Order of Adjectives in English with Examples

Order of Adjectives in English with Examples

In the English rank scale, Adjectives come under the category of Words, the unit above morphemes and below Phrase or Group. An adjective is one of the Parts of Speech in English. (See the post on Adjectives). But the order of Adjectives in English confuse a lot of people. This post (Order of Adjectives in English with Examples) clears the confusion that arises when more than one adjective is present in a sentence. When there is more than one adjective, how do we order them?

What is an Adjective?

An adjective is a word that modifies, qualifies or describes a noun. It is a word that assigns a characteristic (a distinguishing quality, attribute, or trait) to a noun or pronoun. Adjectives give us more information about a noun or a pronoun; information such as classification, size, quality, colour, number, quality, size, shape, etc. We can recognise adjectives in varieties of ways. (See the post titled, ‘What is an Adjective?’).

Order of Adjectives in English with Examples 

There is a possibility of using more than one adjective before a noun in a sentence. When this happens, there is an order in which we arrange the adjectives. A lot of scholars have different preferred orders for the arrangement. However, there is no fixed order.

Order of Adjectives

I will provide two sets of order. The first order generally used is:

Size/Physical Quality/Shape/Age

Colour

Participle Adjective

Origin

Material

Type

Purpose

Noun

This translates to: Size/Physical Quality/Shape/Age + Colour + Participle Adjective + Origin + Material + Type + Purpose + Noun (SPQSA, C, PA, O, M, T, P, N

Consider the following prescribed order:

Age, Material, Noun

  • An old plastic container
  • A rusty iron pan
  • The new glass stopper

Quality, Colour, Noun

  • A hard red ball
  • A soft yellow silk
  • Cone tasty yellowish ice cream

Opinion, Origin, Noun

  • A frightening Korean mask
  • A disturbing horror movie
  • Some interesting American robots

Shape, Purpose, Noun

  • A round biscuit tin
  • An angular fishing boat
  • A square hunting spear

Size, Participle Adjective, Noun

  • A small broken plate
  • A compact stolen vehicle
  • The flat chosen cap

Opinion, Type, Purpose, Noun

  • A useful digital alarm clock
  • A useless analogue petrol metre
  • The dependable sharp implement

How to Order Adjectives: Clues

There is a way one can remember this order easily. Gradable adjectives (adjectives that can take degrees of comparison; that is, show more or less of a particular quality) which describe opinion, size, quality, shape, and age usually precede non-gradable (participle adjectives and adjectives) which describe origin, material, type and purpose.  

Order of Adjectives 2 

We can also arrange adjectives modifying a noun in the following ways, using these symbols listed below:

Number

  • Examples: first, second, third, two, five, six, seventh, tenth, twentieth, thirtieth, forty, fiftieth, sixty, seventieth, etc.

Attributes

  • Examples: lovely, nice, kind, lazy, weak, noisy, fine, strong, rich, quiet, comfortable, ugly, young, hard, successful, simple, generous, stingy, austere, etc.

Size/Weight

  • Examples: big, large, short, heavy, wide, tall, lean, etc.

Age

  • Examples: old, recent, new, fresh, latest, modern, olden, earliest, primordial, ancient, current, archaic, antiquated, nascent, etc.

Shape

  • Examples: oblong, round, pyramidal, square, rectangular, rhomboid, cuboid, triangular, circular, ellipsoid, etc.

Colour

  • Examples:  burgundy, coral, silver, pink, turquoise, brunette, dark, pale, light-coloured, flaxen, golden, straw-coloured, red, blue, green, brown, whitish, orange, violet, etc.

Nationality/Origin

  • Examples:  Nigerian, African, American Ghanaian, Brazilian, continental, oriental, cosmopolitan, European, etc.

Nouns as Adjectives

  • Examples:  cotton, plane, going, leather, silk, velvet, cream, etc.

Put together, we have N A SW A S CO NO N; a group of eight parameters. Sometimes all of these may not be present in a sentence but this can serve as a guide to know how to order adjectives in a sentence when more than one is present. Let us take some examples:

  • Two strong compact modern angular black American jeeps
  • One fine big antiquated round green Italian wine bottle.

Do note that it is not compulsory that all these attributes be present in a sentence but they can be used to order the adjectives, depending on the number present in a sentence. Try to generate some combinations of adjectives and forward them as comments…

Arrangement of Adjectives: Note Well

As possible as it is for more than one adjective to occur in a sentence, there are some things we need to take note of. These include:

When two gradable adjectives precede a noun, we can insert either a comma or and between the adjectives. For instance:

  • An attractive, big compound
  • An attractive and big compound
  • A tall, slender lady
  • A tall and slender lady
  • The quiet, sleepy town
  • The quiet and sleepy town

 When there are two colour adjectives, we insert and between them. For example:

  • Nigeria’s green and white flag
  • Angola’s black and red flag
  • Ethiopia’s green, yellow and red national flag
  • A blue and black leather jacket
  • A yellow and black taxi stand

If two non-gradable adjectives are from the same class, they have and between them. If they are from different classes, and is not used. Consider these examples:

  • The financial and religious challenges
  • Social and political issues
  • A proper and just system
  • A terrible and messy situation
  • Certified electrical officer
  • Established political party
  • Improved financial conditions

Summary

Adjectives belong to the open class in the division of Parts of Speech. There are different types and the function in different ways. We can have more than one adjective in a sentence but they have to be properly ordered lest we have an unwieldy or a clumsy sentence. This post has made some clarifications on the ordering of adjectives. If you have been educated by this, I will like to hear from you. Send me your comments and remember to share this post and others; just a click away! Thank you for always reading my posts.

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