You are on page 1of 6

Adjectives - Word Order

English Grammar
An adjective is a word that describes something (a noun) or someone (a person).
Adjectives sometimes appear after the verb To Be

He is short.

She is tall.

Adjectives sometimes appear before a noun.

Red car

Old hat

BUT Sometimes you want to use more than one adjective to describe something (or someone).
What happens if a hat is both old AND ugly?
Do we say an ugly old hat OR an old ugly hat?
An ugly old hat is correct because a certain order for adjectives is expected
(Note, you may hear the other version old ugly hat, though it doesn't sound natural)
So what is the correct order of adjectives when we put them before a noun or the thing they describe?
Here is a chart that shows the main word order for adjectives in English:

IMPORTANT: The order of adjectives before a noun IS NOT FIXED.


This chart is only offered as a guide and is the order that is preferred.
You may see or hear slight variations of the order of adjectives in real life though what appears in the chart
above is order that is expected the most.
Let's look at each type of adjective in more detail (with examples)

Types of Adjectives
Before the adjectives you will normally have the Determiner.

Determiner: The determiner tells us if the noun is singular or plural, definite or indefinite

a, an, the, my, your, four, those, some etc

And then we have the adjectives that refer to


Opinion: Explains what we think about something. This is usually our opinion, attitude or observations.
These adjectives almost always come before all other adjectives.

beautiful, boring, stupid, delicious, useful, lovely, comfortable

Size: Tells us how big or small something is.

big, small, tall, huge, tiny

Shape / Weight / Length: Tells about the shape of something or how long or short it is. It can also refer to
the weight of someone or something.

round, square, circular, skinny, fat, heavy, straight, long, short,

Condition: Tells us the general condition or state of something

broken, cold, hot, wet, hungry, rich, easy, difficult, dirty

Age: Tells us how old someone or something is.

old, young, new, ancient, antique

Colour: The colour or approximate colour of something.

green, white, blue, reddish, purple

Pattern: The pattern or design of something.

striped, spotted, checked, flowery

Origin: Tells us where something is from.

American, British, Italian, eastern, Australian, Chilean

Material: What is the thing made of or constructed of?

gold, wooden, silk, paper, synthetic, cotton, woollen

Purpose/Qualifier/Use: What is it for? These adjectives often end in ing.

sleeping (bag), gardening (gloves), shopping (bag), wedding (dress)

If you look at the examples above, you can ask what are the gloves used for? (gardening) What is the bag
used for? (shopping)
And after these we adjectives we have the
Noun: The person or thing that is being described

Examples of the order of adjectives before a noun


Something to have in mind is that it does not sound natural using three or more adjectives in the same
sentence and it is very rare to hear four adjectives together before a noun.

A big fat dog.

An interesting old Indian rug.

A striped silk shirt

Some comfortable black sleeping bags

Four small round wooden tables

Those funny little old men

Descriptive Text Examples


In descriptive writing, the author does not tell the reader what was seen, felt, tested, smelled, or heard.
Rather, he describes something that he experienced and, through his choice of words, makes it seem real. In
other words, descriptive writing is vivid, colorful, and detailed.

Bringing Words to Life


Descriptive writing creates an impression in the readers mind of an event, a place, a person, or thing. The
writing will be such that it will set a mood or describe something in such detail that if the reader saw it, they
would recognize it. Descriptive writing will bring words to life and makes the text interesting.
Some examples of descriptive text include:

The sunset filled the entire sky with the deep color of rubies, setting the clouds ablaze.

The waves crashed and danced along the shore, moving up and down in a graceful and gentle rhythm
like they were dancing.

The painting was a field of flowers, with deep and rich blues and yellows atop vibrant green stems
that seemed to beckon you to reach right in and pick them.

The old man was stooped and bent, his back making the shape of a C and his head bent so far
forward that his beard would nearly have touched his knobby knees had he been just a bit taller.

His deep and soulful blue eyes were like the color of the ocean on the clearest day you can ever
imagine.

The soft fur of the dog felt like silk against my skin and her black coloring glistened as it absorbed
the sunlight, reflecting it back as a perfect, deep, dark mirror.

Descriptive Text in Literature


Because descriptive text is so powerful, many examples of it can be found in famous literature and poetry. In
this excerpt from Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, notice the writers choice of adjectives, adverbs, and
verbs.
It was a cold grey day in late November. The weather had changed overnight, when a backing wind brought
a granite sky and a mizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o'clock in the
afternoon the pallor of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist.
You can see that the writer had to carefully choose his words so that the reader could almost see and feel the
weather that was occurring.

Descriptive Text in Songs


Descriptive text examples can also be found in many songs, since songs are meant to capture your emotions
and to invoke a feeling.
Notice the vivid description of smoke in this excerpt from Rebecca Harding Davis's "Life in the Iron Mills":

"The idiosyncrasy of this town is smoke. It rolls sullenly in slow folds from the great chimneys of the ironfoundries, and settles down in black, slimy pools on the muddy streets. Smoke on the wharves, smoke on the
dingy boats, on the yellow river--clinging in a coating of greasy soot to the house-front, the two faded
poplars, the faces of the passers-by.
So, now you have many different examples of descriptive text and you can try your own hand at writing a
sentence or paragraph that helps to paint a picture and evoke emotions.