The Internet TESL Journal

Classroom Handout: The Order of Descriptive Adjectives

Yen-Ling Teresa Ting
yltting [at]
University of Calabria (Calabria, Italy)

There are six common types of descriptive adjectives.

What is the correct order of these adjectives?

Opinion adjectives (e.g. beautiful, fantastic, terrible etc.) precede descriptive adjectives.

Be a deductive language detective and use your deductive reasoning to find out what the correct order of these six descriptive adjectives is: Read the following dialogue where two friends comment on the contents of their rich friend's house. Opinion adjectives are in italics and all descriptive adjectives are in bold print.

How good a language detective are you?

What is the correct order of these six categories of descriptive adjectives?

Additional Notes about Descriptive Adjectives

I) Another way to remember the order of descriptive adjectives is that they usually go from more general to more specific adjectives, or from an adjective which can describe more items to one which describes a more limited number of items.
II) Now try these, remembering that opinion adjectives come first, then the descriptive adjectives in the order you found above:
  1. We bought a [lovely comfortable / comfortable lovely] sofa.
  2. She was wearing a [clean nice / nice clean shirt] with [red leather / leather red] shoes.
  3. Their house was [big and tidy / tidy and big].
  4. Did you see the [Italian new / new Italian] film.
  5. She has ____ ______ ____curtains in her living room.
    brown, ugly, polyester.
III) We also place comparative and superlative adjectives before other types of adjectives:

Now Try These

  1. Maria has ______ ________ _________ ________ hair
    false, black, beautiful, thick
  2. I saw the _______ ________ ________ table this morning.
    wooden, most ugly, round
  3. She looks so elegant in her ________ _______ ________ coat.
    wool, Italian, long
  4. That is the _________ ________ _________ sculpture in this museum.
    metal, most unusual, modern
  5. They bought a lot of ________ ________ ________ furniture on the trip.
    Indian, antique, interesting

The Answers

If you, Language-Sherlock, chose the fifth order, you are right!

Additional exercises:
I. Hopefully, you would say antique, Italian, wooden, dining table.

II. 1. lovely comfortable sofa; 2. nice clean shirt with red leather shoes; 3. big and tidy; 4. the new Italian film; 5. ugly brown polyester curtains

III. 1. beautiful, thick, black, false; 2. most ugly round wooden; 3, long Italian wool; 4. most unusual modern metal; 5. interesting antique Indian.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. IX, No. 11, November 2003