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The Royal Order of Adjectives

I found this interesting, in that it's probably something we all do unconsciously, but I'd never seen it 'formally' presented before.


Thoughts? 😁 

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Replies (6)
    • Curious. What do I do with it? I accept I have a seasonal dulled brain so may have missed something..

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      • Reading from left to right each column is the order in which those types of adjectives are used. So the 'determiner' will always be first. The 'observation' will always come before the 'description', and that will always come before any 'origin' or 'material' or 'qualifier', and so on.

        Putting them in a different order just sounds wrong, even though it's just as accurate in terms of description.

          A beautiful old Italian touring car. 

          A touring Italian old beautiful car. 

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        • I can already visualise an author bereft of stylistic ideas pondering the viability of writing an entire novel with the adjective order disrupted....and without any 'e's.

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          • Looking at you, Cormac McCarthy. 😂 

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          • Clearly, the royal order is incomplete. I say this not to be facetious – that comes naturally – but because a little investigation will demonstrate it. It all comes down to missing combinations.

            Try the following for yourself and see whether the royal order works:

            • a physical-shape and physical-age (are you more comfortable with a square old house or an old square house?)
            • an origin and a material (I offer you an English wooden house and a wooden English house)

            As to other parts of the ordering, there are solid grammatical reasons for them.

            Where there are multiple adjectives – especially when not comma-separated – a later adjective-noun pair acts as a single noun for the preceding adjective. Wrap pairs in brackets to get the feel: a beautiful old car (i.e. a beautiful [old car]) is not the same as an old beautiful car (an old [beautiful car]). The former derives its beauty from its age, whereas the latter was always beautiful, and is now old.

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            • All good points, Rick, particularly the one about the 'adjective-noun' pairing and its preceding adjective, and the different meanings that can ensue depending on which of the adjectives forms part of the pairing. Perhaps I should have specified that the 'rule' (it's not really a rule but an evolved group consensus I suppose) seems to apply in most but not all cases, and where the adjectives are all equal in their importance to the final descriptive phrase. 😁 

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