comma or 'and' btw adjectives [conjunction]: a beautiful, young widow

Discussion in 'English Only' started by ofriendragon, Sep 13, 2008.

  1. I guess it wasn't a bad place for a beautiful young widow to move beyond her loss.

    Would there be any difference between the following sentences?
    1. a beautiful young widow
    2. a beautiful, young widow
    3. a beautiful and young widow

    This seems to be a strange question, but I am asking it for an elderly teacher.

    Many many thanks in advance.!

    [Moderator Note: Two threads with the same title by the same user were merged, so some of the posts might seem a little disjointed.]
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 13, 2008
  2. He grew up to be a handsome, hardworking, fun-loving man.

    I know people usually say A, B and C. Is the above sentence natural?

    Many many thanks in advance.
  3. MELmadrue Senior Member

    English - United States
    It sounds fine to me as you have it (without and). This particular sentence is just a little awkward... maybe because all the adjectives are so long!
  4. DBlomgren

    DBlomgren Senior Member

    Costa Rica
    English, USA
    I like it. For me, the "and" is optional once kids and adults have a good understanding of English punctuation. However, if they're still writing run-on sentences, I prefer they use "and." To me, this sentence reflects the way we talk.
  5. prankstare Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Portuguese - Brazil
    I think only sentence number 1 is wrong.

    I don't think there is any difference in meaning between sentence number 2 and number 3 though.
  6. Could you please spare me a few more minutes to explain why sentence number 1 < 1. a beautiful young widow > is wrong? Is there a "rule" for this?

    Many thanks again.
  7. prankstare Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Portuguese - Brazil

    Hey again,

    Yes of course I can try. :)

    Well, at least grammatically speaking I remember I was taught that you could never use two adjectives together (for example, "a beautiful young widow"), so it would seem if you are to put two distinct qualities in a same sentence, you would be safe separating them by either a comma or with an "and", which are the examples number 2 and 3 that you wrote in your very first post. Maybe this isn't true in colloquial speech though -- please would somebody more knowledgeable than I am clarify this one both to me and to our friend here.
  8. abenr

    abenr Senior Member

    Scottsdale, AZ, USA
    English, USA
    I don't see anything wrong with "a beautiful young widow." "Young widow" may be thought of as a unit, with "beautiful" modifying it. I wouldn't put a comma between "hungry" and "young" in the following sentence either, and for the same reason. "He sure is a hungry young boy." I sense there must be some advanced grammatical explanation for this, but it is beyond me. :(

  9. prankstare Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Portuguese - Brazil

    Um, OK. Perhaps I'm wrong.

    But, also perhaps there is indeed some more advanced grammar rule for this.
  10. abenr

    abenr Senior Member

    Scottsdale, AZ, USA
    English, USA
    "He's a fast growing young boy" is another sentence of this type, where no comma is needed between growing and young. I hope someone will come to our rescue and explain the reason why.
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Here we have "young boy" as a single unit. It does not really behave as an adjective and noun.

    Also fast and growing are not two separate adjectives. The young boy is not fast, he is fast-growing.

    So we have a single adjective and a single compound noun.
    He is a fast-growing young boy.


    Have a look at THIS LINK - scroll down to near the bottom.

    Last edited: Sep 14, 2008
  12. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    A distinction is drawn between cumulative adjectives and co-ordinate adjectives.

    Cumulative adjectives build up a picture, with each adjective building on the one before; there are no commas between the adjectives.

    With co-ordinate adjectives, each adjective refers to the noun separately and distinctly; there is a comma between each adjective.

    The are "rules" about the order of cumulative adjectives: see here for example:

    a beautiful young woman:tick:
    a young beautiful woman:cross:

    There are no rules about the order of co-ordinate adjectives:

    a beautiful, young woman:tick:
    a young, beautiful woman:tick:
  13. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    It's not at all a strange question. English has lots of ways to order adjectives, and lots of ways to handle commas and conjunctions between them. Reasonable attempts can be made at generalizing the "natural" order, but, especially when you throw in commas and conjunctions, the subject gets very complicated, and most any rule will have lots of exceptions.

    In this case:

    Number 1 is the most common. It suggests either that her beauty is partly because of her youth, with "beautiful young" being almost a unit, or that "young widow" is a unit, the way "young woman" is a unit meaning "girl" or "maiden".
    Number 2 and number 3 separate the two adjectives as if, in the writer's mind, "beautiful" and "young" might be independent ideas with this particular widow having all the qualities of both, or, especially in number 3, as if the idea of "young" were kind of heaped on top of the idea of "beautiful".
    With three adjectives, A, B, and C, we can choose a conjunction, a comma, or a comma and a conjunction both between A and B and between B and C. Lots of variables affect what sounds natural.

    This particular list of three adjectives sounds more natural to me without an and. This particular combination of attributes, especially "hardworking" and "fun-loving", seems strange all joined by and. "Hardworking" and "fun-loving" might be contradictory. You might say "a handsome, and hardworking but fun-loving man."
  14. abenr

    abenr Senior Member

    Scottsdale, AZ, USA
    English, USA
    I looked at the link for a few minutes. How I sympathize now with those who are learning English! Thanks so much for citing it.


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