Order of adjectives

(Using several adjectives before a noun)

Table of contents – order of adjectives

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Order of adjectives
  2. Use of ‘and’
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What is the correct order of adjectives?

We remember that adjectives are used to describe things, people, and animals. Often, however, one alone may not be sufficient for detailed characterisation, and so it may become necessary to use several ones. Although it is certainly possible to put many adjectives in a row, it is relatively uncommon to hear more than two, sometimes even three. When they are placed before the noun, they usually appear in the following order instead of being strung together arbitrarily:

  • To begin, the number always comes first (Careful: The indefinite article ‘a/an’ expresses a number too.):
    • a, several, five, twenty-two, some, etc.
  • Then, the actual property follows:
    1. Opinion:
      • lovely, funny, nice, interesting, awful, etc.
    2. Size:
      • huge, little, small, big, tiny, etc.
    3. Age:
      • old, young, ancient, new, antique, aged, etc.
    4. Form:
      • round, square, angular shaped, triangular, etc.
    5. Colour:
      • blue, green, violet, red, orange, etc.
    6. Origin:
      • Spanish, British, Australian, South African, European, etc.
    7. Material:
      • metal, gold, silver, wooden, etc.
    8. Type or purpose (in this position, a noun instead of an adjective may frequently appear as well):
      • artificial, natural, etc.
      • Examples: bread knife, cleaning rag, etc.
        • For details about this type, see the use of compound words.
  • And finally, the noun is named:
    • house, bike, plate, garden, tower, etc.

Information: The mentioned order is basically the appropriate one. Despite that, it is not uncommon to deviate from it, either because an adjective fits better elsewhere or the speaker wants to emphasize a specific characteristic. It is, therefore, necessary to internalise the order so that one can apply it correctly with gut feeling.

  • Examples of accumulations of adjectives in sentences:
    • “There is a very nice little café just around the corner.”
    • “I was wearing a pair of comfortable brand-new white sports shoes.”
    • “We had dinner at an excellent stylish Italian restaurant last night.”
    • “Remember, you’ve got more than three good reasons not to help that person.”

When is ‘and’ used together with adjectives?

In some cases, it is possible to use the conjunctionand’ to connect adjectives. Such a connection regularly happens if …

  • two or more adjectives of the same group (for example two colour indications) are mentioned:
    • “She’s bought a beautiful red and blue dress.”
    • “This suit is tailored especially for the tall and slim man.”
  • … the adjective is named after the noun as an alternative to the placement before it. In such an occurrence, the verb ‘to be’ or a different copula is placed before it. Then, the order is still the same as described above – but the last two adjectives are separated by ‘and’ as a rule. Examples:
    • “My friend’s house is big and spacious.”
    • “The cave we visited was deep, dark and cold.”

Further explanations related to the topic ‘Order of adjectives’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Order of adjectives (using several adjectives before a noun)’ and may be helpful as well: