This and That Thursday: Adjective Sequence

I came across this fascinating article recently and wanted to share it here. The article talks about rules non-English speakers are taught when learning English, and how most native English speakers follow these rules automatically without even knowing they exist.

In particular, did you know that a series of adjectives has be in a specific order? I didn’t! But when you think about it, you would never put adjectives in the wrong order, because it wouldn’t sound right. For example:

  1. Her beautiful long blond hair.
  2. Her blond beautiful long hair.

Why does the second phrase sound wrong? I couldn’t have told you, other than “it just does.” Turns out, there is actually a correct order for a series of adjectives. It goes like this:

Opinion-size-age-shape-color-origin-material-purpose.

In the first example above, the adjectives are in order: opinion-size-color. When reversed, they don’t look right at all.

Try this yourself: next time you hear or say a series of adjectives, try rearranging them. I bet you’ll automatically know when they are in the wrong order.

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