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.
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’
So back to our car – it’s a new black car!
Now try these examples
- silver, new, beautiful bracelet
- French, exciting, old film
- round, little, beautiful plate
- 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.