Topic: Order of Adjectives
I'm standing in front of my new bookcase.
As you can see, it's white,
and personally, I think it's lovely.
So could I also say that I'm standing in front of
my new white lovely bookcase?
You understand what I mean,
but it sounds rather strange, doesn't it?
I said, "A new white lovely bookcase."
How many adjectives did I use?
1, 2, 3.
We often use one or two adjectives before a noun,
but three or more? It's not as common.
So what's the alternative to one long phrase
with three or more adjectives?
We can use two shorter phrases
or create a separate sentence.
"This is my new white bookcase. Isn't it lovely?"
Now, although it's not common
to use several adjectives in a phrase,
it does happen.
And when we have two or more adjectives,
there's a certain order that we follow.
And when I first showed you my bookcase,
I broke that order.
What would sound more natural?
A lovely new white bookcase.
I'm not be able to explain the logic
behind this sequence at all times,
but I can help the sequence become
become more familiar to you
so that your speech sounds more natural.
When we break that usual order of adjectives,
it catches the ear of our listener.
So it's worth practicing the order of adjectives
to make your speech sound more natural.
Now one of the things that I think
makes this bookcase so lovely
is having all these knick-knacks.
Do you know what knick-knacks are?
Knick-knacks are interesting objects.
They're beautiful things that we use for decoration.
It's kind of like "lovely."
All of these adjectives - interesting, beautiful, lovely -
And one of the first patterns you should learn
is that adjectives that express opinion
generally come first.
That's why I can say,
"A lovely new bookcase."
"A lovey white bookcase."
What if we have more than one adjective
that describes an opinion?
Like "interesting and beautiful."
I kind of gave you a hint!
Well, it doesn't matter then
which one comes first.
I'm going to show you
my beautiful, interesting knick-knacks.
I'm going to show you
my interesting, beautiful knick-knacks.
"Beautiful, interesting" / "Interesting, beautiful"...
It doesn't matter.
If you're writing,
you will need to use a comma
to separate those two adjectives.
One way to know
whether you need a comma or not
between two adjectives
is by putting the word "and" between them.
Could I say,
"Beautiful and interesting knick-knacks?"
So a comma is needed.
In contrast, when I tell you
about my lovely new white bookcase,
I don't need to say
"Lovely and new and white bookcase."
So in that phrase
no comma is needed anywhere.
Now let's talk about adjectives that express something besides opinion.
We'll talk about a vase, my vase.
I'd like to tell you that this vase is made of glass,
it's round, and it's small.
If I want to use one phrase with these three adjectives,
I'll need to know the order the adjectives should go in.
We need to learn a pattern.
We need to know that size comes before shape,
and shape comes before material.
Then we can talk about my small round glass vase.
the standard order of adjectives in English.
Before a noun, this is the order most English speakers follow.
opinion > size > age > shape> color >
origin (meaning where something came from
or where it was made, so that could be a nationality)
Then we have material and noun modifier.
A noun modifier is a noun that modifies or describes another noun.
So it behaves like an adjective.
So you see that nouns like to stick together.
and noun modifier is right before the main noun, your head noun.
So we can talk about a nice desk lamp...
an expensive floor lamp...
"Desk"..."floor"... those are examples of noun modifiers.
As I said,this is a standard order of adjectives.
Most speakers follow this order,
but there will be exceptions.
One person might talk about a beautiful large square rug.
A second person might look at the same rug and say it's a big ugly rug.
And that second person chose to break the order,
emphasizing size by putting it before opinion.
Let's try this.
I'll show you a knick-knack,
and then I'll describe it a few different ways.
You need to create one phrase with the correct order of adjectives.
There will be one main noun.
We call that the head noun.
So you need the correct order of adjectives before the head noun.
For example, if we're talking about a bookcase
and I tell you it's white, it's lovely, and it's new,
you'll need to create the phrase
"a lovely new white bookcase."
And why is that order correct?
Because "lovely" is an opinion.
Opinion generally comes first.
And then we have "a lovely new white...."
Age comes before color.
"A lovely new white bookcase."
This is my little angel.
I've had her since I was a child.
My name is written on it
along with my birthday, March 9.
So the angel is little. The angel is sweet.
She's my sweet little angel.
opinion > size > head noun
My sweet little angel.
My angel has wings.
They're small. They're white.
She has small white wings.
size > color > head noun
Small white wings.
This knick-knack has been in my family for a long time.
As you can see, there is a doll, and she's on a music box.
Okay? This is from Japan.
And I really love her hairstyle.
I've always loved that hairstyle.
It's very intricate.
And of course it's a hairstyle used in Japan.
This is an intricate Japanese hairstyle.
Intricate Japanese hairstyle.
"Intricate" could be considered opinion (observation).
I find it rather complex and detailed.
Maybe you find it ordinary.
But "Japanese" expresses origin.
Where did this come from? Where was it made?
An intricate Japanese hairstyle.
opinion (observation) > origin (nationality) > head noun
I especially love the color of this dress.
It's orange, and it's beautiful material.
It's gorgeous. It's gorgeous...silk...it's orange.
She's wearing a gorgeous orange silk dress.
A gorgeous orange silk dress.
opinion > color > material > and then our head noun
A gorgeous orange silk dress.
This is my lantern that I received in college.
All the students at my college received a lantern like this.
With a picture of an owl on it.
And all the students in my class received the color blue.
So there's an owl. It's blue.
It's also pretty old because I graduated
from college quite some time ago!
This is my old blue owl lantern.
Now if I'm going to throw "college" in there,
it's just becoming ridiculously long,
so I would choose to shorten the phrase
by putting "college" separately.
My old blue own lantern from college.
So when we start getting really long descriptions,
it's best to break it up.
In conversation I'd probably tell you
that this is my blue owl lantern.
Or my old owl lantern.
And I'll explain that it's blue, and I got it from college.
So very long descriptions with 4 or 5 adjectives
are just not very common because they're so cumbersome.
They're so hard to work with.
But if you did want the correct order,
it's "an old blue owl lantern...from college."
age > color > noun modifier > and then my head noun
This box belonged to my grandmother.
As you can see, it's round, it's made of metal,
and its rather small.
This is a small round metal box.
Small round metal box.
size > shape > material > head noun
Small round metal box.
This is a bookend.
I have different bookends to hold up my books,
so they don't fall down.
This particular bookend is very heavy
because it's made of stone.
This is a heavy stone bookend.
A heavy stone bookend.
"Heavy" is size.
"Stone" is material.
Heavy stone bookend.
That's all for now.
I hope you found this to be an interesting, helpful lesson.
Thanks for watching.
Need more practice? Try this interactive exercise. http://www.englishwithjennifer.com/order_of_adjectives.htm
Generally accepted order of adjectives:
TEACHERS: Please read these related posts on WordPress.
1:53 Why this topic is important
3:03 How to use two "opinion" (or "observation") adjectives
4:15 Other adjectives besides those that express opinion
4:54 Order of adjectives before a noun (standard sequence)
6:23 Practice! Instructions and a model.
7:19 Practice! First of seven items.