The Order of Adjectives

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You might be thinking, “Order of adjectives? Can’t I just lump them all together in front of the noun and call it a day?” It might surprise you to discover that when adjectives are presented in a series, there’s actually a particular order they must follow. Often, native English speakers follow this order out of habit, knowing that “the big red car” sounds better than “the red big car.”

However, for those just learning the language, understanding the correct order of adjectives can be tricky. Here is the order a list of adjectives should follow:

  1. Determiner
  2. Opinion
  3. Size
  4. Age
  5. Shape
  6. Color
  7. Material
  8. Origin
  9. Purpose

We’ll explain what each of these means and provide some examples so you can figure out exactly where you should be placing different types of adjectives in relation to your noun. (The noun here is puppies. Because everybody loves puppies.)

Determiner

Determiners include articles (a, an, or the) and other limiters (e.g., your, eight, or his).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The determiner in the example is ten (because you can never have too many puppies).

Opinion

An adjective of opinion describes an observation or what someone thinks about something (e.g., beautiful, tasty, or horrific).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The opinion in the example is lovable (even though some would argue that’s not so much an opinion as a fact).

Size

Size describes how big or small something is (e.g., bigsmall, minuscule, or enormous).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The size in the example is small.

Age

As you would expect, age describes how young or old something is (e.g., youngoldancient, or new).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The age in the example is young. (We’re talking puppies, not dogs. Not everyone is a dog person, but everyone is a puppy person.)

Shape

The next descriptor is the shape of the item being described (e.g., roundsquare, or flat).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The shape in the example is pudgy. Awww!

Parts of Speech

Color

Over halfway there, folks! Next in the list is color (e.g., redpinkish, or yellow).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The color is usually pretty easy to spot. In the example, it’s beige.

Material

The material describes what something is made out of (e.g., woodencotton, silver, or metal).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

Although we all know puppies are made out of love and happiness, technically speaking it’s probably more accurate to describe them as fuzzy.

Origin

Origin describes where something is from (e.g., Frenchwestern, or solar).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The origin in the example is French. (These are French bulldog puppies, a breed that originates, as you would expect, in France.)

Purpose

Purpose describes what something is used for or what it does (e.g., racing [as in racing car] or sleeping [as in sleeping bag]).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The purpose of these puppies is to be companions, so the adjective in the example is pet.

Noun

Now that you’ve listed all the adjectives, it’s time to identify the word you have been describing (i.e., the noun). Finally! We have reached the puppies.

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

In the example, the noun is puppies, in case you didn’t get the memo . . .

Conclusion

While there are no rules limiting the number of adjectives that can be used, two or three are generally sufficient. (Otherwise, you begin to sound like Al Harrington of Family Guy marketing his Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubemen!) Most readers would prefer to read “pudgy, fuzzy puppies” than “ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.” Though I’d take either, if we’re being perfectly honest.

Now that you’ve got the order of adjectives down, find out how to use the other parts of speech with this handy ebook!

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