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Today on Study English we’re looking at ‘adjectives’. How do you use them, how do you order them, and how do you use them to compare and describe things?
First, let’s listen to some descriptions about the world under the sea, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, off the north coast of Australia. It’s quite an amazing place.
We know more about the surface of the moon or the surface of Mars, than we do about the sea floor. The sea floor remains the last unexplored frontier. This is because it's covered by this impenetrable ocean layer that we can't see through. The only way we can see the sea floor is using sonar.
The largest reef they mapped is about 10 or so kilometres across. It's an oval-shaped feature, so it covers around 100 square kilometres. Because of the fact that they are submerged in 30m or so of water, the reefs are very hard to see. No one had realised that the Gulf contained reefs just like the Great Barrier Reef.
Being able to describe things properly is an important communication skill.
You need ‘adjectives’ for descriptions.
They usually come before the nouns they are describing.
‘The red car.’
But when you want to accurately describe something, you often need to use more than one adjective in a row.
What if the car is big, red, and made of plastic?
We call it ‘the big, red, plastic car’.
Notice that the adjectives are usually separated by commas.
But why don’t we call it the ‘red, plastic, big car’?
How do you know which order to put the adjectives in?
Well, for native speakers, it’s just that it sounds right, but luckily, there are some rules.
It’s called the ‘royal order of adjectives’.
Let’s have a look at it.
First we have the ‘determiner’. That’s ‘articles’ [a, an, the], ‘numbers’, or the word that
describes the amount of something. It can also be the ‘owner’, the person or thing who the noun belongs to.
So determiners can be ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘many’, ‘some’, or a name, like ‘John’s’.
So we have ‘a car’, ‘many cars’, ‘John’s car’.
The second type of adjective is ‘opinion’ or ‘observation’. This tells you something about the quality of the noun - useful, cheap, ugly, beautiful.
Then we have ‘size’, for example enormous, tiny, huge;
followed by ‘age’, it could be old, modern, 7-year-old;
then ‘shape’, perhaps oval, circular or flat;
a ‘colour’, like white, black or blue.
Then we have adjectives that describe ‘origin’, where the noun is from, for example Thai, Indonesian, Australian; followed by ‘material’, what the thing is made of, like copper, plastic or wooden.
Lastly, is the ‘qualifier. This is something that’s an integral part of the noun.
Examples might be a rocking chair, a wedding ring, an electric oven.
There are of course a few exceptions to these rules, but it’s important that you learn them, and practice them whenever you can.
Have a look at these words, and see if you can turn them into a phrase:
‘wooden’ ‘square’ ‘useful’ ‘box’ ‘Lily’s’
Well, ‘box’ is the noun, but what comes first?
The ‘determiner’. Whose box is it? It’s Lily’s box.
So ‘Lily’s’ comes first.
Then that’s followed by the ‘observation’ – the box is ‘useful’.
Then, the ‘shape’. It’s ‘square’.
Then, finally the material. It’s a ‘wooden’ box.
So we have ‘Lily’s useful, square, wooden box’.
Choose an adjective from box A and one from box B to complete the sentences.
microscopic handsome elongated a high-tech
video tall glass overhead significant
1. The ______________ bottles are for export to Australia.
2. A ______________ camera was used to discreetly survey the customers in
3. It was clear from the results that Dr. Smith’s research made ______________
contribution to science.
4. She presented that paper at the conference using a ______________
5. It was the ______________ dark-haired man who was identified at the scene
of the accident.