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Describing Adjectives

Whilst they have different functions, adjectives and adverbs are both very effective describing words.  They can help to improve sentences through providing more information about the nouns and verbs.


Adjectives are more of a traditional describing word as they are used to describe nouns (for more information on nouns, click here).  This will make a sentence more descriptive and present a clearer mental picture to the reader:

I have a pen.

with an adjective becomes

I have a blue pen.

or with two adjectives becomes

I have a small, blue pen.

Pupils should always be careful about the number of adjectives used.  It’s important not to overuse them or the writing may seem unnatural.  There is however, no official limit and some might say that’s just my personal preference.

The Order of Adjectives

Should you wish to use lots of adjectives, then there is a particular order that should be applied.  This ‘unwritten rule has actually been written and shared all over social media (and verified in a Guardian article

The order, typically preceded by a determiner:

  • opinion
  • size
  • age
  • shape
  • colour
  • origin
  • material
  • purpose

A noun will usually come next.

In practice the list might look something like this - A horrible, small, old, square, blue, Russian, tin, touring car.  

Okay, so it seems a little strange, but try and come up with your own examples without sounding really strange.

In his book ‘Elements of Eloquence’, author Mark Forsyth notes

“It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out’

A notable exception to this is the ‘Big, Bad Wolf’ or ‘Big Bad Barrie’ for those of you with young children who watch ‘Ben and Holly’.  For those of you actually called Barrie, the latter might explain why children often burst into hysterical laughter on the mention of your name - I speak from experience.

Adjectives are covered in ‘The Grammar Show’.

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