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Adjective Order

There are 2 basic positions for adjectives:

  1. Adjective Before Noun
  2. Adjective After Verb
1 I have a big dog.    
2     Snow is white.

Adjective Before Noun

We often use more than one adjective before the noun:

  • I like big black dogs.
  • She was wearing a beautiful long red dress.

What is the correct order for two or more adjectives?

1. First of all, the general order is:

opinion, fact

"Opinion" is what you think about something. "Fact" is what is definitely true about something.

  • a lovely new dress (not a new lovely dress)
  • a boring French film (not a French boring film)

2. The "normal" order for fact adjectives is

size, shape, age, colour / origin / material / purpose

  • a small 18th-century French coffee table
  • a rectangular black wooden box

3. Determiners usually come first, even though some grammarians regard them as fact adjectives:

  • articles (a, the)
  • possessives (my, your...)
  • demonstratives (this, that...)
  • quantifiers (some, any, few, many...)
  • numbers (one, two, three)

Note that when we want to use two colour adjectives, we join them with "and":

  • Many newspapers are black and white.
  • She was wearing a long, blue and yellow dress.

Here are some examples of adjective order:

  adjectives head noun
determiner opinion adjectives fact adjectives
other size, shape, age, colour origin material purpose*
two ugly   black     guard dogs
a   well-known   Chinese     artist
a     small, 18th-century French   coffee table
your fabulous   new     sports car
a lovely   pink and green Thai silk   dress
some     black Spanish leather riding boots
a     big black and white       dog
this   cheap     plastic rain coat
an     old   wooden fishing boat
my     new     tennis racket
a wonderful   15th-century Arabic     poem
*often a noun used as an adjective
Not all grammarians agree about the exact order of adjectives, and the detailed rules are complicated. The rules on this page are for the normal, "natural" order of adjectives. These rules are not rigid, and you may sometimes wish to change the order for emphasis. Consider the following conversations:

Conversation 1
A "I want to buy a round table."
B "Do you want a new round table or an old round table?"

Conversation 2
A "I want to buy an old table".
B "Do you want a round old table or a square old table?"

Adjective After Verb

An adjective can come after some verbs, such as: be, become, feel, get, look, seem, smell, sound

Even when an adjective comes after the verb and not before a noun, it always refers to and qualifies the subject of the clause, not the verb.

Look at the examples below: subject verb adjective

  • Ram is English.
  • Because she had to wait, she became impatient.
  • Is it getting dark?
  • The examination did not seem difficult.
  • Your friend looks nice.
  • This towel feels damp.
  • That new film doesn't sound very interesting.
  • Dinner smells good tonight.
  • This milk tastes sour.
  • It smells bad.

These verbs are "stative" verbs, which express a state or change of state, not "dynamic" verbs which express an action. Note that some verbs can be stative in one sense (she looks beautiful | it got hot), and dynamic in another (she looked at him | he got the money). The above examples do not include all stative verbs.

Note also that in the above structure (subject verb adjective), the adjective can qualify a pronoun since the subject may be a pronoun.