Order of Adjectives: How to Put Adjectives in the Correct Order in English

What is the correct order of adjectives? When you are going to use a number of different adjectives to describe a noun, it is important to be able to put the adjectives in the correct order. The reason for this is that when placed in the wrong order, numerous adjectives can sound misplaced, uneven, and somewhat cacophonous.

In this article, we will be looking at the most common way to order your adjectives which will allow your sentences to flow much more easily.

Key Takeaways

  • Adjectives in English generally follow a specific order when describing a noun: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose.
  • This order is not a strict rule, but it is a common pattern that native English speakers naturally follow.
  • Placing adjectives in the correct order helps to convey information clearly and effectively, leading to better comprehension for the reader or listener.

Order of Adjectives

In English, it is common to use more than one adjective before a noun. For example, “It is a beautiful long new dress.” or “She has bought a square white Japanese cake.” When you use more than one adjective, you have to put them in the right order – order of adjectives.

Learn how to put adjectives in the right order with useful grammar rules and examples.

 

In general, the adjective order in English is:

Determiner

Words that work as articles and other limiters including numbers.

  • Example: a, an, the, both, either, some, many, my, your, our, their, his, her, five, each, every, this, that…

Opinion or Observation

In general, an opinion adjective explains what you think about something (other people may not agree with you).

  • Examplegood, bad, great, terrible, pretty, lovely, silly, beautiful, horrible, difficult, comfortable/uncomfortable, ugly, awful, strange, delicious, disgusting, tasty, nasty, important, excellent, wonderful, brilliant, funny, interesting, boring.

Size

Size adjectives, such as “small”, “large”, “tiny”, or “enormous”, should be placed after the quality or opinion adjectives. A size adjective, of course, tells you how big or small something is.

  • Example: huge, big, large, tiny, enormous, little, tall, long, gigantic, small, short, minuscule. 

Age

An age adjective (adjective denoting age) tells you how young or old something or someone is.

  • Example: young, old, new, ancient, six-year-old, antique, youthful, mature, modern, old-fashioned, recent…

Shape

A shape adjective describes the shape of something.

  • Example: triangular, square, round, flat, rectangular.

Color

A color adjective (adjective denoting color), of course, describes the color of something.

  • Example: red, black, pale, bright, faded, shining, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, pink, aquamarine…

Origin or Nationality

Next, include proper adjectives that describe nationality or origin, such as “French”, “American”, “Asian”, or “African”.

  • Example: French, American, Canadian, Mexican, Greek, Swiss, Spanish, Victorian, Martian…

Material

After proper adjectives, use material adjectives like “wooden”, “plastic”, “metallic”, or “paper”.

  • Example: woollen, wooden, silk, metal, paper, gold, silver, copper, cotton, leather, polyester, nylon, stone, diamond, plastic…

Purpose or Qualifier

This is the final limiter, often regarded as part of the noun. These words explain the intended use or function of the noun.

A purpose adjective describes what something is used for. These adjectives often end with “-ing”.

  • Example: writing (as in “writing paper”), sleeping (as in “sleeping bag”), roasting (as in “roasting tin”), running (as in “running shoes”).

Order of Adjectives Exercises

As you continue to hone your understanding of the order of adjectives, it’s essential to practice with exercises and examples. Below, you’ll find a set of exercises to solidify your grasp of this grammar topic.

Exercise 1

Reorder the adjectives in the following sentences:

  1. (black, nice) dress.
  2. That’s a (blue, new, stylish) shirt.
  3. She has a (cute, little, furry) kitten.
  4. He works in a (big, fascinating, old) city.

Answers:

  1. nice black dress.
  2. That’s a stylish new blue shirt.
  3. She has a cute little furry kitten.
  4. He works in a fascinating big old city.

Exercise 2

For this exercise, try completing the following sentences using suitable adjectives that follow the order of adjectives:

  1. She handed me a _______ cup of tea.
  2. I’m reading an interesting _______ _______ book.
  3. They just moved into a _______ _______ house near the park.

Sample Answers:

  1. She handed me a warm delicious cup of tea.
  2. I’m reading an interesting old history book.
  3. They just moved into a lovely spacious house near the park.

Exercise 3

In this exercise, identify and correct the order of adjectives in the given sentences:

  1. The old round wooden table was placed in the corner.
  2. I found a lovely little blue bird in the garden.
  3. They live in a small cozy white house by the lake.

Answers:

  1. The round old wooden table was placed in the corner.
  2. I found a little lovely blue bird in the garden.
  3. They live in a cozy small white house by the lake.

Order of Adjectives | Images

Order of Adjectives

Order of Adjectives in English | Grammar Rules and Examples

To summarize, in English, adjectives pertaining to size precede adjectives pertaining to age (“little old“, not “old little“), which in turn generally precede adjectives pertaining to color (“old white“, not “white old“). So, we would say “A (determiner) beautiful (opinion) old (age) Indian (origin) lamp.

Adjective Order | Examples

Order of Adjectives: How to Put Adjectives in the Correct Order in English 1

Frequently Asked Questions

What rules dictate the proper sequence of adjectives in English sentences?

The proper sequence of adjectives in English sentences follows a specific order, which can be remembered using the acronym “OSASCOMP.” This order is:

  1. Opinion (e.g., beautiful, good)
  2. Size (e.g., large, small)
  3. Age (e.g., old, new)
  4. Shape (e.g., round, square)
  5. Color (e.g., red, blue)
  6. Origin (e.g., American, Chinese)
  7. Material (e.g., wooden, cotton)
  8. Purpose (e.g., cooking, driving)

When arranging multiple adjectives before a noun, following this order can help create clear and grammatically correct sentences.

Can you provide examples that illustrate the correct order of adjectives?

Certainly! Here are a few examples illustrating the correct order of adjectives according to the OSASCOMP rule:

  • She bought a gorgeous large old round wooden dining table.
  • The artist presented her stunning small modern square white canvas.
  • He always carries his reliable big new rectangular black leather briefcase to work.

In these examples, you can see that the adjectives are placed following the order mentioned above.

What are some effective strategies for memorizing the sequence of adjective types in English?

There are a few useful strategies to help you memorize the sequence of adjective types:

  • Acronym: Use the acronym “OSASCOMP” to remember the order of adjective types (Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Color, Origin, Material, Purpose).
  • Mnemonics: Create a memorable phrase or sentence using the first letters of each adjective type. For example: “Only Smart Animals Survive Clashes Of Mighty Predators.”
  • Practice: Practice using the correct order of adjectives in sentences. The more you practice, the more familiar you’ll become with the proper sequence.
  • Read: Regularly read English texts and be mindful of the adjective order in the sentences. Observing the order in context can boost retention.