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Pasan from Sri Lanka asks:
Adjective order

a chairI tried to answer latest Quiznet programme on your site of adjective order. I found it a bit tricky and difficult, so could you please give me any help of this matter. And Belen says: May I ask which the correct order in adjectives is?




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Catherine Chapman answers:
Catherine Chapman Hi Pasan and hello Belen!

When we use two or more adjectives together to describe a noun, the order we put them in is quite important. For example, we don't usually say an old Indian beautiful carpet. It sounds much better say a beautiful old Indian carpet.

As a general rule, adjectives are usually placed in this order:

opinion > size > quality > age > shape > colour > participle forms > origin > material type > purpose

The phrase a beautiful old Indian carpet follows these guidelines:

 

1

4

8

 

 

quality

age

origin

noun

a

beautiful

old

Indian

carpet

You don't have to include an example of every type of adjective, but the ones you do use should follow the order. So if you wanted to add red and green to the phrase a beautiful old Indian carpet, you would put it between old and Indian like this:

 

1

4

6

8

 

 

opinion

age

colour

origin

noun

a

beautiful

old

red and green

Indian

carpet

It sometimes helps to remember the order of adjective if you consider that adjectives whose meaning is closely, or permanently, connected to the noun are placed nearer to it in the sentence. So in this phrase: a large comfortable wooden chair wooden has a very close connection with chair .

 

2

3

10

 

 

size

quality

material type

noun

a

large

comfortable

wooden

chair


Here are some more examples:

 

3

7

 

 

quality

participle

noun

a

new

improved

recipe

 

1

3

10

 

 

opinion

quality

type

noun

an

old-fashioned

romantic

candle-lit

dinner for two

Sometimes we can use but between adjectives, especially if their meanings seem contradictory.

 

2

 

3

 

 

size

 

quality

noun

a

small

but

tasty

meal

If we use 2 adjectives that are similar in meaning, we usually put the shorter one first: a soft, comfortable cushion.

I hope that's answered your interesting English questions, Pasan and Belen!

Catherine

About Catherine Chapman
Catherine Chapman has a BA (hons) in Communication Studies, CTEFLA, DELTA and a Masters Degree in Educational Technology and English Language Teaching with Manchester University (UK). She has taught EFL, EAP and IT skills in several countries, worked in ELT management and has developed web-based ELT/EAP materials projects in institutions including Istanbul Technical University (Turkey) and Newcastle University (UK). She now works as an ELT Writer for BBC Learning English.
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