Adjective Word Order

Each time you are asked to give the characteristics of something, it’s likely that you use an adjective (i.e., a word describing a noun). In English, traditional phrase structure rules place no limit on the number of adjectives in a sentence. However, native English speakers have specific way of putting adjectives in a specific order.

Different types of words occupy different positions in a sentence. Nouns generally occur at the start of a sentence, and adjectives mostly precede a noun. Here are a few examples of adjectives that can come either before or after a noun. Note that their positioning affects the meaning of the sentence:

The concerned parents (= parents who are worried)

The parents concerned (= parents who are involved/mentioned)

A responsible person (= a person who is sensible/reliable)

The person responsible (= the person who is to blame or is responsible for something)

Let’s now see the rules governing adjective order in English. If more than one adjective is used in a sentence, they tend to occur in a specific order. In English, a noun typically has one or two adjectives. If multiple adjectives are used, then the table given below can help create an acceptable adjective order.


Order of (Descriptive) Adjectives

First Determiner (this, that, these, those, my, mine, your, yours, him, his, hers they, their, some, our, several,…) or the article (a, an, the)
Second Opinion, quality or observation (lovely, useful, cute, difficult, comfortable)
Third Physical description of size (big, little, tall, short)
Fourth Age (old, new, young, adolescent)
Fifth Shape (circular,  irregular, triangular)
Sixth Color (red, green, yellow)
Seventh Origin or maker’s source (English, Mexican, Japanese)
Eighth Materials (cotton, metal, plastic)
Ninth Qualifier (a noun used as an adjective to modify a noun, e.g., campus activities, rocking chair, business suit)



  1. This archeologist found a lovely little old rectangular black Egyptian marble rock below the Pyramid of Giza.
  2. Scientists discovered this beautiful small pink French butterfly at Parc Floral de Paris.
  3. Animal rights activists were concerned as the product was unreasonably tested on an endangered small young brown African monkey.
  4. The new disease shows as an unpleasant big circular red patch on the forehead skin of those who are infected.

Look up good examples of research articles in your field, and using the table given above, notice how adjectives has been ordered. Adhering to the proper order of adjectives makes for clear writing and gets your message across to your reader quickly.

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