Adjective order

From Teflpedia

Adjective order is the word order used within a noun phrase for adjective phrases that come before the head noun which they describe.[1][2] English has a set order of these.

We say, for example, "a small blue car" rather than *"a blue small car".


This order applies to adjective phrases generally (which include single-word adjectives), e.g. we can say "a very small light blue car" where "very small" and "light blue" are adjective phases.

Sometimes two or more co-ordinated adjective phrases can be used, e.g. "a blue and white car" or "a white and blue car".

A noun modifier always goes in last position just before the noun - e.g. "a small blue sedan car".

Note that though it is possible, English speakers tend not to use more than three adjectives before a noun, preferring to use a relative clause to add more description.

The order[edit]

Adjective Quality Examples
0 Quantifier
1 Opinion
2 Size big, small, large
3 physical quality
4 Shape round, square, flat
5 Age old, young
6 Colour blue, green, yellow
7 Origin Chinese, French, oriental
8 Material metal, plastic, silk, wooden
9 Type
10 Purpose ironing, racing, medical, pedagogic,

Various pedagogic grammar analysis, particularly those online, may omit some of the above categories or combine them.

Native English speakers have implicit knowledge of this rule and are often amazed by their knowledge once it's pointed out to them.[3]

See also adverb order.