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Adjectives: order

from English Grammar Today

Order of adjectives

When more than one adjective comes before a noun, the adjectives are normally in a particular order. Adjectives which describe opinions or attitudes (e.g. amazing) usually come first, before more neutral, factual ones (e.g. red):

She was wearing an amazing red coat.

Not: … red amazing coat

If we don’t want to emphasise any one of the adjectives, the most usual sequence of adjectives is:

order

relating to

examples

1

opinion

unusual, lovely, beautiful

2

size

big, small, tall

3

physical quality

thin, rough, untidy

4

shape

round, square, rectangular

5

age

young, old, youthful

6

colour

blue, red, pink

7

origin

Dutch, Japanese, Turkish

8

material

metal, wood, plastic

9

type

general-purpose, four-sided, U-shaped

10

purpose

cleaning, hammering, cooking

It was made of a 1strange, 6green, 8metallic material.

It’s a 4long, 8narrow, 10plastic brush.

Panettone is a 4round, 7Italian, 9bread-like Christmas cake.

Here are some invented examples of longer adjective phrases. A noun phrase which included all these types would be extremely rare.

She was a 1beautiful, 2tall, 3thin, 5young, 6black-haired, 7Scottish woman.

What an 1amazing, 2little, 5old, 7Chinese cup and saucer!

Adjectives joined by and

When more than one adjective occurs after a verb such as be (a linking verb), the second last adjective is normally connected to the last adjective by and:

Home was always a warm, welcoming place. Now it is sad, dark and cold.

And is less common when more than one adjective comes before the noun (e.g. a warm, welcoming place). However, we can use and when there are two or more adjectives of the same type, or when the adjectives refer to different parts of the same thing:

It was a blue and green cotton shirt.

(“Adjectives: order” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press.)
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