Off topic: The order of English adjectives.
Thread poster: konradxtofik

konradxtofik
Local time: 09:26
English to Polish
+ ...
Nov 2, 2011

Hey all,


I have been trying to memorise the order of English adjectives.


They are:

Quantity

Opinion

Shape

Age

Colour

Origin

Material

Purpose


Do you know one good round old clear English phrase which would make me remember the order forever?
How is it called, a mnemonic.


Many thanks for your ideas.

Konrad


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
No idea Nov 2, 2011

konradxtofik wrote:

Hey all,


I have been trying to memorise the order of English adjectives.


They are:

Quantity

Opinion

Shape

Age

Colour

Origin

Material

Purpose


Do you know one good round old clear English phrase which would make me remember the order forever?
How is it called, a mnemonic.


Many thanks for your ideas.

Konrad


I'm a native speaker of English, and (like most of us, I'm sure) do not know the rules of adjective ordering, beyond the basic "Time+Manner+Place" configuration. When working in TEFL I had to teach these rules from the book and am not embarrassed to admit that I retained almost none of this knowledge!

Correct ordering and phrasing just seems to be something acquired and instinctive to me, and when something is out of place it "doesn't feel/look right". If I had to remember the order rules, I'm afraid I'd simply have to note them down on a piece of paper and keep it by my computer!

[Edited at 2011-11-02 10:31 GMT]


 

Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mnemonic Nov 2, 2011

Although your order will always be disputed, it is the one that you find workable, so stay with it! (Others will call the adjectives by different categories, introduce subcategories, etc.).

There is not, afaik, a well-known mnemonic, since native speakers don't need it! So I suggest we should invent one:

quite often simply asking can obliterate many problems...

Any other suggestions?!

Good luck

Noni


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:26
Hebrew to English
Adjective Order Nov 2, 2011

This is the generally accepted order as you have noted already. You may notice some of the middle categories shift around sometimes (especially size, age and shape)..thus producing several slightly different versions:

adjective-order-4.jpg

This prescriptive rule though has pitfalls, as this information points out:
The "ugly red wooden box" sounds correct, but the "wooden red ugly box" sounds wrong. There is a "rule" describing the order English adjectives are used in:

1.Opinion or judgment -- beautiful, ugly, easy, fast, interesting
2.Size -- small, tall, short, big
3.Age -- young, old, new, historic, ancient
4.Shape -- round, square, rectangular
5.Color -- red, black, green, purple
6.Nationality -- French, Asian, American, Canadian, Japanese
7.Material -- wooden, metallic, plastic, glass, paper
8.Purpose or Qualifier -- foldout sofa, fishing boat, racing car

So: the "beautiful long old curved red Italian steel racing car"

Take care when applying the rule to categorise the adjectives correctly. For example, "The old rotund man read a short old story about an ugly big bear" seems to follow the rules, yet sounds wrong. In this case, "old" and "short" are qualifiers, not merely size or age designations, because "old man" is a social concept on its own, and "short story" is a genre. And "big ugly" is a "commonplace term".

http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/cyc/a/adj.htm

The truth is that you're unlikely to ever really need to know them all. A sentence with that many adjectives will be highly artificial in most contexts. (May be more common in poetry or literature).

As for a mnemonic, whilst I don't think it's necessary for this grammar point, if you wanted one you usually take the first letter and try to make a word or phrase, so using your order of adjectives:

"QOSACOMP" which is pronounceable but not an established word.

You might want to try associating imagery with the acronym if the word itself isn't memorable. For me, "QOSACOMP" sounds like "Cossack hump".
(Cossacks = Russian-ish)
(hump = slang for being in a bad mood)
And many Russians I've met certainly do appear in a bad mood 99% of the time. So, Russians who have got the hump = Cossacks with the hump = Qosacomp.

But that's just meicon_smile.gif


 

toma_cristina
Local time: 11:26
English to Romanian
It work for me !!! Nov 2, 2011

A beautiful long old curved red Italian steel racing caricon_smile.gif

Good luck,

Cristina


 

JaneD  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:26
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
You learn something new every day... Nov 2, 2011

There are rules for the order of English adjectives? How peculiar!

Coming from a part of Britain where the education system was about 20 years out of date, I was taught English grammar quite thoroughly, but I've never heard of rules for adjective order.

As neilmac says, I go by feel, which I expect is much the same for any other native speaker of any language. There are no doubt rules for every language that native speakers have never needed to specifically learn but have acquired anyway. The magic of child language acquisition!

Edit to answer the OP's actual question - I think you will need to ask non-natives, Konrad, as there don't seem to be any "good old English" ways to remember this other than "whatever feels right" - sorry!

[Edited at 2011-11-02 11:01 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:26
Hebrew to English
A Pedagogical perspective Nov 2, 2011

Student:
"As an EFL student in Peru I was taught “OSASCOMP”, which means: Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Colour, Origin, Material, Purpose…you know, the order of adjectives? It was pretty popular here, lots of teachers used it… I thought it was useless, what do u think?"

Lindsay Clandfield (somewhat of a "known" name in EFL circles and author of teaching materials)
"Yes… the infamous order of adjectives. Nice mnemonic but I always found teaching ALL of those and making students remember them a bit of a waste of time. How often will they encounter a huge string of adjectives like that and need to order them? Gosh, I’d prefer it if my students remembered enough adjectives in English (i.e. instead of always saying “nice” or “bad”) without having to remember the order."

http://sixthings.net/2009/11/26/six-fun-little-mnemonics/


 

XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:26
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Quickly Open Shutters and Coax Out Muddy Paws Nov 2, 2011

konradxtofik wrote:

Hey all,


I have been trying to memorise the order of English adjectives.


They are:

Quantity

Opinion

Shape

Age

Colour

Origin

Material

Purpose


Do you know one good round old clear English phrase which would make me remember the order forever?
How is it called, a mnemonic.


Many thanks for your ideas.

Konrad


Okay, it needs workicon_wink.gif


 

konradxtofik
Local time: 09:26
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
your comments Nov 2, 2011

Thank you for sharing your ideas! I like your views and comments, there was the "Size" I forgot about; and they say size matters ...
It is true we hardly ever come across a string of all of the adjectives. Nevertheless the rule would apply even with just two/three of them (e.g. "a fantastic big wooden ship" or "a big fantastic wooden ship"?). It probably runs in the blood of English native speakers, I see no trace of Soviet rule drilling at school.
I will try to memorise "Quite Often Simply Asking [+] Can Obliterate Many Problems" QuOSA SCOMP?
I have also found on the Internet that the adjectives not belonging to any of the groups (!) usually fall just after the Size (e.g. a big fast car).


[Edited at 2011-11-02 12:19 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:26
Hebrew to English
Quietly offer strangers a cold oriental mud pie. Nov 2, 2011

A few more suggestions...

Quietly offer strangers a cold oriental mud pie.
Quit ogling sexy attractive co-eds or meet pallbearer.
Quilt on sofa as caught out mucky punk
Quite obvious Sarkozy and Comrade Ogre Merkel p***ed (educational & topical)

icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2011-11-02 13:32 GMT]


 

Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
Great fun Ty and Lisa Nov 2, 2011

Of course it's true that an example sentence is probably most useful, but come on everyone, get your imagination to work!

[Edited at 2011-11-02 15:17 GMT]


 

konradxtofik
Local time: 09:26
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Cannot think of a QuOpSiAgShCoOrMaPu sentence Nov 2, 2011

I usually get best ideas crunching or chewing something.
This time I will get two delicious tiny fresh stretched red pork gellatine chewy bears, that may help me come up with the clue.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:26
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Break up the list somehow Nov 2, 2011

I have just blown the dust off my English grammar and found it fairly useless on this subject!

Michael Swan simply says the rules are very complex and that different grammars disagree. He does give some advice, though:
Colour, origin, material, purpose

Other adjectives before these

Judgements and attitudes before all adjectives
lovely, definite, silly,

Numbers before adjectives

First, next and last before numbers (The first three weeks, the last couple of days)
_____________________________

I try to limit the number of successive adjectives, which makes it a lot easier.

Three cheerful fair-haired people from Scandinavia
--> Three fair-haired Scandinavians with laughing blue eyes ...

Lots of neglected large old rusty German cars - sounds wrong somehow.
--> All those big old German cars were now neglected and rusting ...

It sounds far more like native English to me to break up the row of adjectives, possibly converting some into other parts of speech, and then you can reshuffle them more or less as you like!

More than three adjectives in a row can easily sound like someone making fun, or being deliberately childish, so it is really best to evade the issue one way or another IMHO.

But I do like some of the mnemonics icon_wink.gif


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:26
French to English
+ ...
Universal? Nov 2, 2011

It's worth mentioning that there's a theory that adjective ordering is essentially universal-- i.e. in any language, the relatively ordering is essentially the same (this is from a "structural" point of view, so in particular there's the proviso that in a language where the noun precedes certain adjectives, those adjectives will end up in the reverse order compared to a language where the noun comes after the adjectives).

So you might be getting bogged down in a problem you don't need to get too bogged down in.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:26
German to Serbian
+ ...
Not always symmetrically reverse order Nov 3, 2011

See this example in French, which is known to have adjectives mostly after the noun:

a little wooden red chair
une petite chaise en bois rouge

One adjective came before the noun, the other two after the noun?

In my native language, you can change places of these adjectives in the phrase, using any combination, and the phrase will still be OK. English has a more fixed order of these adjectives.

[Edited at 2011-11-03 00:24 GMT]


 


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