Today is your lucky day. You just won a brand new car! You can choose any car you would like, but you have to be specific. What color is it going to be? What country is it made in? Is it new or used? Does it have any other notable features?
Now that you’ve answered these questions you have a list of adjectives. You might have answered: blue, American, brand new and sexy. So that means you have a blue, American, brand new, manual,sexy car, right? Wrong.
There is a specific order that adjectives follow in English and to list them any other way would sound strange. The correct way to order it would be: a sexy brand new blue American car.
Why is “blue, American, manual, brand new, sexy car” incorrect to say and “sexy, brand new, blue, American, manual car” is correct?” Here are some simple rules to follow when ordering adjectives.
When combining more than one adjective to describe something the order you place the adjectives will go in this order.
- Determiner or article
- Determiners e.g. this, that, these, those, my, mine, your, yours, him, his, her, hers, they, their, Sam’s ; or
- Articles – a, an, the
Example: That broken table needs a new leg.
- Opinion adjective – What is your opinion of the noun you are describing?
e.g. polite, fun, cute, difficult, hard-working
Example: He is an uncultured idiot who needs a geography lesson if he thinks Rio de Janeiro is the capital of Brazil.
- Size, including adjectives, comparatives and superlatives
- height; e.g. tall, short, high, low; taller, tallest
- width; e.g. wide, narrow, thin, slim; wider, widest
- length; e.g. long, short; longer, longest
- volume; e.g. fat, huge; fatter, fattest
Example: Charlie ate a huge piece of cake and got sick afterwards.
- Shape – What shape is it?
e.g. circular, oval, triangular, square, 5-sided, hexagonal, irregular
Example: The box promised a round pizza, but it turned out to be square instead.
- Age – How old is it?
e.g. new, young, adolescent, teenage, middle-aged, old, ancient
Example: The old car broke down yesterday on the freeway.
- Color – What color is it?
e.g. red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, grey, black, black and white, light blue, dark red, pale blue, reddish brown, off-white, bright green, warm yellow
Example: You have to wear a greenwristband in order to gain entrance to the club.
- Origin – Where does it come from?
e.g. Brazilian, Chinese, English, American, Canadian, Japanese
Example: Brazilian families love to travel to the US to go shopping.
- Religion – Does it pertain to a particular religion?
e.g. Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, Moslem, pagan, atheist
Example: Buddhist monks shave their heads.
- Material – What is the object made out of?
e.g. wood, plastic, metal, ceramic, paper, silk
Example: Being shot by a rubber bullet hurts less than being shot by a metalbullet.
- Purpose – Describes what something is used for. Often ends in “ing”
e.g. campus (as in ‘campus activities’), physics (as in ‘physics teacher’), sleeping bag, rocking chair, baseball hat.
Example: I like to wear cowboy boots when I dance Sertanejo music.
We usually use no more than three adjectives before a noun but this is not a strict rule. If it sounds strange try wording it differently. For example, the following sentence should be reworded:
“Derek is a handsome, intelligent, tall, brown eyed, Buddhist, young American.”
In order to maintain the same level of description without sounding too wordy, this sentence can be rewritten as such:
“Derek is a handsome, intelligent young man with brown eyes from America who believes in Buddhism.”
Rewrite the following sentences using the adjectives in blue. Make sure you put them in the correct order.
- Aunt Maria wants a table. (new, kitchen, wooden)
- Carlos took a trip. (2-week, exhausting)
- These are brownies. (chocolate, delicious, American, huge)
- Fabio prefers cars. (German, reliable, red)
- John wants to buy a suit. (tailored, Italian, hand-crafted)
- I want a girlfriend. (French-speaking, beautiful, red-headed)
- The Johnsons just bought a house. (3-story, stone, funny-looking)
- The cat brought in an animal. (rotten, smelly, gross)
- My shoes broke. (high-heeled, green, favorite)