Fun, Useful Ideas for Working with Adjectives

My next grammar video will target the order of adjectives. I find it’s one of those topics that can put me a loss for answers. Why do we put size before color? Why do we put shape after size? Well…because. It sounds like a lame answer, but that’s just what we do. Language users develop standards, and it’s best to observe those standards for clear communication. If you talk about a brown big couch, you might be putting a pothole in the road to comprehension. In contrast, the phrase a big brown couch is easily digested in the flow of conversation.

I’ve posted some ideas for practice in the past. Now I’d like to offer a way to help learners discover the patterns before moving into production. Please consider my reading-based activity: The Empty White Room_handout.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Tin says:

    Hello Jennifer you’re genus teacher !my question is how can find your Emil ?

    1. Hello. You can post questions and comments here. For private consultations, you may use the consulting form on my website.
      http://www.englishwithjennifer.com/consulting.html

  2. Michał says:

    Dear Jennifer,
    Your lesson on Adjectives lesson 31 is very useful.
    However, your explanation on using and dropping commas is absolutely not sufficiant.
    I am not an English native speaker, so the idea that I have to feel whether or not to use comma depending on possible usage of and.
    This tip is not sufficiant for me.

    Could you help me?

    Best wishes,
    Michał

    1. Hello Michał,

      Happy to provide further explanation. If adjectives are of different kinds (color, shape, material, etc.), you don’t need commas, just the right order. For example: a large wooden box/ a red Chinese vase/ an expensive silk dress/ a long blue scarf. We usually don’t have a long string of adjectives, and I don’t recommend creating one, as I mentioned in the video lesson. If we have two opinion adjectives, use a comma or the word “and.” For example: a wise, intelligent man/ a caring, generous person OR a wise and intelligent man/ a caring and generous person. I mentioned the “and” test in the video, I believe. If you can use “and” between adjectives, then you need a comma. With two colors, two materials, etc., we’d likely use “and” or create a prepositional phrase: a blue and white shirt/ a leather bag with a brass clasp.

      If you’d like info on commas and adjectives clauses, you’ll find this clip helpful. https://youtu.be/5gQi2xMlN1Y?t=2m56s

      Regards,
      Jennifer

      1. Michal says:

        Dear Jennifer,
        Thank you for your email concerning commas.
        The answer is precise, nevertheless in my English course some details are presented differently.
        ” OSASCOMP’ is the word, which consists of the first letters of the adjective categories in the right order”
        Last P stands for purpose, while you say noun modifier, but it seems that your explanation is more precise.
        The same acronym is presented by ALEX on the lesson on engvid.com.
        In my school textbook I have the following notice:
        “Remember to separate a string of adjectives before a noun with commas”

        As far as I understood from further explanation, there is an option that the author can omit commas, if there are not to many of them.

        Further, ALEX, also makes a comment on further variations concerning opinion adjectives.

        When I was in Grammar School, I was not taught to use commas as far as I remember.

        Hope you understand I am at a loss. Now I am a gray man not so young and want to pass once again Advanced English Exam or higher and avoid stupid mistakes at the exam.

        Hope you understand my pains linked to learning English punctuation.

        I look forward to hearing from you soon.

        Warmest wishes,
        Michal

      2. Hello Michal,

        Have you tried my exercise for additional practice? http://www.englishwithjennifer.com/order_of_adjectives.htm

        However you wish to learn the basic order is fine. If the acronym sticks for you, use it. It’s helpful to watch more than one presentation as you’ve done and pick up on what is common and what is different. The key is to remember that opinion goes first and participial adjectives and noun modifiers go right before the head noun. As I mentioned, a string of adjectives isn’t common and can even sound unnatural. We may have 2-3 adjectives, but not more than that without using other structures to add further description. If the adjectives are of different classes/categories, then don’t use commas: a small yellow polka-dot bikini (perhaps you know the classic song about the itsy bitsy bikini?) But if you have two in the same class, use commas: a kind, caring person/ a blue, white, and green towel. That’s a topic close to parallel structure when all items in a series must be grammatically equal: I need to buy bananas, milk, and bread.

        In short, you can remember that old rule: “Remember to separate a string of adjectives before a noun with commas.” But it applies only if the adjectives are equal in terms of importance and kind: She’s a lovely, clever, funny and caring person.

        More useful links I found for you:
        http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/adjectives-order
        https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/adjectives/order-adjectives

        Regards!

  3. Michal says:

    Dear Jennifer,
    Thank you a lot for your explanation on the usage of commas in the string of adjectives sent to me in your email.

    1. I tried the exercise to which you provided the link in your email. While doing it I realized that my knowledge about commas is not deep enough and practical skills are below my explanations.

    2. I had the same idea on learning from different sources as have suggested in your email. Thus, I entered your class as a second or third course to learn this topic. Apart from fighting for grammar knowledge,a non-native learner needs a lot of exercises to do to gain the confidence. The practice has to be repeated in from time to time, in different pauses.

    3. It seems to me that theoretical issues are clear now for me. Thank you. You are a gifted and excellent teacher.

    4. As soon as I study all links you suggested, the further comments will be produced.

    God bless you and your family.

    Best regards,

    Michal

    1. My best wishes to you in your studies, Michal.
      Additional links regarding punctuation and sentence structure:

      http://www.englishwithjennifer.com/improve_your_writing.php (I’ll consider creating an advanced writing course on WizIQ in the future.)
      http://www.englishwithjennifer.com/exercises.php (Look under Writing Skills.)
      https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

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