The Secret Order of Adjectives

Describing someone as “an old funny lady” just sounds weird, right? Native speakers instinctively know there’s a better way to say it.

Here’s why…

It’s because English has a hidden rule for the order of adjectives.

Try using this specific order when describing something:

  1. Determiner: a, an, the, this, those, my, your, our, their…)
  2. Quantity: one, eight, few, many…
    _____________________________
  3. Opinion: pretty, ugly, boring, delicious, perfect, valuable… .
  4. Size: tiny, medium-sized, giant, large… 
  5. Age: old, new, decades-old, brand-new, ancient… 
  6. Shape: round, square, triangular, heart-shaped, circular… 
  7. Colour: green, blue, pink, colourful… 
  8. Origin: French, German, Chinese… 
  9. Material: silver, wood, plastic, cardboard…
  10. Purpose (or qualifier): wedding, travel, shopping, cleaning, sports…

Remembering the acronym: OSASCOMP (Old Susi’s Apple Strudel Competition Offered Many Prizes) might be able to help you.

Let’s see how it works:

  • Would you like three adorable grey kittens?
  • We watched a thrilling old Japanese film. 
  • They have three nice teenage boys.
  • He’s an attractive young German actor.
  • She wore a dazzling emerald green silk dress.

Now it’s your turn. Can you describe something using the secret order? 

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Foto Christine Sparks

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