More on word order

rogersgeorge on December 4th, 2013

The last post touched on word order. Here’s a subtle rule in English about the order of adjectives when you use more than one to modify a noun. For example, this sounds wrong:

She gave him a golden old big star.

Somehow you know it should be:

She gave him a big old golden star.

Instead of color, age, size, it needs to be size, age, color.

Other languages do this sort of thing. German has the rule, “time before place.” French has a rather complicated set of rules for pronoun word order. Many languages place adjectives after the noun they refer to.

I hope you never feel the need to modify a noun with nine different adjectives, but here’s the order for them. You don’t need to use them all, but the ones you use should be in this order:

Opinion, Size, Age, Temperature, Shape, Color, Origin, Material, Purpose

Maybe you can think of a comfortable sentence that uses all nine. Put it in the comments.

By the way, I though of an exception: we say the big bad wolf. But that’s an idiom.

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