In order to succeed in the IELTS exam, you need to use language accurately and also naturally. This means being specific and conveying your exact meaning. You need to be able to use your vocabulary correctly, or it counts as an error. By now you probably know that a great way to make your English sound more specific and advanced is to couple adjectives and nouns. Look at the following adjective + noun pairs:

red sweater

big chair

delicious food

Obviously, that’s better than just saying the nouns alone, but sometimes we want to give more detail. Fortunately, in English you can link together long chains of adjectives to convey a very precise meaning. However, it’s not easy. You need to remember the order.

Adjective Order

For most English speakers, one of the following sentences makes perfect sense and the other sounds just plain bizarre:

a beautiful big round old black Italian wooden dining table

a black wooden round big Italian beautiful old dining table

Any native speaker will know that the second sentence sounds terrible – but why?

In English, when we put together lists of adjectives, they must follow a definite order. It goes like this:

opinion + size + shape + age + colour (or pattern) + origin + material + style (or purpose) + noun

That’s a lot to remember!

But don’t worry, most times you won’t need to use all of these adjectives at once. In fact, it does sound a bit ridiculous to use so many.

Adjective List Examples

Here are some more natural examples:

OpinionSize ShapeAgeColour/ patternOriginMaterialStyle/ purposeNoun
cool antique brownFrench  wristwatch
 big oldspotted leather belt
 fat  green   parrot
scary  new Korean  movie
 tallthin bronze   man
favourite long   wooden-handledhuntingknife