Order of adjectives

MAY YOUR DAY BE TUBULAR, EVERYONE! I can hardly think of any better wish for a good day. Do you remember where that comes from? Exactly: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ®. Back when I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the TMNTs. Recently I discovered they hold the key to explain the order of adjectives in the English language.

(Basil the Bunny kindly designed by Diana Lucía Gómez)

(Basil the Bunny kindly designed by Diana Lucía Gómez)

What comes first?

Think of a person you really love. This may be your mother, your father, a relative, your significant other or an inspirational figure. Could you describe them with one single adjective? (Remember that adjectives are words that modify nouns, usually by describing their qualities and characteristics) It would be very difficult, wouldn’t it? For example, I’d say about my sister that she is resilient, but she is also resourceful, and intelligent. And funny. So, if I want to put all these traits of my elder sibling in a sentence, how can I do it?

My sister is a resilient, resourceful, intelligent and funny woman?

My sister is a resourceful, intelligent, funny and resilient woman?

My sister is an intelligent, funny, resilient and resourceful woman?


Well, if we look at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ® we can find the answer.

(Basil the Bunny kindly designed by Diana Lucía Gómez)

The adjectives that come before the thing you are describing follow this order: the first you mention is either a subjective opinion or the characteristic that is easier to change. In the case of the turtles, it is “Teenage” because just in a couple of years they will become the “Adult Mutant Ninja Turtles” and no one will be interested in that. In my sister’s case the first thing I will mention is “Funny” because this is my opinion. Some other people may think she is as sour as the sour cream you put in burritos (hmm, burritos). The adjective closest to the noun is the characteristic that is most difficult to change or that is inherent to the thing you are describing. Again, in the case of the turtles, “Ninja” –albeit not strictly an adjective but a noun working as one- is the one closest to the noun. Being ninja is something that you become and you can never stop being; even if they become elder and average, they will still be the ninja turtles. When it comes to my sister, I believe “intelligent” is the one to be found next to the noun; she has proved to be so all along the years and many people who have worked with her can attest to that. So, her description would be as follows à

My sister is a funny, resourceful, resilient and intelligent woman.


Keep this easy rule in mind and you will be able to use adjectives in a more efficient way. For the sake of practice, why don’t you go ahead and try to describe a person who is important to you with one adjective-packed sentence in the comments?

I’ll be looking forward to reading from you.



Yesterday and via Twitter, user and language freak @ratapaloma_ shared a wonderful mnemonic technique to remember the appropriate order of descriptive adjectives.Simply remember these two words: OSAS COMUN, they stand for Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Color, Origin, Material, Usage and Noun. Keep things in that order and there is no going wrong. :-)


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