Adjective Order


I never knew this, but I find it fascinating. I can think of a few more exceptions to the rule, but in general he is correct–we all subconsciously put words in this sequence, I assume because that’s how we heard and learned them when we learned to talk and read.

From The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth  (2013)

Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order:

Opinion–size–age–shape–color–origin–material–purpose Noun

So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife.

But if you mess with that word order in the slightest, you sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out. And as size comes before color, green great dragons can’t exist.

A beautiful large older yellow chaise lounge, NOT a yellow older beautiful large chaise lounge.

Of course, there are exceptions, phrases that have become standard: Big, bad wolf is size then opinion.


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