Adjective order: a soft, brown, little stuff bear

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NickJunior

Senior Member
Khmer
Hi,
I know in English adjectives have their order. Am I correct to say this, I have a soft, brown, little stuff bear? Thank for your input in advance.
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Yes, you can say that. I would probably put size first, but that's personal preference: I have a little soft brown stuffed bear.

    It's "stuffed bear" or even "teddy bear." As you can see, I'm in the process of losing commas in my life where the meaning is understandable. :)
     

    NickJunior

    Senior Member
    Khmer
    Thank you, Copyright. Thanks also to Nunty for the link to the adjective order. Copyright, may I please ask you another question: So in English the texture adjectives come before color adjectives, right. I notice that you corrected my sentence to "a little soft brown stuffed bear". size-texture-color-material. I didn't see the texture adjectives listed in the list at the recommended link.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    In the terms of the link I posted, soft is an "opinion or judgement". You might also think of it as a quality.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Thank you, Copyright. Thanks also to Nunty for the link to the adjective order. Copyright, may I please ask you another question: So in English the texture adjectives come before color adjectives, right. I notice that you corrected my sentence to "a little soft brown stuffed bear". size-texture-color-material. I didn't see the texture adjectives listed in the list at the recommended link.
    Keep in mind that I'm flying by the seat of my pants (an interesting phrase that means I have no instruction manual in the cockpit). :) Or at least I didn't have one until Nunty provided a link. That was a revelation.

    In other words, I'm no expert... I just get along by habit and feel and ear.
     

    Bigote Blanco

    Senior Member
    I would strongly suspect that less than 1 out of 1000 English speakers have ever heard of a proper adjective order. The rest rely on habit/feel/ear.

    A brown fuzzy bear? or A fuzzy brown bear? Either one sounds perfect.

    Flying by the seat of ones pants is easy. It's only a soft landing that requires the instruction manual.

    :)BB
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I would strongly suspect that less than 1 out of 1000 English speakers have ever heard of a proper adjective order. The rest rely on habit/feel/ear.

    A brown fuzzy bear? or A fuzzy brown bear? Either one sounds perfect.
    :)BB
    To my ear, this depends on the class of things we are talking about. If we are talking about "fuzzy bears", then "brown fuzzy bear" sounds perfect to me. But if we are talking about "bears", then I would automatically say "fuzzy brown bear".

    Here, as in life, context is everything. :rolleyes:
     

    Bigote Blanco

    Senior Member
    Nunty-I think I agree with you 99.9%. Without ever hearing about any correct order of adjectives, I would also automatically say fuzzy brown bear. Why? I haven't the slightest idea! But, on the other hand, if I heard someone say "brown fuzzy bear" I would not notice or perceive any difference.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Free of context, neither one would sound funny to me, either. But in each context only one would sound right to me, independent of any rules.

    Of course now that I'm trying to come up with other examples, I'm drawing a blank.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I think your bear example is excellent. A fuzzy bear is a stuffed animal. A brown bear is a beast. You have it the way I would have... which almost certainly means you're right. :D
     

    Latuamacchina

    Senior Member
    English/Midwest, USA
    I never knew there was a rule about order of adjectives, but my spontaneous response was "a soft litte brown stuffed bear." Then I checked the link and it fit--opinion, size, color, material.

    Interesting.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Am I missing something here in Nunty's link?

    The racing car example seems to break the rules given above it.



    Mind you neither my eyesight nor mental faculties are what they were.
    Possibly we are both wrong, but I see what you see. They advocate:
    [....]
    3. Size -- small, tall, short, big
    4. Age -- young, old, new, historic, ancient
    5. Shape -- round, square, rectangular
    [....]
    but the example is:
    "beautiful long [Size] curved [Shape] old [Age] red Italian steel racing car"
    The example may support those who say that 'feel' and context rather than a fixed rule determines the order, though the rule is surely useful as a general guide.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It's important to get the relative positioning of the "rule" and "seat of the pants" correct.

    The rule is an observation. It is based on observing how native English speakers choose to express consecutive adjectives. It has no standing other than that.

    As far as I am aware, native speakers are not taught the rule. It is absorbed.

    So do not be at all surprised to find that sometimes the order ordained by the rule sounds strange, or is not followed by some native speakers.

    The rule is no more than a guide and does not stand against the "seat of the pants" usage of an experienced native speaker.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I agree about the race car example, but I explain it by saying that I do not conceive of long as "size", but rather as "shape".
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The one that is out of order is the Age. If long is a size (like short) then, the order should be:
    "beautiful long [Size] old [Age] curved [Shape] red Italian steel racing car"​
    If long is a shape ~ and I agree that it might be, though it would make this is a less complete illustration of their rule ~ the order should be:
    "beautiful old [Age] long [Shape] curved [Shape] red Italian steel racing car"​
    [I believe that I would most naturally use this last order, but my preference is not strong.]
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    For me, old [age] does not sound of place, but now that I've stared at it for a long, pre-coffee hour "red Italian steel" doesn't make a particle of sense, and "steel racing car" isn't much better.

    They could probably have chosen a better example.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Wayland and I were struck by the discrepancy between the rule and the example that was supposed to illustrate it. I, at least, had no strong reaction to the ordering of the adjectives themselves.

    As I said, I think the example is a better illustration of the point Panjandrum's makes post #17 than of the 'rule' itself.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Regardless of rule, would anyone seriously want to talk about a car, or anything else, with eight adjectives?
    I wonder is there any reliable study giving a chart of the frequency of use of 1-adjective, 2-adjective, 3-adjective and so on?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Such a chart would be interesting.

    I was trying to think of a literary form in which adjectives are piled up. There is an early style of English poetry that does this, I think, but I haven't yet figured out how to find it.

    I did see the abstract of an article about an experiment which tested people with a certain kind of brain injury for their ability to recognize when a series of adjectives were out of the customary order. Apparently, when a certain part of a person's brain is injured they loose that grammatical ability, even though they have no problem understanding the words and what they mean. Unfortunately, I couldn't get at the whole article because it requires a subscription.
     
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