Order of Adjectives & Comma Use with Paired Adjectives

In English, it is common to use more than one adjective before a noun.

For example, we can write "He's a funny young boy," or "She's a smart, energetic woman."

When you use more than one adjective, you have to put them in the right order, according to type.

It is correct to write, "I have a small red car", but it is not correct to write, "I have a red small car".

When you use two adjectives together, you sometimes use "and" between them and you sometimes don't.

When you use two adjectives together (also called paired adjectives), you sometimes use a comma between them and sometimes don't use a comma.

This page will explain the different types of adjectives, the correct order for them, the rule for using "and" with paired adjectives, and the general rule for using a comma between paired adjectives.


Types of Adjectives - OSASCOMP

Type

Definition and Examples

Opinion

An opinion adjective explains what you think about something.

Examples: funny, beautiful, fabulous, difficult

Size

A size adjective tells you how big or small something is.

Examples: large, tiny, enormous, little

Age

An age adjective describes the shape of something.

Examples: ancient, new, young, old

Shape

A shape adjective describes the shape of something.

Examples: square, round, flat, rectangular

Color

A color adjective describes the color of something.

Examples: blue, pink, reddish, gray

Origin

An origin (or nationality) adjective describes where something comes from.

Examples: Mexican, Chinese, eastern, northern, lunar, solar

Material

A material adjective describes what something is made from.

Examples: wooden, metal, cotton, paper, stone

Purpose

A purpose adjective describes what something is used for.

These adjectives often end with "-ing".

Examples: sleeping (as in "sleeping bag"), roasting (as in "roasting pan")

Can you identify what type of adjective a word is? Click on a "Quiz Me" link below, read the sentence, and choose what type (category) of adjective is used.

 Open quiz question

In the sentence, "The intelligent students did well on the test", "intelligent" is an adjective of
    a. opinion
    b. origin
    c. material

   

Partially correct.
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 Open quiz question
In the sentence, "The supermarket uses plastic bags", "plastic" is an adjective of
    a. color
    b. purpose
    c. material

   

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 Open quiz question
In the sentence, "I live in a stucco house", "stucco" is an adjective of
    a. material
    b. opinion
    c. size

   

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 Open quiz question
In the sentence, "I enjoy eating at Italian restaurants", "Italian" is an adjective of
    a. shape
    b. origin
    c. age

   

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 Open quiz question
In the sentence, "I need to buy a baking pan", "baking" is an adjective of
    a. purpose
    b. shape
    c. material

   

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 Open quiz question
In the sentence, "I don't have any square pans", "square" is an adjective of
    a. size
    b. shape
    c. origin

   

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Order of Adjectives - OSASCOMP

Although there are some exceptions, the general order of adjectives in a pair or series is as follows:

determiner

Opinion

Size

Age

Shape

Color

Origin

Material

Purpose

noun

a/an/the

handsome

 

young

 

 

German

 

 

man

one/two/three

 

huge

 

round

 

 

metal

 

bowls

this/that

smart

little

 

 

 

 

 

 

girl

my/your/his

 

 

old

 

red

 

 

sleeping

bag

  


Using "and" with Paired Adjectives

When two adjectives are used together to describe a noun, they are sometimes called "paired adjectives" (they are also sometimes called coordinate & cumulative adjectives). Although there are some exceptions (for example, "I bought a black and white shirt."), the general rule for using "and" is this:

If the paired adjectives come BEFORE the noun, DO NOT USE "and".

Correct: She went to a fabulous French restaurant.

NOT CORRECT: She went to a fabulous and French restaurant.

 

If the paired adjectives come AFTER the noun, USE "and".

Correct: The restaurant is fabulous and French.

NOT CORRECT: The restaurant is fabulous French.

 

Do you know where an "and" is needed? Click on the links below to try.

 Open quiz question

The following is correct:

She has big and flat feet.

    True
    False

   

Partially correct.
Right! Good job! The paired adjectives come before the noun, so "and" is not needed.
Sorry, incorrect answer. The adjectives "big" and "flat" come before the noun "feet", so "and" is not used.
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 Open quiz question
The following sentence is correct:

Her feet are big flat.

    True
    False

   

Partially correct.
Right! Good job! The paired adjectives come after the noun, so "and" is needed.
Sorry, incorrect answer. The adjectives "big" and "flat" come after the noun "feet", so "and" is needed between them.
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 Open quiz question
Choose the correct sentence:
    a. He has a shiny gold tooth.
    b. He has a shiny and gold tooth.
    c. He has a tooth shiny gold.

   

Partially correct.
Right! Good job! The paired adjectives come before the noun, so "and" is not needed.
Sorry, incorrect answer. The adjectives need to come before the noun with no "and", OR after the verb and separated by "and". Only the first sentence does both.
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 Open quiz question
Choose the correct sentence:
    a. His tooth is gold shiny.
    b. His shiny and gold tooth is.
    c. His tooth is shiny and gold.

   

Partially correct.
Right! Good job! The paired adjectives come after the noun, so "and" is needed.
Sorry, incorrect answer. Both adjectives need to come immediately before the noun, OR after the noun and linking verb. If they come after the verb, "and" is used between them.
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Commas with Paired Adjectives

How do you know when to use a comma between paired adjectives and when not to use a comma? It depends on the type of adjectives that are in the pair.

 

We can use two different types of adjectives to describe one noun.

For example, we can use an adjective of sizeand an adjective of origin to describe one thing, as in "She met a tall American man".

 

We can also use two similar types of adjectives to describe one noun.

For example, we can use two adjectives of opinion, as in "She met a handsome, mysterious man.

 

Although there are some exceptions, the general rule for using a comma between paired adjectives is this:

If the paired adjectives come BEFORE the noun AND giveDIFFERENT TYPES of information, DO NOT USE A COMMA between them.

Correct: She went to a fabulous French restaurant.

NOT Correct: She went to a fabulous, French restaurant.

"fabulous" is an adjective of opinion, and "French" is an adjective of origin or nationality. They give different types of information, so comma is not needed between them. Notice that you also cannot reverse their order. You CANNOT say, "She went to a French fabulous restaurant".

 

If the paired adjectives come BEFORE the noun AND giveSIMILAR TYPES of information, USE A COMMA between them.

Correct: She ate some delicious, elegant food.

NOT Correct: She ate some delicious elegant food.

"delicious" and "elegant" are both adjectives of opinion. They give similar types of information, so a comma is needed between them. Notice that you can also reverse their order. You CAN say, "She ate some elegant, delicious food".

 

If the paired adjectives come AFTER the noun, USE "and" with NO COMMA. It does not matter what types of adjectives are in the pair.

Correct: The restaurant was fabulous and French.

NOT Correct: The restaurant was fabulous, French.

NOT Correct: The restaurant was fabulous, and French.

Correct: The food was delicious and elegant.

NOT Correct: The food was delicious, elegant.

NOT Correct: The food was delicious, and elegant.

Do you know where a comma is needed? Click on the links below to try.

 Open quiz question

The following sentence has correct punctuation:

She bought a plastic, watering can.

    True
    False

   

Partially correct.
Right! Good job! They are different types of adjectives, so a comma is not needed.
Sorry, incorrect answer. They are different types of adjectives, so no comma is needed. "Plastic" tells the material, and "watering" tells the purpose.
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 Open quiz question
The following sentence has correct punctuation:

He has nice generous neighbors.

    True
    False

   

Partially correct.
Right! Good job! They are similar types of adjectives, so a comma is needed.
Sorry, incorrect answer. The adjectives give similar types of information. "Nice" and "generous" are both opinions, so a comma should be used between them.
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 Open quiz question
The following sentence has correct punctuation:

They live in a big old house.

    True
    False

   

Partially correct.
Right! Good job! They are different types of adjectives, so a comma is not needed.
Sorry, incorrect answer. They are different types of adjectives, so no comma is needed. "big" tells the size, and "old" tells the age.
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 Open quiz question
The following sentence has correct punctuation:

She loves to eat spicy Thai food.

    True
    False

   

Partially correct.
Right! Good job! They are different types of adjectives, so a comma is not needed.
Sorry, incorrect answer. They are different types of adjectives, so no comma is needed. "spicy" tells an opinion, and "Thai" tells the origin/nationality.
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 Open quiz question
The following sentence is correct:

Their dog is obedient, loving.

    True
    False

   

Partially correct.
Right! Good job! The adjectives come after the noun and verb, so "and" is needed, not a comma.
Sorry, incorrect answer. The two adjectives come after the noun and verb, so an "and" with no comma is needed between them.
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