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Dec 28 2009   9:06PM GMT

Ordering adjectives

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Although cellular wireless routers have been available for years, they are ___________________ devices.
a. ugly, big metal devices
b. big, ugly metal devices

Answer: b.

Explanation: There are rules for ordering adjectives. Most people absorb these rules, even without learning them explicitly. I suspect that some people might think both of the choices here were okay but that very few would think that “metal, ugly, big device” sounded right.

Here, ugly is an opinion adjective (who knows, a wireless cellular router could be quite lovely to some beholders); big belongs to the size category; and metal to the material category. And the order is, when we have these three categories, material goes closest to the noun, size next and opinion last. Read more here.

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2  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Stevegs
    The answer given is [B]'b'[/B] but the logic of the reason supports[B] 'a'[/B]. if opinion is 'last' or furthest from the noun being modified, then the word order should be ugly (opinion), big (size) metal (material) devices. But the 'natural' order which is usual and customary is big (size), ugly (opnion) metal (material) devices. So something seems out of alignment here. ****** You're right -- I think I made the assumption that the seeming natural order would be correct. I'm going to have to dig around and see if I can find out some other reason I'm right. ;-) Thanks for commenting! Ivy
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  • LesterSmith
    As Stevegs points out, the explanation contradicts the answer. The problem, I believe, is in trying to create a "rule" from a "rationale." Yes, most people would agree that metal is the most critical adjective here; it defines something essential about the devices. The reason "b" seems the better order of "big" and "ugly," however, has to do with rhythm. It's poetics. Regarding the role of grammar in cases like these, see "[A href="http://www.upwritepress.com/BlogRetrieve.aspx?PostID=103899&A=SearchResult&SearchID=542354&ObjectID=103899&ObjectType=55"]Not Just One but Four Grammars - and Why That's Good[/A]."
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