Order of Adjectives in English: How to Use Multiple Adjectives to Describe Nouns
How to arrange adjectives can be particularly tricky for English learners.
It’s usually based on the category of the adjective. The order of adjectives in English is quantity, opinion/value, size, temperature, age, shape, color, origin, material and purpose.
There are some exceptions and there can be slight variations between the different types of English (such as American, British and Australian), but the more general adjectives usually go first.
In this post, we’ll show you exactly how English adjective order works.
- 1. Quantity
- 2. Opinion/Value
- 3. Size
- 4. Temperature
- 5. Age
- 6. Shape
- 7. Color
- 8. Origin
- 9. Material
- 10. Purpose
- How to Choose English Adjectives Wisely
- When to Use Commas Between Adjectives
- And One More Thing...
|1||Quantity||six, some, a lot of|
|2||Opinion/Value||amazing, terrible, comfortable|
|3||Size||small, bulky, compact|
|4||Temperature||lukewarm, frozen, steaming|
|5||Age||young, vintage, old|
|6||Shape||rectangular, curved, jagged|
|7||Color||silver, red, green|
|8||Origin||British, Cuban, Japanese|
|9||Material||silk, plastic, glass|
|10||Purpose||running shoes, sleeping bag, coffee table|
Adjectives describing the quantity of the noun come first. These include numbers:
one, 4.5, 100
Quantity can also be expressed through adjectives such as:
many, several, few
If you’re only referring to one object, person or place with the noun, you can simply use these articles:
a, an, the
These adjectives communicate how the noun is viewed by yourself or others. These are subjective terms:
beautiful, unusual, annoying, delicious
A beautiful mug
Adjectives describing the size of the noun are placed next. This word tells the reader or listener how big or small the noun is. A variety of words can be used to explain this, including:
large, huge, tiny, mini
A beautiful large mug
One exception here that you may notice is the word “big,” which often comes before an opinion/value word. For example, “the big bad wolf” is a character in the story “The Three Little Pigs.”
The adjectives placed next in line give information about the temperature, if necessary:
cold, cool, freezing, warm, hot
A beautiful large warm mug
Age doesn’t have to be a number. Age can also be communicated with words that explain the time period or era the noun was created in or lived in. Adjectives used here could be:
new, modern, antique, prehistoric
A beautiful large warm modern mug
Next in line are the adjectives that describe the shape. Some of the words you could use to communicate the shape the noun looks like could be:
angular, round, square
A beautiful large warm modern round mug
Adjectives describing color are positioned next:
brown, blue, silver
These words can also be used when describing the coloring of a person’s hair or an animal’s fur:
A beautiful large warm modern round black mug
Adjectives that describe where the noun came from tell the reader or listener about its origin. These adjectives could include:
American, British, Dutch, Indian, Australian
A beautiful large warm modern round black European mug
These adjectives simply indicate what the noun is made of. Adjectives here could be:
wood, metal, paper, silk, rubber
A beautiful large warm modern round black European stainless steel mug
The last adjective before the noun describes its purpose. This explains what the noun is used for:
tennis ball (used for tennis), stirring spoon (used for stirring), diving pool (used for diving)
A beautiful large warm modern round black European stainless steel travel mug
How to Choose English Adjectives Wisely
I know what you’re thinking.
“A beautiful large warm modern round black European stainless steel travel mug” is a mouthful of a phrase!
That’s why it’s important not to use too many adjectives. Too many adjectives give off a very confusing message to readers and listeners.
Instead, focus on learning the position of each category so that when you do need one, you know exactly where to put it.
Look at this example:
A magnificent huge newly-opened blue American water swimming pool
Not all of these adjectives are relevant. We know that swimming pools are made of water and they’re blue.
On the other hand, mugs can be made from a variety of materials and could be any color.
Using an adjective that describes the color of a coffee mug is giving the listener or reader information they don’t already have. This information is relevant. It’s needed to create a more detailed picture in their mind.
As a general rule, try to focus on only two, three or four adjectives that’ll add the most description to your sentence. Once you’ve selected these few adjectives, simply place them in the order stated above.
A portable new black laptop
A pair of cozy, warm, fur-lined slippers
Several old, thick hardcover books
Three disposable plastic pens
For a bit more guidance on the subject, it also helps to take a closer look at how native English speakers order their adjectives.
Read modern books and listen intently to movies, TV shows and other English language media, then try using descriptive phrases that you come across.
On the FluentU program, you can see how native speakers naturally use multiple adjectives in real English videos.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
When to Use Commas Between Adjectives
When you use multiple adjectives from different categories, as we did above, they function as cumulative adjectives. You don’t need to put commas between cumulative adjectives.
However, if you used several adjectives from the same category, they’d be coordinate adjectives. You do need commas between coordinate adjectives, but their order doesn’t matter.
The stupid, pointless, frustrating homework assignment
These are all opinion/value adjectives, so they need commas and they could be rearranged:
The frustrating, pointless, stupid homework assignment
The best way to learn is to give it a go!
Challenge yourself and above all, have fun creating interesting sentences!
And One More Thing...
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The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
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