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Unit 20. Order of adjectives
(порядок прилагательных)

Main points

1. You often want to add more information to a noun than you can with one adjective, so you need to use two or more adjectives. In theory, you can use the adjectives in any order, depending on the quality you want to emphasize. In practice, however, there is a normal order.

When you use two or more adjectives in front of a noun, you usually put an adjective that expresses your opinion in front of an adjective that just describes something.

You live in a nice big house.

He is a naughty little boy.

She was wearing a beautiful pink suit.

2. When you use more than one adjective to express your opinion, an adjective with a more general meaning such as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘nice’, or ‘lovely’ usually comes before an adjective with a more specific meaning such as ‘comfortable’, ‘clean’, or ‘dirty’.

I sat in a lovely comfortable armchair in the corner.

He put on a nice clean shirt.

It was a horrible dirty room.

3. You can use adjectives to describe various qualities of people or things. For example, you might want to indicate their size, their shape, or the country they come from.

Descriptive adjectives belong to six main types, but you are unlikely ever to use all six types in the same noun group. If you did, you would normally put them in the following order:

size shape age colour nationality material

This means that if you want to use an ‘age’ adjective and a ‘nationality’ adjective, you put the ‘age’ adjective first.

We met some young Chinese girls.

Similarly, a ‘shape’ adjective normally comes before a ‘colour’ adjective.

He had round black eyes.

Other combinations of adjectives follow the same order. Note that ‘material’ means any substance, not only cloth.

There was a large round wooden table in the room.

The man was carrying a small black plastic bag.

4. You usually put comparative and superlative adjectives in front of other adjectives.

Some of the better English actors have gone to live in Hollywood.

These are the highest monthly figures on record.

5. When you use a noun in front of another noun, you never put adjectives between them. You put any adjectives in front of the first noun.

He works in the French film industry.

He receives a large weekly cash payment.

6. When you use two adjectives as the complement of a link verb, you use a conjunction such as ‘and’ to link them. With three or more adjectives, you link the last two with a conjunction, and put commas after the others.

The day was hot and dusty.

The room was large but square.

The house was old, damp and smelly.

We felt hot, tired and thirsty.

Unit 20. Order of adjectives
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