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Adjectives: order before nouns

Filed in English Grammar

When several adjectives come before a noun, they usually have to be put in a particular order. The rules for adjective order are very complicated, and different grammars disagree about the details. Here are some of the most important rules:

Colour, origin, material and purpose

Adjectives (or modifying nouns) of colour, origin, material and purpose usually go in that order.

Red Italian leather riding boots
A Venetian glass flower vase

Other adjectives

Other adjectives usually go before words of colour, origin, material and purpose. It is impossible to give exact rules, but adjectives of size, length and height often come first.

A tall, ancient oak-tree (NOT An ancient, tall oak-tree)
A fat old lady
A small black leather bag
A round glass table

Judgments and attitudes

Adjectives which express judgments or attitudes usually come before all others. Examples are lovely, definite, pure, absolute, extreme, perfect, wonderful, silly.

A lovely, long, cool drink

Numbers

Numbers usually go before adjectives.

Six large eggs
The second big shock

Commas

Before nouns, we generally use commas between adjectives. This is common in longer sequences.

An expensive, ill-planned, wasteful project

Commas can be dropped before short common adjectives.

Sections in this article

Adjectives
Adjectives placed before nouns
Adjectives placed after verbs
Adjectives without Nouns
Adjectives: order before nouns
Kinds of Adjectives
Adjectives with and

See also
Adjectives - definition
Adjective clause
Adjective phrase
Attributive adjective
Participial adjectives

 

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