Word order in English often poses the learner a big problem. Mistakes are usually made in writing as well as when trying to understand a text, because the learner applies the rules that they use in their own language. Living in France, I am only familiar with the mistakes that French leaners of English make but I’m sure that the same problem arises elsewhere in the world.
Take this sentence for example: A red car.
The majority of learners know that the adjective red comes before the noun car. So far so good. But if we add the word beautiful. Where do we put that in the order? The correct answer is: A beautiful red car. And what if we add the word new? Now we have to say: A beautiful new red car.
So what is the rule? In English, adjectives have an order depending on what type of adjective they are.
Below is the most usual sequence of adjectives with, most importantly, the noun coming right at the end. In other words, the most important word is last!
Look at some examples:
We won a fantastic new red sports car in the village lottery!
Mike is an amazing young British entrepreneur.
Sue has just acquired a lovely big golden labrador.
James bought Helen a big shiny black leather handbag.
The order isn’t easy to remember, I know and it won’t cause major problems if you get it wrong and say a leather shiny black big handbag. It's just that you certainly won’t sound English! So try and pay attention to word order next time you write, read or speak English.
Philippa Stacey a fondé Eureka en 2007. Elle vit et enseigne l’anglais aux professionnels en France depuis 1993.