The Order of Adjectives in English: What is the rule for adjective placement in English?


In the English language, ADJECTIVES have their own special rules. You cannot just place them anywhere you wish because it can literally change the meaning of the sentence – and sometimes make your sentence totally nonsensical.


Where you place your adjectives in English and which form of adjectives you use, depends on what you mean.

For example: The black, fat cat is angry and he frightened when he gets like that.

In this sentence, the adjectives are black, fat, frightened and angry. But the placement of these adjectives makes this sentence nonsensical.  The sentence is also missing a link verb and “frightened” should be “frightening.”

A better way to say it is:

The fat, black cat is angry and he is frightening when he gets like that.

Notice that you have to put SIZE before COLOR first of all, as far as the rules of PLACEMENT OF ADJECTIVES in English. (Fat = size. Black = color)  But you also need to change the “ed” version of the verb “to frighten” to the “ing” version “frightening” for the sentence to make logical sense.

  • Note that saying the “The cat is frightening.” means something totally different from saying “The cat is frightened.” You can also say “The frightening cat” or “The frightened cat” by eliminating the link verb.
  • Note also that all of the adjectives in this sentence are describing the noun CAT which is the source of the sentence and the noun being modified. But in the case of the word “frightening” it is describing how the person speaking feels about the cat – it’s their opinion – and not how the cat itself feels. Hence you need the “ing” and not “ed” version.
  • Note also that the adjective ANGRY comes after the link verb (“is”) and describes the cat’s feeling. (“frightening” also comes after a link verb but it is describing the feeling of the person observing the cat. So logically it would follow the adjective ANGRY and take the “ing” form rather than the “ed” form.)

So the speaker is really drawing a conclusion or observing a situation that “the cat is frightening” to him or her (the speaker is expressing an opinion). Why is the cat “frightening”? Because the cat is angry.



Good. Let me try to confuse you a little bit more! So, normally, for adjectives in English come BEFORE the noun (some adjectives MUST be placed after and we will get to those later), and where you have more than one adjective describing that noun, the rule is the following: A-OSASCOMP + NOUN

Article, Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Color, Origin, Material, Purpose + NOUN

The frightening, fat, old, big-bellied, black, Chinese, furry, research rat 
should be put in a cage.



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