The adjectival order…

Adjectives

Hello friends,

This time, I’ll stick to my profession and (teach you a lesson or two in English).

Anyone who has attended elementary school knows what adjectives are. How much elementary school information is retained, is a different matter altogether. Just so you don’t end up scratching your scalp dry – adjectives are words that describe a noun. E.g. in the phrase ‘the tall boy’ – ‘boy’ is the noun and ‘tall’ is the adjective.

Now let’s take another example – I have white 10 roses beautiful in my garden.

This sentence sounds quite odd – doesn’t it? I’d be damned if anyone says NO. indeed the sentence is wrong. The slightly informed ones may call it a ‘sentence construction error’ – and I would agree with them. There are several errors that make up a ‘sentence construction’ or a semantic error. What we are dealing with here, is a specific error. It’s the ‘order of adjective’ that’s amiss.

In any sentence where there are more adjectives than one, the writer needs to follow the order of adjectives. On second thoughts – even if there’s just one adjective – there is something worth remembering – it always precedes the noun (Only poets are excused). If you look at the first example – I wrote ‘a tall boy’ and not ‘a boy tall’. To a grammarian, the sentence looks like Article + Adjective + Noun.

Now let’s get back to the topic – adjectives follow a specific order and this is how it looks:

1

2 3 4 5 6 7 8

9

Quantity Quality Size Shape Age Colour Origin Material Purpose

Here are a few examples to elucidate the point:

Order

Example 1

Quantity
Quality Shiny
Size
Shape
Age New
Colour Red
Origin
Material
Purpose
Noun Ball
Final: (I gave him) A shiny new red ball.
Order Example 2
Quantity
Quality Nice
Size Big
Shape
Age
Colour Black
Origin
Material
Purpose Sports
Noun Car
Final: (Jack has) A nice big black sports car (in his garage)
Order Example 3
Quantity Two
Quality
Size
Shape
Age New
Colour
Origin Egyptian
Material Cotton
Purpose
Noun Shirts
Final: (Those are) The two new Egyptian cotton shirts (I gifted him)
Order Example 4
Quantity Three
Quality Experienced
Size
Shape
Age Old
Colour
Origin British
Material
Purpose
Noun Sailors
Final: (He was the eldest among the) three experienced old British sailors.

So, the next time you end up making a sentence with multiple adjectives – do remember the above rules and examples.

Hasta la próxima – have a nice day!!!

3 Comments

  • Monisha Kottayi

    Nice…

    Reply
  • Awesome class, Prof! ;P

    BTW, hasta la proxima is Spanish for “अब अगले (दिन)” where hasta = have, which is, in this context, ‘now‘.

    I’ve chosen to translate in Hindi, specifically, because Spanish grammar structure is much closer to Hindi, via Latin & Sanskrit, than a Germanic language like English.

    Notice that the Spanish phrase even omits mentioning “दिन” which is left to contextual assumption à la Urdu & Persian.

    Reply

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