Order of Adjectives in English

Adjective order in englishOne of the easiest ways to identify a non-native English speaker is by the incorrect order of adjectives in a sentence.

For example:

  • A red big ball – INCORRECT
  • A big red ball – CORRECT
  • A velvet new comfortable dress – INCORRECT
  • A comfortable new velvet dress – CORRECT
  • An old ceramic lovely coffee mug – INCORRECT
  • A lovely old ceramic coffee mug – CORRECT

If you can master the correct adjective order, your English will sound very natural!

In general, the correct order of adjectives in English is:

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Opinion

Size

Shape

Age

Color

Nationality/Origin

Material

Purpose

Note: Not everyone agrees on this order, and there may be exceptions

It’s rare to use more than 3 adjectives. But the adjectives you do use should follow this order:

  • A big (size) red (color) ball
  • A comfortable (opinion) new (age) velvet (material) dress
  • A lovely (opinion) old (age) ceramic (material) coffee (purpose) mug

Here are some examples of each type of adjective:

Opinion Adjectives

  • good / bad / great / terrible
  • beautiful / pretty / sexy / comfortable
  • ugly / awful / strange / uncomfortable
  • delicious / disgusting / tasty / nasty
  • important / excellent / wonderful / brilliant
  • funny / interesting / boring

General Size Adjectives

  • big / huge / tall / long / enormous / gigantic
  • small / little / tiny / short / minuscule

Shape Adjectives

  • Round / square / triangular / rectangular / flat

Age Adjectives

  • old / ancient
  • new / young

Color Adjectives

  • Red, blue, yellow, etc.

Nationality/Origin Adjectives

  • Italian, Japanese, Thai, German, French, etc.

Material Adjectives

  • Gold, silver, copper
  • Cotton, leather, polyester, wool, silk, velvet, nylon
  • Wooden, stone, diamond, plastic

Purpose Adjectives

“Purpose adjectives” are almost like part of the noun. They describe what the object is used for:

  • running shoes
  • a sleeping bag
  • a flower vase
  • a frying pan
  • a tennis racket

Other Adjectives

There are other adjectives that don’t fall into the categories above. For these, the essential rule to remember is that opinion adjectives always come before fact adjectives (appearance and other “descriptive” adjectives):

  • delicious (opinion) organic (fact) food
  • crazy (opinion) religious (fact) people
  • interesting (opinion) cultural (fact) traditions
  • confusing (opinion) financial (fact) data

How to Learn the Correct Order of Adjectives

Although studying the order of adjectives in English can help… there reaches a point where you’ll learn them best simply by seeing and hearing them in action. Most native English speakers don’t know the rules of adjective order at all – we just know that it “sounds right” to say “the big red ball” and “sounds wrong” to say “the red big ball.”

As you read and listen to more English, you’ll eventually begin to order the adjectives naturally. But for now, you can try this quiz to practice!

Quiz: Adjective Order in English

Start
Congratulations - you have completed Quiz: Adjective Order in English. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.

 

Master the details of English grammar:

aegc-transparent

Learn more about this course

Related lessons: