Adjectives are one of the major parts of speech in English. They modify a noun or noun phrase. Often called describing words, they describe the quality, state or action that a noun refers to. They can be used to distinguish a particular noun- the red car distinguishes one car by colour from the others. Adjectives are an open class in English, which means that we can make new ones easily and add them to the language, which is not the case in all languages.
Adjectives are not generally used in standard English to modify other adjectives- we use adverbs to do that. However, we can use multiple adjectives to modify a noun. When we do this they tend to follow a sequence, though this order of adjectives is not an absolute rule and there will always be exceptions.
They can be used in various ways and positions in a sentence:
- Adjectives can come before nouns: a new car
- Adjectives can come after verbs such as be, become, seem, look, etc.: that car looks fast
- They can be modified by adverbs: a very expensive car
- They can be used as complements to a noun: the extras make the car expensive
Adjectives follow an order before a noun
This table explains the order of adjectives coming before a noun in the English language, although it is very unlikely that anyone would use eight adjectives before a single noun. Generally, few would use more than a couple or so. There are cases where the order isn't followed, but it works in almost all cases. The basic movement is from subjective (opinion) to objective (material/purpose).
Related to 'Adjective'
Related English Articles
Continue to learn about adjectives and adverbs by browsing our articles on the topic.
Learn how to use 'rather' in English.
Agreeing and Disagreeing- So do I, Neither do I, etc
The rules for using So do I and Neither do I, etc.
All & Whole
The differences in usage between all and whole.
What is the correct word order with 'enough'?
Rules for Comparisons
A summary of the simple rules for comparisons
Adjectives - Good, Better and Best
A brief look at English adjectives whose comparative and superlative forms are irregular.
54 Adjectives that look like Adverbs
A list of 54 English adjectives that look like adverbs
Articles for Teachers
How to teach opposites
Tips on teaching adjective opposites, verbs with opposite meanings, etc.
How to teach gradable and extreme adjectives
How to present and practice gradable adjectives and extreme adjectives like hot/ boiling and big/ huge, including how not to mix them up with other kinds of ungradable adjectives.
How to teach possessive adjectives
Simple and fun ways of teaching and practising "my", "your", "his", "her", "its", "our" and "their", with 16 possessive adjective games.
How to teach frequency expressions (adverbs of frequency etc)
Teaching tips on and activities for expressions like "usually", "twice a week", "once every two weeks" and "every morning".
Related Language Quizzes
Test your understanding by taking our language quizzes related to adjectives and adverbs.