Adjective Placement and Order

In this lesson, we will learn the place of adjectives in a sentence and where they appear. We will also learn about the order of different types of adjectives

Intermediate
"Adjective Placement and Order" in the English Grammar

Adjective Placement

Based on where the adjective appears in a noun phrase, i.e. before or after the noun or pronoun they are modifying, we can categorize them into two main groups:

Attributive Adjectives

Attributive adjectives provide descriptive information about a certain characteristic of the person, place, or object, such as its appearance, color, shape, size, age, origin, and more.

The old man was smoking a pipe.

You are my favorite person in the whole world.

Attributive Adjectives: Types

Based on whether they appear before or after the noun they are modifying, attributive adjectives can have two types:

  • Pre-positive Adjectives
  • Post-positive Adjectives

Pre-positive Adjectives

'Pre' means before, so as the name suggests, pre-positive adjectives can only appear before the noun it modifies.

He is such a nice lady!

He is obviously a smart guy.

Post-positive Adjectives

It is possible for attributive adjectives to come after the noun or (especially) the indefinite pronoun they modify. Because of this postposition, we call them postpositive adjectives or postnominal adjectives.

We need someone powerful.

postpositive adjectives mainly appear after indefinite pronouns.

I saw something extraordinary.

In English, postpositive adjectives are less common. They are used in archaic or poetic texts, phrases borrowed from Roman or Latin, and some fixed grammatical structures.

I watched the demons dark and wicked.

heir apparent

Those anxious to leave ...

All adjectives can be used postpositively after this/that/so.

(a) + noun + this/that/so + adjective

Who would wear a hat this big?

Buy me a painting that expensive and then we're even!

Predicative Adjectives

A predicative adjective (also called predicate adjective) follows a linking verb. They can take an adjective complement after them or appear alone. For example:

That baby is cute.

I tried not to be afraid of the dark.

Adjective Order

When you want to assign a specific quality or description to a noun, you use an adjective. So what if you want to assign more than one quality to a noun?
There is actually a specific order in which you can order the adjectives.
It's interesting to know that many native English speakers are not consciously aware of this rule. They just use it naturally.
After this lesson, you can use this rule like a native speaker.

Why The Order Is Important?

The order of adjectives is important when there is no comma or 'and' between them. If we put commas or 'and' between adjectives, the order is no longer necessary. However, when we want to describe something or someone with more than one adjective, we have to pay attention to the order.

Now, imagine you have a car. And you want to describe it with more than one adjective. For example, you want to say it's red and Italian.
Do we say 'Red Italian car' or 'Italian red car?'

Adjectives: Word Order

The general rule of adjectives before a noun is as follows:

Opinion Size Age Shape Color Origin Material Purpose Noun

Now let's look at an example. Note that it is not very common to use so many adjectives before a noun. This is just an example for you to see how this rule works:

beautiful small new shiny red Italian sports car

fancy big old round brown German wooden musical clock

pay attention to the order of the adjectives

Opinion

Some adjectives describe a general opinion. We can use these adjectives to describe almost any noun.

  • beautiful
  • lovely
  • nice
  • strange
  • awful

Some adjectives describe a specific opinion. We only use these adjectives to describe particular kinds of noun. For example, people, animals, food etc.

  • delicious
  • tasty
  • comfortable
  • intelligent
  • friendly

Usually, you put a general opinion before a specific opinion.

a lovely comfortable home

a nice friendly person

Size and Shape

By 'size', we mean how big or small a noun is, for example, big, small, tiny, huge etc. and the height of a noun (tall, short etc.)
By 'shape', we mean the physical quality of a noun (round, oval, triangular etc.) it also includes the weight and length of a noun, for example, long, fat, heavy.

a big fat cat

a small round plastic table

Purpose

By 'purpose' we mean what the noun is used for.

Review

Adjectives are used to describe nouns. So, there is not always only one adjective. Sometimes more than one is used. In this case, we need to know their correct orders.

Opinion Size Age Shape Color Origin Material Purpose Noun

A cute 3-year-old child. ( NOT A 3-year-old cute child.)

The red French silk sofa was placed behind the curtain. (NOT The French silk red sofa was placed behind the curtain.

Tip!

Pay attention to where you want to put an adverb (more specifically an intensifier or a mitigator) in front of adjectives. If the adjectives are in order, you can put the adverb in front of the adjectives and it modifies all the adjectives. But if there are commas or 'and' between them, you can put an adverb in front of the adjectives.

Look at that really big old green antique car in front of the house!

She is a beautiful and really generous lady.

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Adjectives

Adjectives are words that are used to modify nouns. They offer more information about the noun after them.

Types of Adjectives

Adjectives are the most used words in sentences. There are several types of adjectives according to their uses. Let's get to know them!

Descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive adjectives are adjectives that modify a noun or pronoun by showing its quality. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Comparative adjectives are used to compare one noun to another noun. Superlative adjectives are used to compare three or more nouns.

Attributive and Predicative Adjectives

An attributive adjective is an adjective that appears before the noun or pronoun it describes. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

Compound Adjectives

Compound adjectives are used as one single adjective. They function as the head of the sentence. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

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