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A funny old business
Her uncle has been in the fruit-farming business all his life. Find out how successful it is in question 8!

A funny old business

A funny old business tests you on the order of adjectives.

In English, if you apply a number of different adjectives in front of a noun (and they always do go in front, in English ~ not afterwards, as in several other languages ... ), there is a definite order of 'categories' in which these adjectives are expected to go. Sometimes even native speakers become muddled, but the usual order is:

  1. Your personal opinion of the thing, e.g. that it's 'nice' or 'ghastly'
  2. Any other simple description that does not belong later in the order (e.g. the size or age of the thing)
  3. Colour
  4. Where the item comes from (country of origin, style etc; e.g. 'African')
  5. What it's made of (e.g. wooden, cotton)
  6. What it's for (e.g. a WALKING stick)

... and then, at last, the noun itself.

Meanwhile, almost any adjective may itself be further modified by an adverb in front of it ('a seriously expensive accident') ...

1.
Choose the answer that matches the definition and contains all the adjectives in the correct order.
Someone is wearing a pair of boots that were originally used by Red Army soldiers while they were on active service beyond the Arctic Circle.
Sturdy black knee-length Red Army Arctic marching boots
Sturdy Arctic knee-length Red Army marching black boots
Black Red Army sturdy marching Arctic knee-length boots
Red Army sturdy black Arctic marching knee-length boots
A suitably tough example to start with, but do check it against our list!
2.
Choose the answer that matches the definition and contains all the adjectives in the correct order.
A friend has come back from Italy, where she took a picture of some small, historical dwelling-houses which she felt were particularly pretty.
Little stone quaint old cottages
Quaint little old stone cottages
Quaint stone old little cottages
Old stone little quaint cottages
(Opinion + size + age + material)
3.
Choose the answer that matches the definition and contains all the adjectives in the correct order.
A man has walked into the room with a very eye-catching tie round his neck, which might be described as ...
An ultra-wide 1970s-style multi-coloured truly abominable necktie
A 1970s-style truly abominable ultra-wide multi-coloured necktie
An ultra-wide truly abominable1970s-style multi-coloured necktie
A truly abominable multi-coloured 1970's-style ultra-wide necktie
(Another fairly extreme example, but it runs:
Opinion + colour + style/period ... and then the final (crucial!) specification that this tie is ~ by the standards of any other period ~ grotesquely wide (and thus, it catches and offends the eye of anyone who sees if!)
4.
Choose the answer that matches the definition and contains all the adjectives in the correct order.
You are sorting out all the old items in your kitchen (or loft, or garage), and decide that you can eventually throw away ...
That Danish heavy old horrible frying pan
That horrible old heavy Danish frying pan
That Danish frying old horrible heavy pan
That old Danish heavy frying horrible pan
(Opinion + age + other significant physical characteristic + country of origin + purpose)
5.
Choose the answer that matches the definition and contains all the adjectives in the correct order.
During a television commercial for a re-launched brand of shampoo, your eye is caught as the model twists ...
her strawberry blonde flowing luxuriant long hair
her luxuriant, long, flowing strawberry blonde hair
her blonde long strawberry flowing luxuriant hair
her strawberry luxuriant long blonde flowing hair
(Opinion + 2 physical properties + colour)
NB 'Strawberry blonde' is a compound colour description, similar in its linguistic way to 'Navy blue' or 'deep crimson'.
6.
Choose the answer that matches the definition and contains all the adjectives in the correct order.
My flatmate arrived home yesterday carrying ...
a smart new bright green environmentally friendly hessian shopping bag
a bright green smart new shopping environmentally friendly hessian bag
an environmentally friendly shopping smart bright green hessian new bag
an environmentally friendly new hessian shopping bright green smart bag
(Opinion + age + colour + material [ = environmentally friendly hessian] + purpose)
You may find it helpful that the purpose of an object quite often ends in '-ing'; though not all do, and some '-ing' words may appear elsewhere in such a list (e.g. a 'hulking great Australian rugby player', where 'hulking' is more or less an adverb to increase the impression of size still further)
7.
Choose the answer that matches the definition and contains all the adjectives in the correct order.
One of her recurring bad memories of school, was of spending hour upon hour sitting on ...
uncomfortable stacking mass-produced nasty plastic chairs
nasty stacking mass-produced plastic uncomfortable chairs
nasty uncomfortable mass-produced plastic stacking chairs
uncomfortable stacking mass-produced plastic nasty chairs
(Opinion [in two stages, explaining the reason] + origin + material + purpose/function [i.e., one principal feature of these chairs is that they are designed to stack away while not being sat on])
8.
Choose the answer that matches the definition and contains all the adjectives in the correct order.
Her uncle has been in the fruit-farming business all his life, and is now the proud owner of ...
a long-established Kentish profitable apple and relatively charming orchard
a long-established Kentish relatively charming and profitable apple orchard
a charming and relatively profitable Kentish long-established apple orchard
a charming, long-established and relatively profitable Kentish apple orchard
(Opinion + age + 'other' + location + purpose [i.e. for growing apples, rather than some other fruit])
9.
Choose the answer that matches the definition and contains all the adjectives in the correct order.
The couple next door came back from the city recently, full of enthusiasm after enjoying a concert given by ...
a young exciting European talented string orchestra
an exciting European young string talented orchestra
an exciting and talented young European string orchestra
a talented European exciting string young orchestra
The 'string orchestra' can't really be divided because this phrase defines the essential nature / purpose of the group. It may help if you put the most important detail at the back before sorting out the others in reverse order.
In this case we have: Opinion (2 details) + age (this may refer to the age of the orchestra ~ how long it's been going ~ or, probably more likely, the age of the individual players, i.e. that they are fresh out of their training and playing with particular vigour) + origin + what type of instruments/music they exist to play.
10.
Choose the answer that matches the definition and contains all the adjectives in the correct order.
My little brother came into my bedroom last night ~ frightened by a bad dream in which, he said, he was being chased by a ...
stonking great hairy five-armed man-eating alien monster!
five-armed man-eating great hairy alien stonking monster!
man-eating great alien hairy five-armed stonking monster!
great five-armed hairy stonking alien man-eating monster!
(Physical description, beginning with size ... 'alien monster' probably goes best at the back, even though this is the origin. It probably wasn't originally created to eat human beings, so 'man-eating' might not count as 'purpose'.)
'Stonking certainly isn't an indicator of purpose: it's an informal adverb that adds a suggestion of size [cf. 'striding / stamping', which the monster probably also does).
This is perhaps a rather more elusive final example but we believe Answer 1 is the most likely built-up description. The terrified child would probably not have been over-fussy about the order in which he shared these details!
Author:  Ian Miles

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