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Welcome to this week's writing lesson from

 MyEnglishTeacher.net

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  Can you describe what it looks like?  

Lesson Topic: Using Adjectives and the Order of Adjectives

Let's say you want to buy a new car.  You could not go to the car dealer and say, "I have been dreaming about having a car for a long time.  I know exactly what I want.  Please give it to me."

Of course he would think you are a bit crazy, but he would also ask you a very important question: "What does your dream car look like?"  You would need to describe it to the car dealer, or you simply wouldn't get the car you had been dreaming about.  You would most likely get the automobile the dealer couldn't sell.  That wouldn't be a dream car; it would be a nightmare!

Fortunately, you could use words to describe the car of your dreams.  The words that describe things are called adjectives.  Adjectives describe nouns (nouns are people, places, and things).  Adjectives are a terrific way to make your writing a lot more interesting, too.  Take a look at the following sentence:

I want to buy a car. 

Is this an interesting sentence?  Does it describe the kind of car you want to buy?  The answers are NO and NO!  The listener/reader doesn't know what kind of car you want.  Do you want a big car or little car?  Fast or slow?  Red or blue?  Old or new?  It is quite unclear.  It is also poor writing because it is very boring.  Would you buy a book that was written like this?  Probably not.  Unfortunately, many students and writers write like this.  It is a very common problem which is quite easy to fix.

So what kind of car do you want?  Well, um, . . . 

I want to buy a blue car.

I want to buy a new car.

I want to buy a European car.

I want to buy a beautiful car.

Did you find the adjectives?  They are the words that describe the car.  The adjectives above are blue, new, European, and beautiful.  The above 4 sentences are written as if the writer wants 4 different cars.  However, if the writer just wants 1 car, how would he/she combine the sentences into 1 sentence?  The writer needs to put all of the adjectives together.  Therefore, we get

I want to buy a blue, new, European, beautiful car. 

How's that?  Are there any problems?  YES, there are problems!  The ORDER of adjectives is quite important in English.  There is an order of adjectives that native speakers of English normally follow.  The list below shows how the order of adjectives is usually presented; however, there are exceptions and different combinations depending on the situation.

OPINION APPEARANCE AGE COLOR ORIGIN MATERIAL

good

bad

beautiful

ugly

smart 

dumb

usually follows this order:

 

size/measure

big

small

high

low

 

shape

round

circular

square

 

condition

broken

cracked

ripped

fresh

rotten

new

antique

old

young

two-year-old*

red

purple

pink

dark green

navy blue

Korean

Chinese

French

Italian

American

iron

brass

cotton

gold

wooden

vegetable

 

 

*Adjectives are never plural.  Therefore, when the adjective contains a number and noun, the noun associated with the number is singular.

This is a three-year-old car. CORRECT
This is a three-years-old car. INCORRECT

Using the above list, we can put all four adjectives together to get the following sentence:

I want to buy a beautiful, new, blue, European car. 

Adding adjectives is very important if you want to make your writing more interesting.  It helps the reader/listener form a picture in his/her mind.

For example, which of these two sentences is more descriptive and interesting?  Which draws a picture in the reader's mind?

1 I want to buy a car. 
-OR-  
2 I want to buy a beautiful, new, blue, European car.

Of course the second sentence is more descriptive and interesting.  The reader can see the car in his/her mind.  If you  would like to learn more ways to make your writing interesting, please see our other lessons on this topic.  Just go to http://www.MyEnglishTeacher.net/previous.html

Quiz

Directions: Look at the following sentences and adjectives.  Rewrite the sentences using the adjectives in blue.  Be sure to write them in the correct order. 

1.  Aunt Betty wants a coffee table.  (stone, square, gray)

2.  The king took a trip.  (2-week, exhausting)

3.  These are cookies!  (chocolate chip, delicious, huge)

4.  Alice prefers furniture.  (leather, Italian, black)

5.  Archeologists get very excited when they find bones.  (animal, large, prehistoric)

 



 

1.  Aunt Betty wants a square, gray, stone coffee table. 

2.  The king took an exhausting, 2-week trip.

*exhausting refers to opinion

3.  These are delicious, huge, chocolate chip cookies!

*chocolate chip refers to a material used to make the cookies

4.  Alice prefers black, Italian, leather furniture.

5.  Archeologists get very excited when they find large, prehistoric, animal bones.

*prehistoric refers to age

 

  Rules to Remember!

1

Use commas after each adjective except the last one (no comma between the last adjective and the noun).  For example, 

     Alice prefers black, Italian, leather furniture.

2

If an adjective has 2 words, do not put a comma between the words.  For example,

     These are delicious, huge, chocolate chip cookies!

3

It is not necessary to use adjectives with all nouns.  It is suggested that you use adjectives to describe things that are important to both the writer and the reader.  

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