April 7, 2013

The blue, big elephant

Something seems wrong with the title of this post, right? For native English speakers, it’s pretty obvious that one should use the big, blue elephant” instead; But why?

Over at Quora, a great collection of answers is piling up on the question: what are the trickiest rules in English grammar?

The most upvoted answer is on the issue of adjective ordering:

When trying to teach non-English speakers what order to place adjectives, it seems very arbitrary. It turns out that there are rules that govern this. Basically, adjectives should be categorized and then arranged in the following order: Quantity, Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Color, Origin, Material, Purpose.

So, in the example above, red” is a color adjective and big” is a size adjective, so big” must be placed before red” in the example above. When trying to think about how to apply this rule, you have to remember a seemingly arbitrary order and then classify your adjectives before you speak, which is a slow process.

(more at ELC study zone - adjective order)

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