order of adjectives in english

Our Guide to the Order of Adjectives in English, Based on Adjective Type (with Examples)

The order of adjectives in English is a particularly tricky one for language learners.

In fact, native English speakers have a hard time explaining it because it’s so instinctive for them!

But once you memorize the rules, it’s easy to apply them to any sentence you want to create.

In this post, we’ll show you the 10 types of adjectives to put any English adjective in its place.

Contents

The Simple Order of Adjectives in English

The position of an adjective depends on what type of adjective it is.

Is the adjective describing the noun’s appearance? Is it telling you the quantity of the noun? Is it telling you what the noun is made of?

All of these factors will influence the adjective’s position.

In this article, we’ll discuss each type of English adjective in the order it appears in a sentence. We’ll also provide examples.

Simply put, this is the order of adjectives in English that you can refer back to:

Quantity + opinion/value +  size + temperature + age + shape + color + origin + material + purpose

Let’s take a close look at those categories.

10 Types of English Adjectives in Order

The adjective order below is a slightly flexible rule—be aware that there are some exceptions and there can be slight variations between the different types of English (such as American, British and Australian).

If in doubt, place the more general adjectives first, followed by the adjectives that provide more specific detail about the nouns.

1. Quantity

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 

Example:

A chair

2. Opinion/Value

These adjectives communicate how the noun is viewed by yourself or others. These are subjective terms:

wonderful, unusual, annoying, delicious 

Example:

A wonderful chair

3. Size

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

Example:

A wonderful little chair

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.”

4. Temperature

The adjectives placed next in line give information about the temperature, if necessary:

cold, cool, freezing, warm, hot

Example:

A wonderful little cold chair

5. Age

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, young, antique, prehistoric

Example:

A wonderful little cold antique chair

6. Shape

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

Example:

A wonderful little cold antique square chair

7. Color

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:

brunette, blonde

Example:

A wonderful little cold antique square red chair

8. Origin

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

Example:

A wonderful little cold antique square red American chair

9. Material

These adjectives simply indicate what the noun is made of. Adjectives here could be:

wood, metal, paper, silk, rubber

Example:

A wonderful little cold antique square red American wood chair

10. Purpose

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)

Example:

A wonderful little cold antique square red American wood rocking chair

How to Choose English Adjectives Wisely

I know what you’re thinking.

“A wonderful little cold antique square red American wood rocking chair” is a mouthful of a phrase!

That’s why it’s important not to use too many adjectivesToo many adjectives give off a very confusing message to readers and listeners.

Instead, focus on learning the position of each type 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, chairs can be made from a variety of materials and could be any color.

Using an adjective that describes the type of material the chair is made from 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 wonderful antique wood rocking chair

A large brown American reclining chair

An antique Chinese chair

A cold blue metal chair

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 movie trailers, interviews and other quick clips:

FluentU Adjective Order Clip

They come with interactive subtitles that let you instantly check definitions of any words while watching, and you can practice those new terms in the post-video quizzes.

You can also save new adjectives as custom flashcards and review them later. 

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.

For example:

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!

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