Indisputably, one daunting aspect of English grammar is the adjective ordering. It is perhaps the most confusing after the prepositions (many second speakers of English will attest to this). Many a speaker (as well as writers) has been plunged in a web of confusion when faced with the task of reordering adjectives, whether in speeches or in writing. You may consider a reordering of the adjectives in the sentences below:
The lanky blind fair Nigerian athlete has been adjudged the best Paralympian
The tall dark African young handsome footballer is the world best.
See the correct orderings:
The blind lanky fair Nigerian athlete has been adjudged the world best Paralympian.
The handsome tall young dark African footballer is the world best.
Know that adjectives are not and should not be haphazardly ordered. Any wrong ordering can make you lose marks as a student; and earn you a capital embarrassment as a speaker. It will also deprive you a seat among the comity of revered non-native English users. It is also important to know that the correct adjective orderings are not always palatable for speaker's articulation. Nevertheless, they must not be wrongly or arbitrarily ordered to suit the palate. Now let us consider the rules guiding the ordering of adjectives. But we will start by taking a cursory look at the definition of adjective as word class.
Traditionally, adjectives are word class or parts of speech that modify and qualify a noun or a pronoun. Simply put: They describe the nominal elements. Eg, the intelligent dark Nigerian student. These adjectives are innumerable in types: Quality, quantity, size, weight, shape, colour, origin, nationality and participle etc. One or all of these may be used to describe a single noun. When many adjectives are used to describe a noun, they must follow a particular arrangement. This is what is referred to as adjective ordering in English grammar. The truth is that the ordering of adjectives can be confounding. It can however be overcome by mastering the rules. And the first approach to mastering the rules is to learn by heart all the types of adjectives.
The types of adjectives include the followings:
The determiners comprise the articles (definite and indefinite) and other adjectives of quantity. E.g. a/an, the, some, many, a few, few, a little, little, etc.
These are adjectives that indicate positions: first, second, third etc.
Cardinal adjectives indicate arithmetic quantity such as: one, two, three, four, etc.
Adjectives of quality
These are subcategorized into two: Objective and subjective adjectives. The objective adjectives are used to describe the incontrovertible attributes found in a person or a thing. Such adjectives are: blind, dumb, deaf, which are always generally perceived. The subjective adjectives on the other hand, are those that are often based on individuals' notions and opinions. They include: beautiful, handsome, ugly, brilliant, fine, intelligent, etc. The objective adjectives are expected to come before their subjective counterparts in adjective ordering.
Adjectives of size
Small, big, large, short, tall and others.
Adjectives of weight
Fat, thin, hefty, lanky, etc.
Adjectives of age
Young, old, modern, ancient, new, middle-aged, etc.
Adjectives of Shape
E.g. circular, spherical, oblong, rectangular, conical, rotund etc.
Adjectives of colour
Adjectives of Origins or Nationality:
E.g. Nigerian, British, African, Beninese, Deltalite, Lagosian, Arabian, etc.
Proper nouns used as adjectives:
E.g. Platonic, Socratic, Abrahamic, Shakespearean, Mosaic, etc.
Adjectives of participles.
These are derived from the participle forms of verbs (present or past). E.g, walking, broken, etc; as in: Walking stick and broken bottle.
It therefore follows that when many adjectives are used to describe a noun, the adjective ordering must follow the order in which the above types of adjectives have been listed.
Determiner, coordinal, cardinal, quality, size, weight, Age, shape, colour, origin or nationality Nouns used as adjectives participial adjectives the modified nominal.
... to be continued in the next edition. Don’t miss it.