Order of Adjectives

It’s true that foreigners are taught to memorize the order. But it’s easier to read a lot, and that will give you the feel for why “an old French lady” is not the same as “a French old lady.” Or why saying “pretty little horses” is ok but “little pretty horses” is crazy.

But yeah, we were made to memorize all this crap, and I drove professors crazy because I could put adjectives in correct order without consulting the “opinion-size-age-shape,etc” list.

11 thoughts on “Order of Adjectives”

  1. I suppose you were taught this order at the university studying to be a translator since I’ve never heard it existed till reading your post despite studying English both in Ukraine and Israel for years.

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    1. I second that – never heard of this order. And I have been taught English by a private teacher who was a university professor.

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  2. Second Reply to: Order of Adjectives

    Upon reflection, I remember being taught that in elementary school that an adjective can sometimes follow the noun it modifies. Upon further reflection, the only examples I can think of are in titles, as in “the forest primeval” or “the river wild.”

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    1. It depends on the kind of language it is. Uninflected languages have very strict word order. The more inflected a language is, the more variation there can be in the word order. Russian is very inflected, so we have an almost infinite freedom in word order.

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  3. I’ve never been able to learn a language through being taught one, and most of my understanding of both of my tongues is near entirely intuitive. I’d spend most of my language classes – unless literature was involved – doodling or just idly burning through the textbook.

    It’s rather a shame, as I learned both of them as a kid through extended exposure and find learning a new one near impossibly difficult now – I can’t immerse myself into a new one without either frustration or boredom – the things I can actually half-understand tend to be horribly boring, and I’ve got a deeply ingrained experience of disciplined learning being kind of pointless.

    People learning new languages as adults seems like some kind of wizard magic to me.

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    1. “People learning new languages as adults seems like some kind of wizard magic to me.”

      Much of learning a new language is BORING. Unless you want to sound illiterate when you speak it, you have to open some grammar books and memorize grammatical structure, infliction, and sentence formation.

      Berlitz Language Schools used to advertise that in their courses, you’d learn the new language by simply talking in immersion classes with their instructor. The ads never mentioned the books that they gave you to spend hours studying every night after the all-day classes.

      As for proper adjective order in English, I’m old enough to remember when American public schools actually taught students grammar and sentence diagramming, but I’ve never seen adjective order rules spelled out until Clarissa’s post.

      When non-English speakers are taught English, do the teachers point out the clearly audible difference in word emphasis in sentences like: “Trump lives in the WHITE House” versus “Mary lives in a white HOUSE”?

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  4. Why does WordPress hate me?

    I just posted a very relevant comment that will probably show up in 24 hours or so when nobody is following new comments to this post. 😦

    I’ll repeat my main question: When non-English speakers are taught to speak English, do the instructors point out the proper clearly audible word-emphasis difference in sentences like “Trump lives in the WHITE House” and “Mary lives in a white HOUSE”?

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    1. \ When non-English speakers are taught to speak English, do the instructors point out the proper clearly audible word-emphasis difference in sentences like “Trump lives in the WHITE House” and “Mary lives in a white HOUSE”?

      I was not, but the English instruction in Donbass region in Ukraine was completely atrocious. Among the string of constantly changing English teachers, only one young female teacher was good, but she soon left too.

      In Israel I haven’t heard about any emphases either.

      The examples you give make sense, but I mainly read in English, don’t hear people speaking it, so …

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    2. ” do the instructors point out the proper clearly audible word-emphasis difference ”

      Short answer – no. The industry that has sprung up around teaching English as a foreign language are dedicated to the idea that English is very easy and so difficulties of that type are shoved aside.
      Also in Europe where UK usage is more accepted textbooks are written by Brits with very wrong ideas of how people actually learn languages.
      Also, when non-native speakers engage with each other all sorts of niceties go out the window. It gets the job done but it’s not something a native speakers wants to listen to for long…

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