceramic, paper, silk
     
  10. Noun used as an adjective
    e.g. campus (as in 'campus activities')
     
  11. The noun that the adjectives are describing.

Sentence structure:
Together the article or determiner, adjective(s) and noun(s) make a 'noun phrase'. Noun phrases can also have adverbs describing the adjectives; e.g. nearly circular; and can also have relative clauses, although these are not discussed on this page.

Style:
Although it is possible to write a sentence that uses all the categories; e.g. 'my beautiful, long, curving, new, pink, western, Christian, silk wedding dress', it is bad style as it is too long. Try to use less than five adjectives in a single list. Therefore you could say "Have you seen my beautiful new cream silk wedding dress? It's long and curving, and is in western Christian style."

How to remember the order
You can use the 'Roman room' memorisation technique. This involves remembering a place that you know well, such as your home, and imagining walking through it, looking at things.

  1. Imagine that you arrive at the door of your home. On the door is the letter 'A', and you are greeted by someone who lives there. This helps you to remember the article 'A' or the determiner(s); e.g. my Mother's.
  2. Imagine that you are happy to see each other. This helps you to remember the opinion adjective.
  3. Imagine the size of your home: is it big, small, or long?  This helps you to remember the size adjectives.
  4. Imagine that you go into your home and you see an object. Remember the shape of the object.
  5. Now imagine that you walk around your home; e.g. towards your room. Think of another object further from the door. Think of the age of that object; e.g. new or old.
  6. Move on to another object, this time a colourful one. Remember what colour it is.
  7. Move on to another object. This object should remind you of a foreign place; e.g. a picture of somewhere in China, or a souvenir from a holiday abroad. This is to help you remember nationality.
  8. Next imagine moving to another object, this time a religious one. Maybe you have a place for worshipping your ancestors, or a statue of Buddha.
  9. Next move to another object. This should be special because it is made of one material; e.g. a crystal ornament or a wooden statue.
  10. Finally move to a place where there is an object that is described with 2 words, and the first is a noun; e.g. a book shelf. Imagine that this is the end of your journey around your flat.

 

Correct the order of the adjectives and nouns in the following sentences, then click the 'See Answer' buttons to see the correct noun phrases:


  1.  

    Answer:
    Determiner or article, opinion, size, shape, age, colour, nationality, religion, material, noun used as an adjective; then the main noun.


  2.  

    Answer:
    An ugly big brown wooden office desk.

    1. Determiner or article - An
    2. opinion - ugly
    3. size - big
    4. shape - 
    5. age -
    6. colour - brown
    7. nationality - 
    8. religion - 
    9. material -  wooden
    10. noun used as an adjective - office
    11. the main noun - desk.

  3.  

    Answer:
    My sister's long straight black hair.

    1. Determiner or article - My sister's
    2. opinion -
    3. size - long
    4. shape - straight
    5. age -
    6. colour - black
    7. nationality -
    8. religion -
    9. material -
    10. noun used as an adjective -
    11. the main noun - hair.

  4.  

    Answer:
    A historic oval black and white family photograph.

    1. Determiner or article - a
    2. opinion - historic
    3. size -
    4. shape - oval
    5. age - (not historic, as historic means about a famous event.)
    6. colour - black and white
    7. nationality -
    8. religion -
    9. material -
    10. noun used as an adjective - family
    11. the main noun - photograph.

  5.  

    Answer:
    A beautiful little antique green jade Ming vase. (Antique means over one hundred years old, and therefore valuable.)

    1. Determiner or article - a
    2. opinion - beautiful
    3. size - little
    4. shape -
    5. age - antique
    6. colour - green
    7. nationality -
    8. religion -
    9. material - jade
    10. noun used as an adjective - Ming
    11. the main noun - vase.

  6.  

    Answer:
    My university's high-tech brand-new deep blue laptop computer.

    1. Determiner or article - My university's
    2. opinion - high-tech
    3. size -
    4. shape -
    5. age - brand-new
    6. colour - deep blue
    7. nationality -
    8. religion -
    9. material -
    10. noun used as an adjective - laptop
    11. the main noun - computer.

 

 

Last updated on: Monday, March 26, 2012