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Learn the Correct Order of Adjectives in English

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Understanding the standard adjective order in English isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Native speakers often instinctively follow the order, while English language learners can easily learn it. We’ll guide you with clear explanations and helpful examples.

White text over orange background reads "Order of Adjectives."
We’ll teach you everything you need to know about using the correct order of adjectives in English.
Quick Summary

When using multiple adjectives in a sentence, the correct order to follow is:

  1. Determiner (e.g., a, an, the, your, each)
  2. Quantity (e.g., one, three, many, few)
  3. Opinion (e.g., ugly, cute, precious)
  4. Size (e.g., big, small, tiny)
  5. Age (e.g., young, old)
  6. Shape (e.g., round, square, rectangular)
  7. Color (e.g., red, pink, orange)
  8. Origin (e.g., American, South African, Korean)
  9. Material (e.g., silk, plastic, wooden)
  10. Purpose or qualifier (e.g., wedding dress, travel journal)

For example:
  • The beautiful white wedding dress caught my attention.

What Is the Correct Order of Adjectives in English?

The correct format to follow when using multiple adjectives in a sentence is determiner, quantity, opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, and purpose. 

So, while this sentence may sound natural to English speakers:

He gave me a small leather-bound travel journal.

This one may not:

He gave me a travel leather-bound small journal.

It seems easy enough, right? It is! But if you truly want to thoroughly understand proper adjective order, then there are a few more topics that must be reviewed, including adjective placement, determiners, and using commas with coordinate and cumulative adjectives.

Image shows list of correct adjective order and examples starting with "determiner" and ending with "purpose."
Avoid using an excessive number of adjectives, or your sentences can end up too long-winded, as shown in the example above.


As with most English rules, there are exceptions to the order of adjectives. For example, phrases like “big bad wolf” persist through usage despite not following the typical sequence, which would otherwise render it “bad big wolf.”

Additionally, compound adjectives such as “ice-cold” also break the rules by merging words into a unit that conveys a singular idea. We say “ice-cold lemonade” instead of “cold ice lemonade” because “ice-cold” specifically describes the extreme chill of the drink, which shows how these exceptions are understood despite deviating from the norm. 

Proper Adjective Placement

Adjectives can be placed before or after a noun. When used after a noun, it must be preceded by a linking verb (e.g., the forms of to be). 

That’s a fluffy dog. 
That dog is fluffy

But what if it’s a fluffy American dog? Does a comma have to separate the adjectives? 

That’s a fluffy American dog.

That’s a fluffy, American dog.

No, and we’ll tell you why below. 

Coordinate and Cumulative Adjectives

When two or more adjectives belong to the same category, such as cute and friendly, which are both opinion-based, they are classified as coordinate adjectives. 

Coordinate adjectives must be separated by commas but can be placed in any order. 

That’s a cute, friendly dog.

That’s a friendly, cute dog.

When two or more adjectives belong to different categories, they are known as cumulative adjectives. In the example sentence below, cute is an opinion adjective, whereas American indicates the origin. 

That’s a cute American dog.

Cumulative adjectives do not need to be separated by a comma. However, they must adhere to the proper order mentioned in the first section of this post. An incorrect order results in an unnatural-sounding sentence. 

That’s a cute, American dog.

That’s an American cute dog.

If you’re uncertain about using coordinate or cumulative adjectives, test them by inserting “and” between them. If the sentence remains coherent, they’re coordinate adjectives; if not, they’re cumulative.

Coordinate adjectives: I found a cute and friendly dog.

Cumulative adjectives: I found a cute and American dog .

Please note that adjectives are only categorized as coordinate or cumulative when used before a noun. Adjectives placed after a noun and linking verb are always separated by commas, regardless of category. 

The dog is cute, friendly, and brown. 

Determiners and Adjective Order

It’s important to distinguish that determiners are not technically adjectives. However, they’re similar in the sense that they can indicate how many and which nouns are being modified. 

That man
Her dream
Each ticket

It is incorrect to put a comma between a determiner and its adjectives. 

Each golden ticket was valued at over $100.

Each, golden ticket was valued at over $100.

A, an, and the are types of determiners known as articles. They help specify whether a noun is specific or general. Articles are typically placed before adjectives, although they can sometimes be separated by an adverb (e.g., the very tall building).

He wanted to try the blue jacket.

He wanted to try blue jacket.

Numbers modifying a noun are also classified as determiners and are usually positioned right before the noun. When using both an article and a number, the number comes right after the article. Additionally, terms like few, many, or all can indicate quantity. 

Simply put, the correct format to use when combining articles, numbers, and adjectives is: 

[article] + [number/quantity] + [adjective] + [noun] + [remainder of the sentence]

Please note that only the definite article (the) is typically used before a specific cardinal number (one, two, three, etc.) when referring to a particular item. However, when a number is part of a compound adjective, either a definite or indefinite article can be used, depending on whether you’re referring to a specific item or any item of that type.

The two big dogs ran away.

A two big dogs ran away.

I found the twenty-dollar bill you were looking for.

I found a twenty-dollar bill you were looking for.

Yet, both definite and indefinite articles (a, an) are commonly used before ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.).

The second problem is difficult to answer.

A second problem is difficult to answer.

Adjective Order in English (With Explanation and Examples)

Now that we’ve gone over coordinate and cumulative adjectives, as well as articles and numbers, we can finally elaborate on the different types of adjectives and their correct order. 

1. Determiner

Remember, determiners specify which nouns are being modified. A few examples include:


2. Quantity

After determiners comes the number or word that indicates the quantity of nouns being described, such as: 

A lot

3. Opinion

Opinion adjectives are all subjective, meaning they are based on individual perspectives and not on facts. Some examples include: 


4. Size

Size adjectives describe the dimensions or magnitude of a noun, such as: 


5. Age

Age adjectives describe the age-related conditions of a noun, such as:


6. Shape

Shape adjectives describe the form or configuration of a noun, such as: 


7. Color

Color adjectives specify the hue or appearance of a noun, using terms like: 


8. Origin

Origin adjectives indicate the source or nationality of a noun, such as: 

Saudi Arabian

9. Material

Material adjectives describe what an object is made from, using words like: 


10. Purpose 

Purpose adjectives indicate the intended use or function of a noun, such as:

Running shoes
Sleeping bag
Sketching notebook
Dining table

However, it’s crucial to remember that using an excess of adjectives, particularly in a single sentence, is not recommended. Only include adjectives that are essential for the reader’s understanding. 

Take a look at the following examples:

The elegant black Italian leather winter jacket kept me warm.
The elegant winter jacket kept me warm. 

The first sentence is lengthy and complex, while the second is more concise yet still creates a vivid image. As a writer, your challenge is to strike the right balance in adjective usage. 

Bonus Tip

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