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Adjective Placement

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Adjectives describe nouns. Often, writers use only one adjective to describe a noun either by placing the adjective in front of the noun or by using a stative verb and placing the adjective at the end of the sentence. For example:

He's an excellent teacher.
She seems very shy.

Sometimes, more than one adjective is used to describe a noun. In this case, English speakers use a specific adjective order when placing each adjective. Each adjective is separated by a comma. For example:

He drives an big, expensive, German car.
Her employer is an interesting, old, Dutch man.

When using more than one adjective to describe a noun place the adjectives in the following order before the noun.

NOTE: We usually use no more than three adjectives preceding a noun.

  1. Opinion

    Example: an interesting book, a boring lecture

  2. Dimension

    Example: a big apple, a thin wallet

  3. Age

    Example: a new car, a modern building, an ancient ruin

  4. Shape

    Example: a square box, an oval mask, a round ball

  5. Color

    Example: a pink hat, a blue book, a black coat

  6. Origin

    Example: some Italian shoes, a Canadian town, an American car

  7. Material

    Example: a wooden box, a woolen sweater, a plastic toy

Here are some examples of nouns modified with three adjectives in the correct order based on the list above. Notice that the adjectives are not separated by commas.

  • A wonderful old Italian clock. (opinion - age - origin)
  • A big square blue box. (dimension - shape - color)
  • A disgusting pink plastic ornament. (opinion - color - material)
  • Some slim new French trousers. (dimension - age - origin)

Check your understanding of adjective placement with the following quiz on the next page.

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