ADJECTIVES – Order

Adjectives can be used to describe lots of things, from physical size, age, shape, colour, material, to more abstract things like opinion, origin and purpose.

We can use adjectives together to give a detailed description of something.

Adjectives that express opinions usually come before all others, but it can sometimes depend on what exactly you want to emphasise.

For example:

“That’s a nice, big, blue bag.” (You like the bag.)
“That’s a nice blue.” (You like the colour.)

When we group adjectives together there is a general (sometimes flexible) rule for the position of each type of adjective, these are:-

Position1st*2nd*3rd4th5th6th7th8th
OpinionSizeAgeShapeColourMaterialOriginPurpose
NiceSmallOldSquareBlackPlasticBritishRacing
UglyBigNewCircularBlueCottonAmericanRunning

 

You might swap adjectives that express an opinion and an adjective based on fact depending on what you wish to emphasise:-

For example:

  • “She had a long, ugly nose.” emphasising the length of her nose.
  • “He was a silly, little man.” emphasising that the man was silly.

This is just for fun as you wouldn’t normally see so many adjectives in one description.

For example:

  • “She had a big, ugly, old, baggy, blue, stripey, cotton, British, knitting bag.”

Does it matter if you get it wrong? Well outside of exams and tests, it won’t kill you, but people reading or listening to you will find it odd if you mix up the order.

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