What Is the Proper Order of Adjectives?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by jpanhalt, Sep 5, 2016.

  1. jpanhalt

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    In all my years of English training (maybe 1 or 2 at the most ;) ), I have never seen any rule for how adjectives are ordered. It just seems to come naturally. For example, a fifty-something, stupid, golden gopher is different from a golden, fifty-something , stupid gopher.

    A friend sent me this linguist's explanation. It seems true in my experience. For your enjoyment:

    upload_2016-9-5_18-49-55.png

    Source: https://www.facebook.com/stevetheva...468115645813/1176801089045845/?type=3&theater

    There are other examples on the Internet.

    John
     
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  2. wayneh

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    I don't agree that the order of adjective matters so much. There can be ambiguity no matter what order multiple adjectives are applied in.

    What certainly does matter is whether a noun is being used as an adjective, such as "college" in "college student". You would not say that a "bored college student" is equal to a "college bored student".
     
  3. tcmtech

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    I think that what it is that you say does not make as much sense as it should possibly, maybe.

    Wut's dat doin' fer you's grammar an wordin' stuff masters? o_O
     
  4. Alec_t

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    As you say, the adjective order comes naturally, but some variations in the order can seem equally natural. Does a natural order, or grammatically-correct order, occur in other languages?
     
  5. cmartinez

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    Yes, at least in Spanish it does (except when dealing with Poetry, but that's an entirely different subject). ... it's interesting to note that, in English, since adjectives are used before the noun, it forces the listener to pay more attention to what is being said before a complete shape is formed in his mind.

    Take, for instance, the sentence: "The red house" ... in an English speaker, the word red practically seeds the mind, preparing it to visualize that, whatever noun is mentioned next, it will be colored red. The red color being a simple attribute that minimally complicates the listener's pre-interpretation.

    Now let's consider the same sentence in Spanish: "La casa roja" ... since the subject is mentioned first, and since it is a complex object (and it usually is), in the listener's mind a house has already taken shape, including its windows, doors, rooms, bathrooms, a backyard, etc. And this pre-conceived house will probably have a pre-defined architecture (such as being one or two-storied), depending on the listener's culture. And of course, most likely even its color. So in this case the Listener has already interrupted in his own mind the person saying the sentence before the Teller has had enough time to finish what he's trying to say... and that's a big no-no when aiming for effective communication.

    In my humble opinion, English makes for better listeners, while Spanish better talkers. I don't know German (but my 19 year old son is learning it), but I've heard that normally the verb is among the last words said in a sentence, and that might be an even better thing concerning effective (and efficient) communication. In this case, the Listener is not only forced, but also compelled to listen to the sentence in its entirety before judging what is being said, while the Teller must clarify in his own mind what he wants to say before he starts uttering the words.

    Here's a very interesting article that I found to be very much true, in my personal case. My own personality, including traits such as sense of humor, and diplomatic engagement, shifts a little depending of whether I'm using English or Spanish when expressing myself.

    And here's another one, showing how a reader's perception changes depending on the language being read.

    @atferrari, @Hypatia's Protege
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2016
  6. GopherT

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    Do you have examples that sound like normal sentences when the adjectives are used out of the prescribed order? Play with the suggested sequence a little bit and you will see how right the author is. You don't even need to use all the categories, just two or three. When used in the prescribed order, they sound perfectly natural but anything else seems very odd.
     
  7. joeyd999

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    In either case, I don't think he's stupid. He just pretends sometimes -- for effect.
     
  8. wayneh

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    I don't disagree. An "old red rubber ball" feels natural while a "rubber red old ball" feels unfamiliar. The meaning isn't any different, really.
     
  9. cmartinez

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    In spanish, it would be something like "bola vieja de hule rojo", which linearly translates as "ball old of rubber red" ... definitely odd sounding, yuck!
     
  10. GopherT

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    I agree that it means the same thing but I also agree with the original post. The original post essentially says,
    - it is a set of rules we all use,
    - we don't realize we use them, but
    - we know when someone doesn't use them correctly because the sentence sounds odd.
     
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  11. GopherT

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    I would argue with golden as well, I am more red than golden. I appreciate the 50-something.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2016
  12. KL7AJ

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    Whatever sounds the most poetic wins. :)
     
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  13. KL7AJ

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    "She has a red big zit on her nose" doesn't have the same impact as "She has a big red zit on her nose."
     
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  14. GenJacks

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  15. atferrari

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    Interesting point.

    I know lot of bilingual people: Japanese, Brazilian, Chinese, British, Italian, French and maybe others. It seems to me that what most influence them, even if very proficient in both languages, is always the one used at home with their parents (or equivalent people). Unless learning a language in a lab with no direct contact with people, in one way or another, you are exposed to manners and gestures otherwise strange to you. Wait for any of my compatriots to say the equivalent of "I beg to differ"...:eek:

    In my daily work, done 99% of the time in English, arguing, I can do without feeling very emotive (?) even if very angry with the other part. Sometimes I ask myself if what I do is just putting words together in sentences, throwing them to the other part and see what happens...:) Using a foreign language, I feel much less emotionally involved than if using my Spanish.

    BTW, I realized that you are becoming proficient in a language when you are able to be angry (and express your anger, not just cursing) without resorting to your own. Well, as long that is not all you can do...:p
     
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  16. Kermit2

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    Intrinsic attributes immediately preceeding the noun.
    Modifying attributes preceeding intrinsic ones.

    Big old red car.

    Red is the most detailed descriptive modifier of the noun.

    Old is the next most descriptive modifier. Lots of cars can be old but only a smaller subset of them are red.

    Big can describe numerous things and is the least descriptive adjective for this object. Lots of cars are big, new and old ones, red and blue and black ones.

    Like many rules in English there are ALWAYS exceptions.
     
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