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Last weekend I made a grammatical mistake. Yeah, yeah, they happen sometimes. But thankfully, it wasn’t something most people would notice, even if it may have felt strange to their ears, and I got away with it. Only, I thought I might put it on the blog later so people know. So here I am, telling you that I mixed up my order of adjectives when I was saying all those nice things about how A looked.

Now, we all know what adjectives are. Just to refresh that, an adjective is a word that gives us more information about a noun or a pronoun. Examples would be:

Nicholas is a funny man. (See how “funny” tells us what kind of a man Nicholas is?)
Those are beautiful buttons (and “beautiful” tells us how those buttons were)

Often we need to say more than one adjective when we are talking about something. Say, I bought a red sportscar that is not too big. So how would you describe it? You’d probably call it a “sleek little red car” most probably, won’t you? So why would you say “sleek little red car” and not “red sleek little car”?

The reason you will not say that is, it sounds strange to the ear. Now what I am going to talk about in this post is something most of us know but have never thought about. That’s right, I am going to talk about the order in which you can use adjectives in a sentence.

1. Opinion: to describe what you personally think of the object. Could be nice, horrible, beautiful, sleek, silly, or some such.
2. Size: to tell you how big or small the object is. Could be large, enormous, tiny, miniscule, etc.
3. Age: to tell you how young or old something or someone is.Could be ancient, new, young, old, etc.
4. Shape: to tell you what form or shape the object is. Could be square, round, triangular, etc.
5. Colour: to tell you what colour the object is. Could be red, green, purple, yellow, blue, or any other colour.
6. Origin: to tell you where the object comes from. Could be French, European, Asian, solar
7. Material: to tell you what the object is made of. Could be leather, metallic, steel, woollen
8. Purpose: to tell you what the object is meant to do. These end in -ing and can be frying (as in frying pan) or basting (as in basting sauce), etc.

Remembering this is difficult. So here’s an easy mnemonic to remember the order:

1. Oliver
2. Smith
3. Ate
4. Six
5. Chocolate
6. Oreos
7. Mom
8. Packed

Now let us look at some examples.

Opinion Size Age Shape Colour Origin Material Purpose
a little black satin dress
a  reliable old chopping knife
a big round metal bowl
a beautiful red Asian rug
a big fat Greek wedding

So now, I had told A that her “shiny black little dress” was looking nice. See how wrong I was?

Oh, and would be making yet another mistake if I didn’t tell you this. In conventional usage, it is incorrect to put more than three adjectives in a sentence. So don’t be too verbose there, ok?

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