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Grammar 14 - Order of Adjectives 2
"He bought a red, used, old car for his college going son." - Can you order this sentence properly?

Grammar 14 - Order of Adjectives 2

Look at the three groups of sentences that follow:

  • "I want a handbag."
  • "I want a leather handbag."
  • "I want a black handbag."
  • "I want an Italian handbag."
  • "I want a formal handbag."
  • "I want a nice handbag."
  • "I want a new handbag."
  • "I want a nice, black, leather handbag."
  • "I want a new, Italian, formal handbag."
  • "I want a nice, new, black, Italian, leather, formal handbag."

In the first group of sentences it is clear that the person wants a handbag and she goes on to use different adjectives to describe the kind of handbag she would like. You probably think that the person wants six different handbags, each with different attributes. In the second group your understanding is a little better and you begin to think that the person probably wants two handbags with different sets of attributes, but in the third group it becomes obvious that the person wants one handbag with six attributes in it. All of the six attributes the person wants are described in just one sentence using six different adjectives.

Often, in our daily lives we come across situations where we have to describe many things and usually one adjective is not sufficient to do justice to our description. So, we make use of several adjectives to describe the product or thing. In the above examples we looked at the description of a handbag. Now, in the second and third groups, it appears that the order of adjectives used in the sentences sounds good and reads well. It does so because the use of adjectives follows a certain order. Generally, adjectives follow the attributes of number/quantity, opinion/appearance, size, temperature, age, shape, colour, origin, material and purpose. Of course, these are not the only attributes and also, sometimes the order can be interchanged depending on the information to be provided. Certain conventions are followed and when you take the quiz that follows you will be able to get some insights into how the proper ordering of adjectives improves your sentence structure.

1.
"We live in the --- house by the side of the river." Fill the blanks with the correct order of adjectives.
Green, white and red, big
Big, green, white, red
Big and green, white and red
Big, green, white and red
The order of attributes is 'size - colour'. When two or more adjectives belonging to the same group are used, the two adjectives are joined by the use of the conjunction 'and'. Here, since three colours are used they are separated by a comma and the use of 'and' before the last colour
2.
"The group in the adult education class consisted of --- students." Fill the blanks with the correct order of adjectives.
Smart and dumb, young and old, ethnic
Ethnic, young and old, smart and dumb
Ethnic, smart and dumb, young and old
Young, old, smart, dumb, ethnic
The order of attributes is 'opinion - age - origin'. Since 'dumb' and 'smart' belong to same group the conjunction 'and' is used. Since 'young' and 'old' also belong to same group the conjunction 'and' is used again
3.
"The international school had --- pupils." Fill the blanks with the correct order of adjectives.
Japanese and Indian, twenty, bright,
Twenty, bright, Japanese, Indian
Bright, twenty, Japanese and Indian
Twenty, bright, Japanese and Indian
The order of attributes is 'number/quantity - opinion - origin'. Since 'Japanese' and 'Indian' belong to same group, the conjunction 'and' is used
4.
"The --- son is my favourite child." Fill the blanks with the correct order of adjectives.
15 year-old, Indian-born, tall, dark
Indian-born, tall, dark, 15 year-old
Tall, 15 years-old, dark, Indian-born
Tall, 15 year-old, dark, Indian-born
The order of attributes is 'size - age - colour - origin'. Plurals are not used for adjectives. For an adjective comprising a noun and a number the noun associated with the number is singular
5.
"The multinational company comprises --- employees." Fill the blanks with the correct order of adjectives.
Energetic, young, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Indian
Young, energetic, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Indian
Korean, Japanese, Chinese, young, energetic, Indian
Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Indian, energetic, young
The order of attributes is 'opinion - age - origin'. Since 'Korean', 'Japanese', 'Chinese' and 'Indian' belong to same group a comma is used to separate them and the conjunction 'and' is used between the last two nationalities
6.
"At the supermarket they give you --- bags." Fill the blanks with the correct order of adjectives.
New square, paper, large
Paper, large, new, square
Large, new, square, paper
Large, new, paper, square
The order of attributes is 'size - age - shape - material'
7.
"A --- sofa was presented to her." Fill the blanks with the correct order of adjectives.
Stunning, heart-shaped, red and white
Heart-shaped, red, white, stunning
Red, white, heart-shaped, stunning
Red and white, heart-shaped, stunning
The order of attributes is 'appearance - shape - colour'. When two or more adjectives belonging to the same group are used, the two adjectives are joined by the use of the conjunction 'and'
8.
"The--- libraries have --- books." Fill the blanks with the correct order of adjectives.
Imposing, two --- interesting, old and new
Two, imposing --- interesting, old and new
Two, imposing --- old and new, interesting
Interesting, old and new --- two, imposing
The order of attributes is 'number - appearance' for libraries and 'opinion - age' for books. Since 'old' and 'new' belong to same group, the conjunction 'and' is used
9.
"He bought a --- car for his college going son." Fill the blanks with the correct order of adjectives.
Three years-old, red, used
Three year-old, red, used
Red, used, three year-old
Used, red, three year-old
The order of attributes is 'number/age - colour - purpose'. Plurals are not used for adjectives. For an adjective comprising a noun and a number the noun associated with the number is singular
10.
"They were --- mugs." Fill the blanks with the correct order of adjectives.
Round and square, ceramic, beautiful
Ceramic, beautiful, round and square
Beautiful, round and square, ceramic
Round, square, ceramic, beautiful
The order of attributes is 'appearance - shape - material'. Since 'round' and 'square' belong to same group, the conjunction 'and' is used
Author:  V T Narendra

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