Monday, 4 May 2020

Adjective Order in the English Language

I haven't read the book "The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase" by Mark Forsyth but maybe I should.

I happened upon this quote from his book that is interesting to any non-native speaker of English but probably also to any native speaker who wants to know more about their language.

Anyway, the quote is:

"Adjectives, absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So, you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that order in the slightest, you’ll sound like a maniac."

Of course, I've looked it up elsewhere and found some more information, so "Google is my best friend" … and they gave me the following list:

Generally, the adjective order in English is:
•    Quantity or number.
•    Quality or opinion.
•    Size.
•    Age.
•    Shape.
•    Colour.
•    Proper adjective (often nationality, other place of origin, or material)
•    Purpose or qualifier.

• Initially
• At first
• To start with
• First of all
• Firstly
• To begin with
• In the beginning

• Secondly
• thirdly
• later
• then
• afterwards
• at this point
• meanwhile
• next
• after that
• subsequently
• later on
• during this time

• Finally
• Eventually
• In time
• In the end
• Ultimately
• Lastly

You can never stop learning a language, even your own, and I know that most readers are also interested in language, so I thought more people might be interested in this.

Apparently, the British Council disagrees but I think we all need some sort of guidance when learning a foreign language, so I say, stick to one or the other, most native speakers won't notice anyway. ­čśë


  1. Interesting! Sometimes I struggle with adjectives in my writing. I think there is such a thing as too many!

    1. Ooooh, I'm glad you like it, as well. You are one of the people I think of very highly, not just, but especially in regards of the English language. I thought it was fantastic for me and other ESOLs. Thanks, Judy. Have a great day.