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Monday, September 05, 2016

Wait. What?

Your mileage may vary, but for me this was a Wait, What? moment:

Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun.

Bollocks, I immediately thought. That's just an internet myth. Except …

You can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife.

Now try changing the adjective order.


Clovis e Adri said...

I guess this is the kind of thing that immediately tells everyone you are a non-native speaker. I could write that in many ways without noticing the 'mistake'.

Peter said...

Clovis, you can always tell native English speakers by the fact that they either: a) put their adjectives in the right order; or b) insert the f-word before each of them.

erp said...


erp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erp said...

Dreaded double comment at work again. :-{

Harry Eagar said...

I do not think I have ever seen a natural English sentence with 8 consecutive adjectives. Nor heard one spoken.

5 is the usual limit as in 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.'

Hey Skipper said...

Harry, I don't think I have, either. I bet I rarely use more than one, and almost never more than two.

Which is part of what made the assertion there is a rule for adjective order surprising to me: there is actually a rule for a rare case. Moreover, it may be one of the few rules in English that is honored far more often than not.

[Clovis:] I guess this is the kind of thing that immediately tells everyone you are a non-native speaker.

To my eye, more than 90% of what you write is indistinguishable from a native speaker.

erp said...

Rules for adjectives, here and here are designed to provide clarify of meaning to statements made in the English language.
It must be difficult for those on the left to understand devoted as you are propaganda and newspeak which is designed to distort meanings to promote their narrative because your example of solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short can be written in any order to convey the same meaning.

erp said...

Sorry for the typos. Fingers and brain connection unreliable.

Clovis e Adri said...


So in Harry's example, as the adjectives are separated by comma, the order is unimportant?

erp said...

No. Generally a series of adjectives should be separated by commas (Skipper used dashes which is acceptable now (the nuns would have swooned), but English grammar isn't that simple.

All the adjectives in Harry's example fall into the opinion category, so the order doesn't matter.

Hey Skipper said...

* All the adjectives in Harry's example fall into the opinion category, so the order doesn't matter. *

Wow. Didn't know that, either.

Harry Eagar said...

'Short' is an opinion? 'Solitary' is an opinion?

Sigh. I guess erp did not recognize that I was quoting the most famous of English conservative philosophers. Not my adjectives; Hobbes's.

erp said...

Of course they are opinions whether yours or Hobbes. A six foot man is "short" to one who is 7 feet tall, but tall to a five footer.

A person may be considered solitary to someone who's a flibbertigibbet while too outgoing to a recluse.

One's point of view determines. Unless you are referring to some norm of human characteristics and behaviors where the average has been pre-determined and one is either short or tall, social or solitary, etc. depending on where one falls on the chart, short and solitary are opinions.

Harry, people aren't cogs in the great wheel of conformity and socialism that you pine for -- at least not quite yet.

Harry Eagar said...

Fact is, you didn't recognize the quote, which is usually -- in memory -- shortened to 4 adjectives, because English speakers don't like long strings of adjectives. Most who refer to it leave off "short." I cannot think of any other well-knowmn (to some people, anyway) quotations that are 5 adjectives long.

But this is usage and not politics. It isn't even accurate to say that in English an adjective has to precede the noun.

erp said...

Harry, whether I recognized the quote or not is not relevant to the discussion which is the order of adjectives per English usage. I provided links should you wish to pacquaint yourself with the subject.

Clovis e Adri said...


because English speakers don't like long strings of adjectives.

That's interesting, isn't it? A bit of the opposite of Portuguese speakers.

I know it is hard to trace cultural differences, but would anyone have a guess here? Why is it that Latin cultures tend to be more prolix than Anglo-Saxon ones?

Harry Eagar said...

I've no idea. Nowadays, Americans are limited pretty much to one adjective: great

erp said...

Clovis, English is a mixture of many different languages, including Latin, and is continuing to evolve :-] mostly because it isn't under control of the state.

Harry, since you find the U.S. so egregious, why not find someplace more to your liking and relocate there?

Following Skipper's rule: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun.

The United States is a great, 3.806 million sq. mile, 240 year old, ovalish shaped, multi-colored, Continental Congress created, earthen elements, freedom-for-all nation that anyone but a fool would be proud and grateful to be a part of. I thank my father every day that he made sure I was born here.