What’s the Correct Order for Multiple Adjectives?

Adjectives: definition and use

When you list several adjectives in a row, there is a specific order in which they need to be written or spoken. Native speakers of English tend to put them in the correct order naturally so if it feels right it probably is right. In any case, it’s unlikely that this will hit a SPAG test any time soon.

I include this information for interest and because many, if not most, people will be unaware of the existence of any formal list of the order in which adjectives should appear when in a list before a noun. It doesn’t always ring true, either; the list says that observations/opinions should come before size but a native speaker might sometimes reverse this if it sounded better:


‘My dog has beautiful, big eyes,’

or

My dog has big, beautiful eyes,’

– you decide…

If you’re learning English, you’ll have to contend with memorising the order and it sometimes sounding awkward to a native speaker. For what it’s worth, here’s the list:


Determiner – This means an article (a, an, the), a number or amount, a possessive adjective (my, his, her, its, your, our, their), or a demonstrative (this, that, these, those).
Observation/Opinion – Beautiful, expensive, gorgeous, broken, delicious, ugly
Size – Huge, tiny, 4-foot-tall
Shape – Square, circular, oblong
Age – 10-year-old, new, antique
Colour – Black, red, blue-green
Origin – Roman, English, Mongolian
Material – Silk, silver, plastic, wooden
Qualifier – A noun or verb acting as adjective

This, then, is the official order for adjectives that come directly before a noun, and they are separated by commas, hence:

‘My beautiful, big, circular, antique, brown, English, wooden coffee table was lost when we moved house.’

Really technical, now…

If the adjectives come after the verb “be” as the complement, then the qualifier will stick with the noun at the beginning of the sentence. The adjectives in the complement are separated by commas with the final two being separated by ‘and’. For example:

‘My coffee table is beautiful, big, circular, antique, brown, English and wooden.’

Again, native English speakers do this without really having to think about it…