Sometimes we use more than one adjective in front of a noun:
He was a nice intelligent young man.
She had a small round black wooden box.
Some adjectives give a general opinion. We can use these adjectives to describe almost any noun:
Some adjectives give a specific opinion. We only use these adjectives to describe particular kinds of noun:
Food: tasty; delicious
Furniture, buildings: comfortable; uncomfortable
People, animals: clever; intelligent; friendly
We usually put a general opinion in front of a specific opinion:
Nice tasty soup.
A nasty uncomfortable armchair
A lovely intelligent animal
Usually we put an adjective that gives an opinion in front of an adjective that is descriptive:
a nice red dress; a silly old man; those horrible yellow curtains
We often have two adjectives in front of a noun:
a handsome young man; a big black car; that horrible big dog
Sometimes we have three adjectives, but this is unusual:
a nice handsome young man;
a big black American car;
that horrible big fierce dog
It is very unusual to have more than three adjectives.
Adjectives usually come in this order:
We use some adjectives only after a link verb:
Some of the commonest -ed adjectives are normally used only after a link verb:
annoyed; finished; bored; pleased; thrilled
Our teacher was ill.
My uncle was very glad when he heard the news.
The policeman seemed to be very annoyed
but we do not say:
We had an ill teacher.
When he heard the news he was a very glad uncle
He seemed to be a very annoyed policeman
A few adjectives are used only in front of a noun:
He lives in the eastern district.
There were countless problems with the new machinery.
but we do not say:
The district he lives in is eastern
The problems with the new machinery were countless.
Try these tasks to improve your adjective ordering.
Types of Adjectives
Before the adjectives you will normally have the Determiner.
Determiner: The determiner tells us if the noun is singular or plural, definite or indefinite
- a, an, the, my, your, four, those, some etc
And then we have the adjectives that refer to…
Opinion: Explains what we think about something. This is usually our opinion, attitude or observations. These adjectives almost always come before all other adjectives.
- beautiful, boring, stupid, delicious, useful, lovely, comfortable
Size: Tells us how big or small something is.
- big, small, tall, huge, tiny
Shape / Weight / Length: Tells about the shape of something or how long or short it is. It can also refer to the weight of someone or something.
- round, square, circular, skinny, fat, heavy, straight, long, short,
Condition: Tells us the general condition or state of something
- broken, cold, hot, wet, hungry, rich, easy, difficult, dirty
Age: Tells us how old someone or something is.
- old, young, new, ancient, antique
Colour: The colour or approximate colour of something.
- green, white, blue, reddish, purple
Pattern: The pattern or design of something.
- striped, spotted, checked, flowery
Origin: Tells us where something is from.
- American, British, Italian, eastern, Australian, Chilean
Material: What is the thing made of or constructed of?
- gold, wooden, silk, paper, synthetic, cotton, woollen
Purpose/Qualifier/Use: What is it for? These adjectives often end in –ing.
- sleeping (bag), gardening (gloves), shopping (bag), wedding (dress)
If you look at the examples above, you can ask… what are the gloves used for? (gardening) What is the bag used for? (shopping)
And after these we adjectives we have the…
Noun: The person or thing that is being described
Examples of the order of adjectives before a noun
Something to have in mind is that it does not sound natural using three or more adjectives in the same sentence and it is very rare to hear four adjectives together before a noun.
- A big fat dog.
- An interesting old Indian rug.
- A striped silk shirt
- Some comfortable black sleeping bags
- Four small round wooden tables
- Those funny little old men