a dark noisy narrow street

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Little Chandler

Senior Member
español (ESP)
Here I go again,

One of my little cousins (naive enough to ask me for advice on his english exercises) asked me to put in order the adjectives in the following sentence:

We found a restaurant in a ... street. [dark / narrow / noisy]

I told him that I had no idea about the theory (well I can remember the "opinion-shape-age-colour-material" thing, but that wasn't very useful here). I told him there were more than one option that sounded right to my ears. I suggested:

We found a restaurant in a dark, noisy, narrow street.

Today, he told me my suggestion was wrong, and that the right order was:

We found a restaurant in a narrow, dark, noisy street.

So, my question is: Would my suggestion sound completely wrong? Is the order of these adjectives really that rigid?

Thanks!
 
  • Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo, Parla.

    I beg to disagree. There must/has to be a rule inside the head of native speakers of English: the problem is that such a rule has never been made explicit and therefore grammar books and books on usage don't register it. I'm referring of course to sequences as a pretty red-haired girl or that handsome tall gentleman. I suspect even your liberal attitude would be jeopardized by the above cases.

    Then there's the difference between a little old lady and an old little lady, etc.

    In my opinion, all words having an adjectival function and coming before the noun they qualify tend to follow an order which goes from the "most subjective" to the "least subjective (or most objective)" from the speaker's point of view. Then there are borderline cases where, as you seem to suggest, it's not easy to decide.

    GS :)
    PS Am I a slow typist!
     
    Last edited:

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I've never heard of such a rule either, and in my opinion you can order the adjectives in any manner that pleases you.
    I agree happily and wholeheartedly. I cuold further say that there are many cases in which the order of adjectives is more or less fixed if you want your sentence to sound smooth. However this is not one of those cases. For example, in my language, just like in English, I would say 'a nice red dress', as opposed to 'a red nice dress'. But here all those adjectives have to do with one's perception of light, sound and space and I would be unable to arrange them in any fixed order in English or in my language. In fact, I think I would say them, in any language, in the order in which the respective notion forms inside my head. Especially in a speaking situation. With time to think, I would lean towards 'a dark, noisy, narrow street'...
     

    Little Chandler

    Senior Member
    español (ESP)
    Thanks everyone for your valuable help!

    [...]
    Here are some previous threads for your pleasure
    [...]
    I really appreciate the work you did, Copyright. I've been looking through the threads you linked, and it seems to me there is no rule for certain adjectives ("noisy", "dark" and many others), because they don't fall into any of the established categories (determiner, observation, size, shape, age, color, origin, material, qualifier).

    Of course, I may be missing something.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    It was good of you to look through them. I think in terms of narrow/noisy/dark, you can probably do whatever sounds best to you. Other expressions that native speakers are familiar with reveal more marked preferences.
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo, all.

    Following the established categories I was able to "concoct" the following:

    ... a delicious small round old blue English crystal candy bowl ...

    Still, I believe that giving a list of "categories" is not exactly "supplying a rule".
    Besides, who discovered the correct sequence which in turn produced the established categories?
    Finally, weren't those who established the categories trying to make explicit what they thought was in the mind of native speakers?

    Learning a list of categories by heart is not for me, if anything because I tend to ask myself, e.g., why "size" before "shape" and not the other way round. Finding an answer to such questions would, on the contrary, be trying to find a general principle governing the native speaker's choices.

    I believe the [most Subjective] <––––––––––> [least Subjective] "rule" would help solve the problem.

    GS
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I beg to disagree. There must/has to be a rule inside the head of native speakers of English: the problem is that such a rule has never been made explicit and therefore grammar books and books on usage don't register it. I'm referring of course to sequences as a pretty red-haired girl or that handsome tall gentleman. I suspect even your liberal attitude would be jeopardized by the above cases.
    Well, Giorgio, as we say over here, that's what makes horse racing. I've made my living for several decades as a writer of English and, while of course I can't speak for others, there's no such rule inside my head. By the way, I wouldn't under any circumstances say (or write), "that handsome tall gentleman"; I'd say, "that tall, handsome man".
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    By the way, I wouldn't under any circumstances say (or write), "that handsome tall gentleman"; I'd say, "that tall, handsome man".
    There are seven tall gentleman. Six are ugly and one is handsome. I prefer the handsome tall gentleman to the ugly ones.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    Little Chandler, I agree with you in putting "narrow" adjacent to "street": that quality is immutable. Darkness and noisiness change with the time of day.
    What I want to know is, if the street is dark, where is all the noise coming from?
    If there are noisy restaurants at night, surely they will have neon and other lights advertising their presence.
    Don't get your little cousin in trouble with his teacher, but—between you and me—the sentence is too contrived to have a "correct" answer.
     
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