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Order of Adjectives of Quality


Order of Adjectives of Quality

Order of Adjectives of Quality

Several variations are possible but a fairly usual order is: adjectives of 
(a) size (except little; but see C below) 

(b) general description (excluding adjectives of personality, emotion etc.) 

(C) age, and the adjective little (see B) 

(d) shape

(e) color 

(f) material 

(g) origin 

(h) purpose 

(these are really gerunds used to form compound nouns: walking stick, riding boots). 

a long sharp knife 
a small round bath 
new hexagonal coins
blue velvet curtains 
an old plastic bucket 
an elegant French clock 

Adjectives of personality/emotion come after adjectives of physical description, including dark, fair, pale, but before colors: 
a small suspicious official 
a pale anxious girl 
an inquisitive brown dog 
a long patient queue 
a kindly black doctor 

little, old and young

little, old and young are often used, not to give information, but as part of an adjective-noun combination. They are then placed next to their nouns: 
Your nephew is a nice little boy. 
That young man drives too fast.

little + old + noun is possible: a little old lady. But little + young is not.

When used to give information, old and young occupy position (c) above: 
a young colored man 
an old Welsh harp 

Adjectives of personality/emotion can precede or follow young/old
a young ambitious man 
an ambitious young man 

young in the first example carries a stronger stress than young in the second, so the first order is better if we wish to emphasize the age. 

little can be used similarly in position (c): 
a handy little calculator 
an expensive little hotel 
a little sandy beach 
a little grey foal 

But small is usually better than little if we want to emphasize the size. (For little meaning 'a small amount', see 5.) 

fine, lovely, nice, and beautiful 

fine, lovely, nice, and sometimes beautiful, + adjectives of size C (except little), shape and temperature usually express approval of the size etc. If we say a beautiful big room, a lovely warm house, nice/fine thick steaks we imply that we like big rooms, warm houses and thick steaks.
fine, lovely and nice can be used similarly with a number of other adjectives: 

fine strong coffee 
a lovely quiet beach 
a nice dry day 

When used predicatively, such pairs are separated by and

The coffee was fine and strong. 
The day was nice and dry. 

beautiful is not much used in this sense as a predicative adjective. 


pretty followed by another adjective with no comma between them is an adverb of degree meaning very/quite: She's a pretty tall girl means She is quite/very tall. But a pretty, tall girl or, more usually, a tall, pretty girl means a girl who is both tall and pretty.

Order of adjectives

Note: When there’s more than one adjective before a noun, the order is usually: opinion, size, physical quality, shape, age, color, origin, material, type, purpose.

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