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It would take a linguistic philosopher to explain why we say "little brown house" and not "brown little house"

house" or why we
say "red Italian sports car" and not "Italian red sports car." The order in which adjectives in a series sort themselves out is
perplexing for people learning English as a second language. Most other languages dictate a similar order, but not
necessarily the same order. It takes a lot of practice with a language before this order becomes instinctive, because the
order often seems quite arbitrary (if not downright capricious). There is, however, a pattern. You will find many exceptions
to the pattern in the table below, but it is definitely important to learn the pattern of adjective order if it is not part of what
you naturally bring to the language.
The categories in the following table can be described as follows:
1. Determiners articles and other limiters. See Determiners
2. Observation postdeterminers and limiter adjectives (e.g., a real hero, a perfect idiot) andadjectives subject to
subjective measure (e.g., beautiful, interesting)
3. Size and Shape adjectives subject to objective measure (e.g., wealthy, large, round)
4. Age adjectives denoting age (e.g., young, old, new, ancient)
5. Color adjectives denoting color (e.g., red, black, pale)
6. Origin denominal adjectives denoting source of noun (e.g., French, American, Canadian)
7. Material denominal adjectives denoting what something is made of (e.g., woolen, metallic, wooden)
8. Qualifier final limiter, often regarded as part of the noun (e.g., rocking chair, hunting cabin,passenger car, book
Order of Adjectives in a Series
Determiner Observation Physical Description Origin Material Qualifier Noun
Size Shape Age Color
A beautiful old Italian Touring car
An expensive antique silver mirror
Four gorgeous
red silk roses
Her short black hair
Our big old English sheepdog
Those square wooden Hat boxes
That dilapidated little Hunting cabin
several enormous young American basketball players
Some delicious Thai food
two beautiful big square antique black Spanish wooden treasure boxes
a handsome chubby petite young Mexican football coach
two lovely big cylindrical new violet Chinese porcelain flower vases
an inexpensive small round old blue Hungarian leather travelling suitcases
nine gorgeous tall slender mature European fashion models
that beautiful big triangular antique Jamaican clay flower pots
The Top 20 Figures

1. Alliteration
The repetition of an initial consonant sound.

2. Anaphora
The repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or verses. (Contrast with epiphora and epistrophe.)

3. Antithesis
The juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases.

4. Apostrophe
Breaking off discourse to address some absent person or thing, some abstract quality, an inanimate object, or a nonexistent character.

5. Assonance
Identity or similarity in sound between internal vowels in neighboring words.

6. Chiasmus
A verbal pattern in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first but with the parts reversed.

7. Euphemism
The substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit.

8. Hyperbole
An extravagant statement; the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or heightened effect.

9. Irony
The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. A statement or situation where the meaning is contradicted by the appearance or presentation
of the idea.

10. Litotes
A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.

11. Metaphor
An implied comparison between two unlike things that actually have something important in common.

12. Metonymy
A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it's closely associated; also, the rhetorical strategy of describing something
indirectly by referring to things around it.

13. Onomatopoeia
The use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.

14. Oxymoron
A figure of speech in which incongruous or contradictory terms appear side by side.

15. Paradox
A statement that appears to contradict itself.

16. Personification
A figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities.

17. Pun
A play on words, sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words.

18. Simile
A stated comparison (usually formed with "like" or "as") between two fundamentally dissimilar things that have certain qualities in common.

19. Synecdoche
A figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole (for example, ABCs foralphabet) or the whole for a part ("England won the World Cup in

20. Understatement
A figure of speech in which a writer or speaker deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is.

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor--
(Langston Hughes, "Mother to Son")
(a) synecdoche
(b) metaphor
(c) irony
(d) pun

Turn off your television sets. Turn them off now! Turn them off right now! Turn them off and
leave them off. Turn them off right in the middle of this sentence I'm speaking to you now.
(Peter Finch as television anchorman Howard Beale in Network, 1976)
(a) antithesis
(b) litotes
(c) anaphora
(d) understatement

substituting the word euthanasia for mercy killing" or "killing the terminally ill"
(a) hyperbole
(b) euphemism
(c) assonance
(d) oxymoron

I had so much homework last night that I needed a pickup truck to carry all my books home!
(a) synechdoche
(b) onomatopoeia
(c) pun
(d) hyperbole

Let's just say that Ms. Hilton is not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.
(a) paradox
(b) litotes
(c) apostrophe
(d) chiasmus

The chug-a, chug-a, chug-a of the train echoed down the hill, while a cloud of smoke rose up
to the blue western sky.
(a) simile
(b) metonymy
(c) anaphora
(d) onomatopoeia

But the prisoner would not answer, he only lay with wide, dark, bright, eyes, like a bound
(D. H. Lawrence, England, My England)
(a) oxymoron
(b) euphemism
(c) anaphora
(d) personification

You have a lot of work to do, so I'll lend you a hand.
(a) assonance
(b) apostrophe
(c) irony
(d) synechdoche

Pitching pennies with the Pittsburgh Pirates in a pitter-patter of rain outside the Pitti Palace.
(James Thurber, Lanterns and Lances, 1961)
(a) chiasmus
(b) alliteration
(c) pun
(d) oxymoron

O Western wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again!
(Anonymous, "O Western Wind")
(a) litotes
(b) paradox
(c) apostrophe
(d) anaphora

The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.
(Benjamin Franklin)
(a) hyperbole
(b) chiasmus
(c) litotes
(d) anaphora

We talked with each other about each other
Though neither of us spoke
(Emily Dickinson)
(a) metonymy
(b) paradox
(c) synecdoche
(d) personification

The earth laughs beneath my heavy feet
At the blasphemy in my old jangly walk
(Billy Corgan, "Thirty-three")
(a) euphemism
(b) simile
(c) antithesis
(d) personification

I dig my toes into the sand.
The ocean looks like
A thousand diamonds strewn
Across a blue blanket.
(Incubus, "Wish You Were Here")
(a) chiasmus
(b) simile
(c) onomatopoeia
(d) synecdoche

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.
(Genesis 3:19)
(a) simile
(b) irony
(c) metonymy
(d) assonance

Why do we wait until a pig is dead to cure it?
(a) pun
(b) personification
(c) anaphora
(d) synechdoche

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of
foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had
everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all
going direct the other way."
(Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
(a) antithesis
(b) litotes
(c) simile
(d) understatement

My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, . . .
(Dylan Thomas, "Fern Hill")
(a) simile
(b) irony
(c) metonymy
(d) assonance

And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine--we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.
(E. A. Robinson, "Richard Cory")
(a) chiasmus
(b) litotes
(c) antithesis
(d) irony

Prospective buyers are advised not to rely heavily on the front brakes, which are not
(advertisement for a replica 1925 Rolls-Royce WWI Armored Car)
(a) antithesis
(b) simile
(c) anaphora
(d) understatement

Here are the answers to our Review Quiz on the Top 20 Figures of Speech.
1. (b) metaphor
2. (c) anaphora
3. (b) euphemism
4. (d) hyperbole
5. (b) litotes
6. (d) onomatopoeia
7. (a) oxymoron
8. (d) synechdoche
9. (b) alliteration
10. (c) apostrophe
11. (b) chiasmus
12. (b) paradox
13. (d) personification
14. (b) simile
15. (c) metonymy
16. (a) pun
17. (a) antithesis
18. (d) assonance
19. (d) irony
20. (d) understatement