Let’s place adjectives in order

Do native English speakers drive a big blue car or a blue big car? Do you have any pretty silk clothes in your wardrobe, or some silk pretty clothes? How about those who own lovely antique French furniture…or perhaps we should say antique French lovely furniture…or is it French antique lovely furniture?!

Adjectives are a fantastic way to add more detail to your speaking and writing. However, the order of adjectives before a noun in English is a quite tricky topic that can make a huge difference to how naturally you produce the language. Native speakers have an instinct for it, and any mistakes that are made can be instantly recognised.

Luckily, there is a mnemonic (an expression used for memorising something) that will help you to remember what order you should say or write adjectives. The phrase you need to remember is OSASH.COM. It sounds like a website, but it isn’t really!

So, what on Earth does it mean? Let me show you, with examples in (brackets):

Opinion (beautiful)
Size (small)
Age (old)
SHape (round)
Colour (red)
Origin (American)
Material (metal)

This is then followed by a noun. So, it’s perfectly OK to say that you have a beautiful small old round red American metal table. But once you start saying it’s a round American beautiful metal small red old table…well, let’s just a say a native speaker will be able to notice your mistakes!

However, don’t worry too much. Although it may sound ‘strange’ to a native speaker if the order of adjectives is changed, it doesn’t affect the meaning at all. You will be understood even if you don’t get it completely correct. Still, if you want to sound more natural when you’re speaking or writing, OSASH.COM is an excellent way to help!

One more word of advice – try not to use more than two or three adjectives before a noun. The order is always fixed no matter how many you use. If you use seven to describe every object you own to your friends, well, you’re going to run out of breath very quickly!!

Author: Shane Rynhart

Cavendish School of English Brochure


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