Nugget of Knowledge: Grammar order


Native English speakers don't have to think about it, but it can be a difficult rule to grasp for someone who is learning to speak English

(WYTV) – Here’s the one grammar rule you follow and you never know you’re following it — the order in which we line up our words.

This can be a difficult rule to grasp for someone who doesn’t speak English.

This comes naturally to us. Maybe our elementary school teacher nudged us a bit, but it didn’t take much.

It’s the way we use our adjectives describing a noun or purpose.

They always go in this order:

  1. Opinion
  2. Size
  3. Age
  4. Shape
  5. Color
  6. Origin
  7. Material
  8. Purpose/Noun

In his book “How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase,” author Mark Forsythe gives us an example of how this arrangement plays out.

“A lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife.”

But if you mess with this order, it turns to nonsense.

Let’s try 5, 7, 8, 6, 3, 2, 4, 1, 8: “A green silver whittling French old little rectangular lovely knife.”

Let’s use fewer adjectives: “An awesome, old, red convertible.” That’s numbers 1, 3, 5 and 8.

Mix it up: “A red, convertible, old, awesome.” That’s 5, 8, 3, 1.

Or “a small, round, wooden bowl.” That’s 2, 4, 7, 8.

Mix it up: “A bowl, wooden, round, small.” That’s 8, 7, 4, 2.

Putting adjectives in order comes naturally to native English speakers but if you’re learning English, you may spend weeks or months trying to nail this down and you may never get it right.

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