English adjectives learn English grammar

English adjectives

This blog post looks at the different types and order of English adjectives. In English we usually write adjectives before the noun.  However, sometimes, for example, in literary writings, we can put them after the noun.  We can also put adjectives after a verb. Sometimes they can be two words together, for example: well-known.  These are known as compound adjectives. 

Adjectives before the noun:

The happy, smiling man danced with his new wife.

Commas ( , ) are put between the adjectives but not before the noun.

Adjectives after the noun:

The man, happy and smiling, danced with his new wife.

The adjectives are separated with ‘and’ and commas are put before and after the adjectives.  If you take out the adjectives, the sentence is still grammatically correct.

The two sentences say the same thing but have a different effect. 

Adjectives after a verb:

The man was happy and smiling.

 

Adjectives are put in to a word order, for example:

The large, blue, Chinese vase was the most beautiful I had ever bought.

Not

The Chinese, blue, large vase …. OR The blue, Chinese, large vase etc.

It can be confusing for learners.  Here is a table to show the order of adjectives:

 

Order
Relates to
Example
 

1

 

 

opinion

 

Lovely, friendly, ugly, unusual

 

 

2

 

 

Size

 

Big, tiny, medium

 

3

 

Physical quality

 

 

Dirty, clean, smooth

 

4

 

Shape

 

 

Round, curvy, square

 

5

 

Age

 

 

Youthful, old, young

 

6

 

Colour

 

 

Blue, pink, orange

 

7

 

Origin

 

 

Dutch, French, Russian

 

8

 

Material

 

 

Metallic, wood, plastic

 

9

 

Type

 

 

Four-sided, U-shaped

 

10

 

Purpose

 

 

Cooking, writing

 

For my birthday I got a beautiful, small, old, blue and white Chinese, ceramic cooking pot.

Compound adjectives

These are adjectives that contain two or more words.  They are joined together with a hyphen (-). Here are some examples of the most commonly used compound adjectives.

 

Brightly-lit

Describes somewhere with a lot of light.

We live on a very brightly-lit street.  I find it difficult to get to sleep at night.

Densely-populated

Describes an area that has a high population (a lot of people living there)

Parking is always a problem in densely-populated areas of the city.

Kind-hearted

Describes someone who is very kind.

My kind-hearted boss gave 50% of his salary to charity last year.

Last-minute

Describes something that was planned just before it was done.

We booked a last-minute holiday to Spain last month.  We booked it on Friday and flew to Barcelona on the Sunday!

Middle-aged

Usually describes someone who is around forty to sixty years old.

Police are looking for a tall, middle-aged man with red hair and a beard.

Narrow-minded

Describes someone who is not open to new ideas and opinions.

The manager’s narrow-minded ideas made everyone in the office unhappy.

Old-fashioned

Describes something that is not modern

He always wore old-fashioned clothes.

Strong-willed

Describes someone who is really wants to do something or behave in a particular way, even if it is not a good idea.

He was also a strong-willed child.  He never listened to anyone.

Well-behaved

Describes someone, usually children or animals, who behaves in a way that people think is good or correct.

I taught an extremely well-behaved class today.  The children were all very quiet and polite.

If the adjective comes after the noun, we do not need a hyphen.

 

It was a well-behaved class.

The class was well behaved.

 

He is a well-known actor.

He is well known.

 

Compound adjectives with numbers

 

Five-second

There was a five-second delay.

 

Fifteen-minute

We had a fifteen-minute wait before they opened the doors.

 

Four-hour

There was a four-hour delay between flights yesterday.

 

Two-day

We had a two-day stopover in Bangkok when we went to Australia last year.

 

Three-week

My boss took a three-week holiday to go and climb Mount Everest.

 

six-month

I had a six-month contract working for Siemens in Germany.

 

five-year

My five-year-old son has just started school.

 

twenty-storey

They live in a twenty-storey building.

 

Thank you for reading this post on English adjectives.  Why not try…

Adjectives ending in ed and ing

 

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/adjectives