The problem learners of English have with adjective order is a FAQ in many language forums. It’s a problem native English speakers never even encounter. Somehow they acquire the knowledge as they learn the language. I was never taught an adjective order list at school, and I know of nobody who was!

However, the problem needs addressing and the generally accepted order is the following. But read on, as you will see there are cases where this order appears to change.

1. Quantity — a lot of, many, twenty-three
2.Opinion or judgment — beautiful, ugly, easy, fast, interesting
3. Size — small, tall, short, big
4. Age — young, old, new, historic, ancient
5. Shape — round, square, rectangular
6. Color — red, black, green, purple
7. Nationality — French, Asian, American, Canadian, Japanese
8. Material — wooden, metallic, plastic, glass, paper
9. Purpose or Qualifier — foldout sofa, fishing boat, racing car

Eg: the “beautiful long old curved red Italian steel racing car”

(You may even find other, more complex category lists, like this one: CLICK HERE)

Take care when applying the rule to categorise the adjectives correctly. For example, “The old rotund man read a short old story about an ugly big bear” seems to follow the rules, yet sounds wrong. In this case, “old” and “short” are qualifiers, not merely size or age designations, because “old man” is a social concept on its own, and “short story” is a genre. And “big ugly” is a “commonplace term”.

The truth is that you’re unlikely to ever really need to know them all. A sentence with that many adjectives will be highly artificial in most contexts. (Perhaps more common in poetry or literature). Two or three adjectives will probably be the maximum number you actually need to use.
When we need to use more adjectives, we either start a new sentence or use an additional structure such as a prepositional phrase. For example:

She was wearing a brand new striped blouse in blue/made in Spain/with long sleeves. These additional structures avoid a long string of adjectives.

As for a mnemonic,  you could take the first letter and try to make a word. So using your order of adjectives:

“QOSASCOMP”  is pronounceable even if it doesn’t exist as an established word.

Another option is to invent a sentence, each word beginning with these letters:

Quite Often Simply Asking Someone Can Obliterate Many Problems





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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for that useful information! Adjetive order is always a mess…

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