Monday, March 09, 2015

B2 Word Order of Adjectives

When more than one adjective is used in front of a noun, the usual order is as follows: qualitative adjective + colour adjective + classifying adjective:

a little white wooden house
rapid technological advance
a large circular pool of water
a necklace of blue Venetian beads

However, non-gradable adjectives indicating shape, such as "circular" and "rectangular", often come in front of colour adjectives, even though they are classifying adjectives:

the rectangular grey stones
the circular yellow patch on the lawn

The order of qualitative adjectives is normally as follows:
opinions - size - quality - age - shape

We shall have a nice big garden with two apple trees.
It had a beautiful thick fur.
I saw big, shiny beetles.
He had long curly hair.
She put on her dirty old fur coat.

If there is more than one classifying adjective in front of the noun, the normal order is: 
age - shape - nationality - material

a medieval French village
a rectangular plastic box
an Italian silk jacket

Other types of classifying adjectives usually come after a nationality adjective:

the Chinese artistic tradition
the American political system

In short, we usually put the more precise adjective nearest the noun that follows it but it is not always easy to decide which is more precise. Use the following table as a guide for reference on adjective order.

1. both, all, half
2. the

3. Ordinal number: first, last
4. Cardinal number: one, three
5. Opinions or general judgement: good, bad, nice, ugly
6. Size or measurement: big, tall, short
7. Physical characteristics: beautiful, slim, little
8. Mental characteristics: intelligent, stupid, smart
9. Age or temperature: old, young, hot
10. Shape: round, square, rectangular
11. Colour: red
12. Verb participle form: carved, boiling, drunk
13. Material: wooden, plastic, silk
14. Nationality or origin: French, Mediterranean, Southern
15. Nouns used as adjectives: steel, cigarette, village

You are not likely to want to use many of these adjectives together, but here are some examples to show how this table works:

All the first three runners received a prize. (1,2,3,4)
The beautiful, intelligent girl fell in love with the nice tall young man. (7,8/5,6,9)
There was a round red mark on the carved wooden cupboard. (10,11/12,13)
He bought him a lovely Italian silk tie. (5,14,15)

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