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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Adjective Order

Adjective Order is one of those obscure English grammar rules that nobody told us about in college. A summary on how it works:
Look at these two squares.

How would you describe the objects? The image on the left you’d probably describe as a big, red square, because that’s what it is, right? Now, what if you describe it as red, big square? Does that sound right to you? It sounds quite a bit off, doesn’t it?
It’s because there is a specific order of describing things that for some reason English speakers have established as the proper way.
When you are describing a noun using two or more adjectives, the adjectives are usually in a particular order. Opinions come first, e.g. gorgeous, ugly, etc., before factual ones.  
There are several levels of order. The Cambridge Dictionaries Online lists ten:

Order                relating to                     examples

1                        opinion                         unusual, lovely, beautiful
2                        size                               big, small, tall
3                        physical quality            thin, rough, untidy
4                        shape                            round, square, rectangular
5                        age                                young, old, youthful
6                        color                             blue, red, pink
7                        origin                            Dutch, Japanese, Turkish
8                        material                         metal, wood, plastic
9                        type                               general-purpose, four-sided, U-shaped
10                      purpose                          cleaning, hammering, cooking


She was wearing a beautiful new red dress.
The countertop has ten small round plastic bottles.
He bought some interesting Russian iron ornaments at the flea market.
She is selling her beat-up 10-year-old German car.
It happened during a miserable scorching afternoon.\

An obscure rule, but I think the majority of us follow this unconsciously without realizing that there is actually such a rule.  
Protip: Just remember OpShACOM (Opinion, Shape, Age, Color, Origin, Material)

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