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Adjectives: Types and Order Rules

Adjectives: Types and Order Rules

Alongside Nouns, Verbs, and Adverbs, Adjectives form one of the four major word classes of the English Language. Think of them as seasoning for sentences - adding flavour to nouns and spicing up your writing with a dash of descriptive charm.

Before diving into how adjectives are used, let’s first define what an adjective actually is. 

What’s An Adjective

Adjectives are words used to describe the traits, quality, or number of a noun (people, places, things, or animals). They are often easy to spot as they usually come right before the noun, though that’s not always the case.

There are many types of adjectives, and more than one adjective can be used to describe the given noun. Do note that adjectives only modify nouns, not verbs or adverbs.

Order Of Adjectives

Ever wondered why ‘A big red dog’ sounds smooth to the ears, while ‘A red big dog’ leaves you with a raised eyebrow?

While it’s technically correct, it doesn’t sit well with us. Something isn’t quite right. The reason for this is that the order of adjectives isn’t correct.

Like most students educated under the Singapore MOE English syllabus, the order has been subtly ingrained in our minds through years of reading and listening. Most of us obey this rule instinctively in both formal and informal communication. We don’t give it a second thought.

However, as shown in the example above, whenever two or more adjectives are used to describe a noun, there’s a proper sequence by which they need to follow.


Order Type Examples
1 Opinion Pretty, rich, informative, adorable
2 Size Tiny, large, long, gigantic
3 Age Old, young, elderly, ancient
4 Shape Square, triangular, rectangular, round
5 Colour Black, blue, green, orange
6 Origin Singaporean, Korean, American
7 Material Plastic, wood, metal, glass
8 Purpose Sewing, cooking, washing, hammering


Now, let’s see it in action with a few examples.

Example #1
My grandfather loves his shiny (Opinion), new (Age), black (Colour), American-made (Origin), Ford Mustang (Noun).

Example #2
Jeanie bought a large (Size), rectangular (Shape), wooden (Material) dining (Purpose) table (Noun) for her new home.

In both examples, the adjectives follow the order shown in the table, modifying and providing us with more information about the given noun. Not only are they technically correct, but by following the right order, they sound pleasant to the ears as well.

Degrees Of Adjectives

Adjectives come in three forms, known as degrees: positive, comparative, and superlative. Degrees of adjectives are often used to compare similar qualities of two or more nouns. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Positive Degree Of Adjective

The basic form of an adjective that describes a noun or pronoun without making any comparisons to other nouns. 

Eg. A strong man
Eg. A tidy bedroom
Eg. A dire situation
Eg. A rigid rule
Eg. A colourful painting

Comparative Degree Of Adjective

As the name suggests, comparative adjectives are used when comparing two or more nouns. For most one-syllable adjectives, the comparative is formed by adding the suffix ‘- er’ to the end of the word (eg. fast-er). As for two-syllable adjectives, some use ‘-er’, while others use the adverb ‘more’ (eg. more joyful). Lastly, for adjectives with three or more syllables, the adverb ‘more’ is used (eg. more colourful) to form the comparative.

Eg. A stronger man
Eg. A tidier bedroom
Eg. A more dire situation
Eg. A rigider/ more rigid rule
Eg. A more colourful painting

Superlative Degree Of Adjective

Unsurprisingly, superlative adjectives suggest that something has the highest degree or intensity of the quality in question. As with comparative adjectives, you can turn one-syllabus adjectives into superlatives simply by adding the suffix ‘-est’. For two syllable adjectives, use either ‘-est’ or ‘more’. As for adjectives with three or more syllables, just add the word ‘most’.

*Bonus tip
Do note that when using an article with a superlative, the article will almost always be the definite article ‘the’. This is because when you use a superlative, you’re referring to a specific item or items.

Eg. The strongest man
Eg. The tidiest bedroom
Eg. The most dire situation
Eg. The rigidest/ most rigid rule
Eg. The most colourful painting

Irregular Adjectives

When it comes to comparative and superlative adjectives, there is a small group that doesn’t follow the rules. They are commonly referred to as Irregular Adjectives. What makes them different from your regular adjectives is that they don’t form the comparative and superlative degrees by simply adding ‘-er/-est’ or ‘more/most’. Try memorising them if possible so that you always know the right word to use.


Positive Comparative Superlative
Good Better Best
Many More Most
Bad Worse Worst
Far Farther/further Farthest/Furthest
Little Less Least


For more information on the basic rules of Adjectives, check out this article.


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