A Crazy English Grammar Rule You Know But Have Never Heard Of

The above image is from the 2013 book The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth. This is the royal order of adjectives, which is taught to new English speakers (with difficulty), but native English speakers rarely even hear of it, because we already know it just from using the language. Sure, we may think it funny how the German language combines words to makes bigger words, but we Americans do string a lot of adjectives in a row, in an order that confounds non-native speakers. Yet somehow we learn the rule without ever having studied the rule. The example from the book is inclusive, but too long to be of real use to illustrate spoken English. To use examples from NPR, you would never call a movie My Greek, Fat, Big Wedding. Nor would you sing “Polka Dot, Yellow, Itsy-bitsy, Teenie-weenie Bikini.” Just another example of how difficult English is compared to other languages. -via mental_floss

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

I don't know what you mean by "the German language makes bigger words to accommodate adjectives". In fact, bigger words are mostly created by accomodating substantives, just like in English (powerhouse, grindcore, roadhouse, ...) but eventually sometimes also adjectives, but not as a rule of thumb. Again, same as in English and only when the result is a denomination (Rotkäppchen, Blaumeise, Hartfaser, Schnellmerker ...) english: (blackheart, slowdive, ...) or in German, if the addition of a substantive to an adjective creates a new, more specific adjective (carminrot, stinkfaul, saugeil, ...). Actually, it's even more complex but not nearly as simple as this article suggests ;)
In fact that's nothing to wonder about, as both are germanic languages and both share the same rules when it comes to the order of adjectives. Actually, another language that shares the same rules is French. As these are the only languages I know pretty well, I can't extend this observation to other languages, but I'm sure that Italian, Spanish, Purtugese, Danish, Swedish and even much more foreign languages also share the same rules.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"A Crazy English Grammar Rule You Know But Have Never Heard Of"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More