The Royal Order of Adjectives

I bet you didn’t know that there is a certain order in which to put multiple adjectives describing the same thing.
Native English speakers do it without thinking about it, but for those people learning English as a second or third language, we should define the proper order.

Example:
We admire “your shiny new red car” and not “red new shiny your car.”

Here is the official order of priority:
#1 = Determiner – definite or indefinite articles and possessives
Examples: the office, your boss

#2 = Observation or opinion
Examples: interesting comment, expensive valve

#3 = Size and shape
Examples: round, three-inch

#4 = Age
Examples: new, five-year-old

#5 = Color
Examples: mottled, red

#6 = Origin
Examples: British, home-made

#7 = Material
Examples: stainless steel, limestone

#8 = Qualifier, often an integral part of the noun
Examples: ball valve, drilling rig

Thus, “your shiny new red car” would be a  1-2-4-5 car, obeying the Royal Order.
We usually put commas in between multiple adjectives in a row, unless the words are really short and string together nicely like the shiny new red car (we wouldn’t say “shiny, new, red car”).

Examples:
Their reliable, four-inch, used, purple, Swedish, stainless steel butterfly valve is a 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
And so are her delicious, big, annual, decorated, home-made, gingerbread Christmas cookies.

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4 Responses to “The Royal Order of Adjectives”

  1. Placement of adjectives and adverbs « CyberText Newsletter Says:

    […] a ‘Royal Order of Adjectives’, as nicely described by Jeanne Purdue on her blog: https://oilpatchwriting.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/the-royal-order-of-adjectives/, and also a ‘Royal Order of Adverbs’: […]

  2. Various useful websites related to writing | CyberText Newsletter Says:

    […] royal order of adjectives: https://oilpatchwriting.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/the-royal-order-of-adjectives/ (yes, there really is an order for something like the ‘noisy little red car’ – you wouldn’t […]

  3. Mirella Says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing the details here. I had a great read.

  4. 10 Crazy things about the English Language | Top 10 Lists | ListLand.com Says:

    […] to describe a noun, we must put them in a specific and rather rigid order. It’s called the Royal Order of Adjectives, and nobody knows a) what on earth makes it royal and b) where on earth this rule comes from. But […]

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