Order of adjectives

When more than one adjective is used to order-of-adjectivesmodify 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 colour origin material purpose noun
 an  expensive  antique  Ming  vase
 several  large  young  English  sheepdogs
 three  unusual  rectangular  purple  decorative  drapes
 a  unique  micro  titanium  medical  toolkit
 those  unattractive  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