Word-order for adjectives.

Word-order for adjectives.

An adjective may be positioned before or after the noun or pronoun (substantive) it qualifies –

 It is used attributively (the tall tree) or

predicatively (the tree is tall; she is kind).

In attributive,

the adjective normally precedes the noun,

but there are exceptions

(battle royal, court martial, heir apparent, tournament proper).

For such set expressions, the normal adjective-noun order, though unusual, would not be incorrect.


However, there are the postpositive adjectives are positioned after the noun, never before.

Take the adjectives aplenty and galore.

they depart from the usual adjective-noun order, thus:

troubles aplenty (never aplenty troubles),

 and fashions galore (never galore fashions).

Akin to the postpositive adjectives are adjectives such as

afraid,                    alive,                alone,

asleep,                         awake,                   aware

that are never used attributively.

They appear only in the predicate:

a)The puppy was alive after all.

b)She is afraid of the dark.

c) He was aware of a sinister presence in the house.


Hyphenation in compound adjectives

Hyphens are certainly required in,

inter alia, compound adjectives:

cutting-edge technology,

up-to-date information,

 good-for-nothing husband.

Compound adjectives made up of two words are usually hyphenated in British English

cholesterol-free,            fat-like,             oil-soluble, user-friendly,            vitamin-rich

A billboard read:        Man Eating Plant.

The words are open to interpretation, with consequently two possible messages –

a)The first possible message would be of an unusual man eating a plant – not part of a plant but a bush in its entirety, with leaves, branches, stem, and roots.

b)The other possible message would be of a man-eating plant, munching away on a human being. Readers can decide whether a hyphen is necessary to overcome any ambiguity!

Uncle Teng


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: