The Order of Adjectives

Adjectives are words that describe or modify a noun or a pronoun (person or thing) in the sentence.


Articles, Determiners and Quantifiers

The Articles — a, an, and the — are adjectives.

What Kind, Which One, How Many, How Much
  • the tall professor
  • the lugubrious lieutenant
  • a solid commitment
  • a month’s pay
  • a six-year-old child
  • the unhappiest, richest man


Adjectives usually come in this order:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Size  Shape Age  Colour Nationality Material


A few adjectives are used only in front of a noun:



Opinion adjectives

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

good bad lovely strange
beautiful nice brilliant excellent
awful important wonderful nasty


Some adjectives give a specific opinion. We only use these adjectives to describe particular kinds of noun:

Food: tasty; delicious
Furniture, buildings: comfortable; uncomfortable
People, animals: clever; intelligent; friendly


We usually put a general opinion in front of a specific opinion:

Nice tasty soup.
nasty uncomfortable armchairchicken-and-pasta-soup_A0
lovely intelligent animal

The Order of Adjectives in a Series

It’s important to learn the pattern of adjective order. You will find many exceptions to the pattern in the table below.  The categories in the following table can be described as:

  1. Determiners — articles and other limiters.
  2. Observation — postdeterminers and limiter adjectives (e.g., a real hero, a perfect idiot) and adjectives subject to subjective measure (e.g., beautiful, interesting)
  3. Size and Shape — adjectives subject to objective measure (e.g., wealthy, large, round)
  4. Age — adjectives denoting age (e.g., young, old, new, ancient)
  5. Color — adjectives denoting color (e.g., red, black, pale)
  6. Origin — denominal adjectives denoting source of noun (e.g., French, American, Canadian)
  7. Material — denominal adjectives denoting what something is made of (e.g., woolen, metallic, wooden)
  8. Qualifier — final limiter, often regarded as part of the noun (e.g., rocking chair, hunting cabin, passenger car, book cover)

It’s important to learn the pattern of adjective order. You will find many exceptions to the pattern in the table below.




Opinion in front of descriptive

  • a nice red dress; a silly old man; those horrible yellow curtains

We often have two adjectives in front of a noun:

  • a handsome young man; a big black car; that horrible big dog

Sometimes we have three adjectives, but this is unusual:

nice handsome young man;
big black American car;
that horrible big fierce dog

It is very unusual to have more than three adjectives.

We use some adjectives only after a link verb:

afraid alive alone asleep
content glad  ill ready
sorry sure unable well

Some of the commonest -ed adjectives are normally used only after a link verbannoyed;  finished;  bored; pleased; thrilled.



Comparative Levels of Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjectives and some adverbs have three degrees: Positive, Comparative and Superlative.