How To Order Adjectives in a Sentence

Updated February 27, 2023
The order of different types of cumulative adjectives when used in a sentence.
    Order of adjectives
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Which sounds better: "gray three adorable lambs” or "three adorable gray lambs"? English speakers quickly agree that it’s the second one, but why? These adjectives are cumulative adjectives, which set up the order of adjectives that come before a noun — and if they’re out of order, they don’t sound right.

What Are Cumulative Adjectives?

Cumulative adjectives are two or more adjectives that build upon each other to describe the same noun. Each adjective describes a different aspect of the noun.

  • three adorable gray lambs
    (three, adorable, and gray all describe different parts of the noun lambs)
  • wonderful young British man
    (wonderful, young, and British all describe different parts of the noun man)
  • lovely round red ruby
    (lovely, round, and red all describe different parts of the noun lambs) 

It may seem like the order of these adjectives is random, but it's not. While English speakers know this order instinctively, it's a little trickier for English learners.


Fast Fact

Only cumulative adjectives, which describe different parts of a noun, need to be in a particular order. Other adjectives (known as coordinate adjectives) don’t have a specific order.

The Correct Order of Adjectives

When you use more than one cumulative adjective, you put them in a hierarchy of importance. The adjectives become more descriptive and permanent as they get closer to the noun. 

For example, there may not always be three lambs, and they may not always be adorable, but they will always be gray — so gray goes right before lambs in the phrase "three adorable gray lambs." 

After using an article (a, an, the), a demonstrative adjective (this, that, these, those) or a possessive determiner (my, his, your), you can list your cumulative adjectives.

Type of Adjective


1. Quantity 

two, six, entire

2. Opinion

silly, nice, annoying

3. Size or measurements

large, small, tiny

4. Condition or quality

excited, dirty, shy

5. Age

young, old, mature

6. Shape

round, oblong, bent

7: Color

red, blush, yellow

8. Origin

Irish, Catholic, Japanese

9. Material

cotton, silk, wool

10. Type

all-purpose, four-sided, L-shaped

11. Purpose

makeup brush, living room, sleeping bag


Quick Tip

Not every type of adjective fits into cumulative adjectives. Adjectives in compound nouns always come right before the noun, regardless of their category.


For example:

  • I’d like a large hot dog
  • Please don’t cut down the old apple tree.
  • Would you like more delicious French fries.

Examples of the Order of Adjectives in a Sentence

Once you’ve got the order of adjectives down, you can easily find them — and use them — in a sentence.

Sentence With Cumulative Adjectives

Categories of Adjectives

This is a marvelous old Italian villa

marvelous (opinion)
old (age)
Italian (origin)

She bought a round Japanese makeup brush

round (shape)
Japanese (origin)

makeup (purpose)

Meet me under the tall brown maple tree.

tall (size)

brown (color)
maple (type)

I tried on a beautiful green satin gown.

beautiful (opinion)

green (color)

satin (material)

Three nice teenage boys helped me.

three (number)

nice (opinion)

teenage (age)

We shared a delicious hot tomato soup.

delicious (opinion)
hot (quality)

tomato (type)


Do Cumulative Adjectives Need Commas?

You'd think a string of modifiers would require commas, but not in these cases. Cumulative adjectives don't require commas between descriptors. That's one way they are different from coordinate adjectives.

Coordinate adjectives, however, do require commas between them. Unlike cumulative adjectives, coordinate adjectives have equal weight — they’re all in the same category. Use commas between these adjectives.

  • Cumulative adjectives - We watched a wonderful old Australian movie.
    (Wonderful describes opinion, old describes age, Australian describes origin)
  • Coordinate adjectives - We watched a wonderful, inspirational, and emotional movie.
    (Each adjective describes an opinion of the movie)
  • Cumulative adjectives - Sandeep adopted three little Chihuahua puppies.
    (Three describes number, little describes size, Chihuahua describes type)
  • Coordinate adjectives - Sandeep adopted three cute, loveable, snuggly puppies.
    (Each adjective describes a quality of the puppies)
Definition of a descriptive adjective with examples from the article.

List of Descriptive Adjectives: Simple, Compound, and Proper