Order of adjectives

When more than one adjective is used to modify a noun, or when nouns are used to modify another noun, the order of adjectives needs to follow a particular sequence. For example, we could say a delicious mature blue cheese but not a blue delicious mature cheese. This post defines the positions for different groups of adjectives with examples given.

  • Origin, material and purpose

The order of adjectives of origin, material and purpose typically follow in this sequence.

article origin material purpose noun
Italian ceramic pasta dishes
a Brazilian wooden river canoe
an English aluminium tennis racquet

  • Physical description

The order of adjectives for physical description is as follows: size, shape, age and colour (This group comes before the origin – material – purpose sequence mentioned above).

article size shape age colour noun
a large modern bronze sculpture
broad winding historical streets
a large square new blue printer

  • Observations

Adjectives which describe opinions, judgements or attitudes come before all other adjectives.

article observation age origin noun
an abandoned 1930s British motorbike
a stunning Renaissance painting
an athletic young high-school footballer

  • Numbers

Numbers usually go before all adjectives, in the same position as articles (a/an/the):

number age origin noun
two old Dutch bicycles
twelve fresh free-range eggs
thirty-five middle-aged Chinese tourists

  • The complete order of adjectives table

determiner observation size shape age
 an  expensive  antique
 several  large  young
 three  unusual  rectangular
 a  unique  micro
 those  unattractive
colour origin material purpose NOUN
 Ming  vase
 English  sheepdogs
 purple  decorative  drapes
 titanium  medical  toolkit
 red  fabric  wedding  roses

  • A final note on the use of commas

We generally use commas to separate three or more adjectives that are placed before a noun:
a delicious, spicy, Thai meal
a long, dark, leather jacket

But commas can be omitted when using common sets of adjectives such as trinomials:
a tall(,) dark(,) handsome visitor
a cool(,) calm(,) collected individual