Adjectives cannot be written in any order. There are rules, so you should use
the following order:
- Determiner or article
- Determiners e.g. this, that, these, those, my, mine, your, yours, him, his,
her, hers, they, their, Sam's ; or
- Articles - a, an, the
- Opinion adjective
e.g. polite, fun, cute, difficult, hard-working
- Size, including adjectives, comparatives and superlatives
- height; e.g. tall, short, high, low; taller, tallest
- width; e.g. wide, narrow, thin, slim; wider, widest
- length; e.g. long, short; longer, longest
- volume; e.g. fat, huge; fatter, fattest
e.g. circular, oval, triangular, square, 5-sided, hexagonal, irregular
e.g. new, young, adolescent, teenage, middle-aged, old, ancient
e.g. red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, grey, black, black and
white, light blue, dark red, pale blue, reddish brown, off-white, bright
green, warm yellow
e.g. Hong Kong, Chinese, English, American, Canadian, Japanese
e.g. Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, Moslem, pagan, atheist
e.g. wood, plastic, metal, ceramic, paper, silk
- Noun used as an adjective
e.g. campus (as in 'campus activities')
- The noun that the adjectives are describing.
Together the article or determiner, adjective(s) and noun(s) make a 'noun
phrase'. Noun phrases can also have adverbs describing the adjectives; e.g.
nearly circular; and can also have relative clauses, although these are not
discussed on this page.
Although it is possible to write a sentence that uses all the categories;
e.g. 'my beautiful, long, curving, new, pink, western, Christian, silk wedding
dress', it is bad style as it is too long. Try to use less than five adjectives
in a single list. Therefore you could say "Have you seen my beautiful new
cream silk wedding dress? It's long and curving, and is in western
How to remember the order
You can use the 'Roman room' memorisation technique. This involves
remembering a place that you know well, such as your home, and imagining walking
through it, looking at things.
- Imagine that you arrive at the door of your home. On the door is the
letter 'A', and you are greeted by someone who lives there. This helps you to
remember the article 'A' or the determiner(s); e.g. my Mother's.
- Imagine that you are happy to see each other. This helps you
to remember the opinion adjective.
- Imagine the size of your home: is it big, small, or long?
This helps you to remember the size adjectives.
- Imagine that you go into your home and you see an object. Remember the
shape of the object.
- Now imagine that you walk around your home; e.g. towards your room. Think
of another object further from the door. Think of the age of
that object; e.g. new or old.
- Move on to another object, this time a colourful one. Remember what
colour it is.
- Move on to another object. This object should remind you of a foreign
place; e.g. a picture of somewhere in China, or a souvenir from a holiday
abroad. This is to help you remember nationality.
- Next imagine moving to another object, this time a religious
one. Maybe you have a place for worshipping your ancestors, or a statue of
- Next move to another object. This should be special because it is made of
one material; e.g. a crystal ornament or a wooden statue.
- Finally move to a place where there is an object that is described with 2
words, and the first is a noun; e.g. a book shelf. Imagine that this is
the end of your journey around your flat.