Sue Burke (mount_oregano) wrote,
Sue Burke

Grammar you don't know you know: Order your adjectives

Put these words in order: new / highligher / five / pens.

Easy, right?
Five new highlighter pens.

How about this: yellow / French / tasty / little / cheeses.

Not hard at all.
Tasty little yellow French cheeses.

In English, when several adjectives before a noun, they go in a certain order. Although there are exceptions and you may change the order for emphasis, there is a common order. Do you know it?

1. Determiners: numbers, articles (the, a), possessives (her), demonstratives (these, this), quantifiers (some, few).
2. Opinion: beautiful, pure, nice.
3. Size, length, height: huge, long, tall.
4. Age: ancient, young.
5. Shape: square, flat, round.
6. Color: red, pinkish.
7. Origin: French, lunar, eastern.
8. Material: wooden, paper, glass.
9. Purpose: riding (boots), flower (vase), evening (gown).

So you can say: this beautiful long new straight red Italian silk evening gown. It would sound wrong to say: evening this silk Italian red straight long new beautiful gown.

Native speakers know this intuitively. As a teacher of English as a foreign language, I torture Spanish teenagers until they memorize the list in order.

— Sue Burke

Tags: writing

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