The order of adjectives sometimes confuses my students.
Many times they will write phrases like:
- “Japanese traditional food”
- “my black big bag”
Native speakers have the order of adjectives arranged intuitively, so it’s understandable that Japanese students may have trouble.
When there are more than two adjectives, you need to arrange the adjectives in the following order. If you don’t, the sentence will sound unnatural.
Below is listed the order of adjectives. At first glance the order of adjectives may appear arbitrary, the underlying rule is that the adjectives that have a strong connection with the noun are placed closest to the noun.
For example, adjectives that belong to “9. material” and “10. purpose” have a lot to do with what the noun is. So they are placed closest to the noun. Whereas adjectives that describe “1. Opinion” are placed farthest from the noun as they are subjective judgements and not innate quality of the noun.
The Order of Adjectives
Let’s take a look at the above examples again and put the adjectives in the correct order.
1. “Japanese traditional food”
- ‘Japanese’ = 8. Origin
- ‘traditional’ = 1. Opinion
= “traditional Japanese food”
2. “my black Big bag”
- ‘black’ = 6. Color
- ‘big’ = 2. Size
= “my big black bag”
Having said that, English speakers do not think about the order when they speak. Most of them won’t probably be able to tell you what the order is!
Okay, then what am I supposed to do? You might ask.
The key is to get familiar with many, many sentences and keep repeating them. It will help you develop a sense to feel out what is natural or unnatural when a sentence is spoken.
As a rule, learning through exposure gives you deeper understanding into the mind of native speakers, which can be more helpful than only learning traditional formulas.
If you want to find out more about the each category, here is a link to an article.[日本語文へ]