Adjective word order – a new black car or a black new car?

When you are speaking or writing English and need to use more than one adjective, what is the correct adjective word order?  Does it matter?

Just to clarify – an adjective is a word that describe somebody or something and usually appears before the noun unless the adjective follows the verb ‘to be’ – he is happy – and then it comes after the verb. adjective-word-order

Interestingly, if you asked a group of native English speakers to order a list of adjectives, most people would place them in the same order.  We haven’t been taught the order, it’s just instinctive.  When adjectives are placed in the incorrect  order it just sounds wrong to native speakers and so let’s share the general rules of adjective word order with you and help you improve your fluency. With so many English grammar ‘rules’ there are exceptions but this should help you get it right most of the time.

Adjectives give us more information about the noun they are describing.  They might tell you more about the noun’s shape, size, colour, condition or your opinion about it.  It is this purpose that gives us the clue to adjective word order.

Use this adjective word order

opinion           delicious, beautiful, boring, exciting

size                   small, large, tiny, gigantic

shape               round, square, circular, long

condition       hungry, dirty, broken, cold

age                    old, young, new,

colour              black, white, yellowish

pattern            check, spotted, tartan

origin               British, French

material         woollen, cotton, silver

purpose         shopping (bag), dancing(shoes)  – often end in ‘ing’

NOUN   

So back to our car – it’s a new black car!

Now try these examples

  1. silver, new, beautiful      bracelet
  2. French, exciting, old       film
  3. round, little, beautiful     plate
  4. gardening, dirty, old       shoes

Check out the correct answers by looking at the list above.

Remember to use commas between the adjectives but not after the last one e.g. a beautiful, sunny day

It’s good practice not to overdo the number of adjectives – three is usually enough, most people use two.

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