Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

The Order of Adjectives in English

The Quick Answer
The order of adjectives in English is opinion, size, age, shape, colour, origin, material, and purpose. For example:
  • A lovely, large, antique, round, black, Spanish, wooden, mixing bowl

The Order of Adjectives in English

When two or more adjectives are required to describe something, there is an established order for the adjectives. The order is generally as follows:
  • opinion
  • size
  • age
  • shape
  • colour
  • origin
  • material
  • purpose
The following example with eight adjectives is ordered correctly:
A lovely, large, antique, round, black, Spanish, wooden, mixing bowl
(These adjectives are modifying the noun bowl.)
  • opinion (lovely)
  • size (large)
  • age (antique)
  • shape (round)
  • colour (black)
  • origin (Spanish)
  • material (wooden)
  • purpose (mixing)
Note: Using two or more adjectives is called enumeration of adjectives.

Stick to the Order

Of course, it is very rare to describe something with eight adjectives. Enumeration of adjectives occurs most commonly with just two adjectives and occasionally three. Stick to the order. For example:
With two adjectives:

A lovely, mixing bowl

A black, wooden bowl

With three adjectives:

A large, round, mixing bowl

A lovely, antique, Spanish, wooden bowl

A Spanish, lovely, wooden bowl
(This is wrong because opinion (lovely) should precede origin (Spanish).)
Read about the use of commas and and with multiple adjectives.

Let Your Instinct Guide You

If you're a native English speaker, you should let your instinct guide you. The list of precedence given on this page is not universally agreed, but all versions are pretty similar. The area of most dispute is age and shape.

Here at Grammar Monster, we think age trumps shape, but others have this the other way around. In other words, we think "old round box" sounds better than "round old box". However, we would agree that "round antique box" sounds better than "antique round box".

Confusion arises because it is not always clear which category an adjective belongs to. You could make a case for "antique" not being about age but purpose (i.e., it's part of the compound noun "antique box").

Learn About the Order of Adjectives

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OpinionGetting ready...Getting ready...
SizeGetting ready... Getting ready...
AgeGetting ready...Getting ready...
ShapeGetting ready...Getting ready...
ColourGetting ready...Getting ready...
OriginGetting ready...Getting ready...
MaterialGetting ready...Getting ready...
PurposeGetting ready...Getting ready...
Getting ready...

NEW! Try our widget for learning about possessive apostrophes.


Native English Speakers Do It Naturally

It is quite bizarre that native English speakers can order their adjectives correctly without ever being taught this precedence list (or even being aware that adjectives are meant to follow an established order).