In English, most adjectives go before the noun they qualify. The problem comes when there are several adjectives and one has to decide in which order they should go. For example, how would you describe the lady in the picture?
She is young, beautiful and red-haired.
She is a____________ ___________ ___________ lady.
In which order would you add the adjectives when they precede the noun?
For English speakers it sounds natural when you say: “She is a beautiful young red-haired lady”;
but if you are not a native speaker you may find it difficult to decide which goes where.
The grammar rules for adjective order are quite complicated, but if we want to set a more simple rule, we could say that the more subjective the adjective, the farther it is from the noun, while the adjective that best describes the noun goes right next to it.
So, in the example above, beautiful is a subjective adjective because it gives an opinion: she may be beautiful for me, but may look plain for you. On the other hand, the adjective that best describes her is red-haired, that's why this word should be the one nearer the noun.
However, things are not always so simple and it's useful to know that the order should be:
OPINION / SIZE / AGE / SHAPE / COLOUR / ORIGIN / MATERIAL / PURPOSE
(A mnemonic technique can help you remember this easily: OSASHCOMP)Some examples:
|A pair of||comfortable||old||black||Italian||leather||riding||boots|
Take into account that this is not a hard and fast rule, and the position of some adjectives can change for emphasis reasons: breaking the patterns of adjective order can be a powerful way to emphasize one attribute over the other.
Note that when adjectives come before the noun, we don't use and. However, when two adjectives describe the same thing (character, colour, material...) it is possible to use and.
A pair of black and white shoes.
A concrete and glass building.
These exercises will help you check how much you have learnt:
- Easy exercise
- Choose the right answer 1
- Choose the right answer 2
- Does it sound natural to you? 1
- Does it sound natural to you? 2