Get Me Rewrite: The royal order of adjectives
By Brian Moore, #GrumpyGrammarGuru
What makes Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” such a great song? Besides the ’50s rockabilly sound, catchy chorus, handclaps, scorching guitar solo, memorable melody and other good stuff.
Queen knew the Royal Order of Adjectives, of course.
Imagine if this 1980 No. 1 hit were called “Little Crazy Thing Called Love.” That doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, now does it?
The Royal Order of Adjectives, or adjective order for us peasants, dictates the specific order adjectives must appear in a sentence, based on their category.
Here are those categories, in correct order.
Determiner (Technically not an adjective, a determiner appears before the adjective and is considered a part of the Royal Order. Example: a, the, our, these)
Quantity (one, three, 654)
Opinion (tasty, comfortable, beautiful)
Size (tiny, thick, gargantuan)
Age (young, ancient)
Shape (round, spherical)
Color (red, purple)
Origin (Austrian, German)
Material (steel, cotton)
Qualifier (the last, often most important adjective, sometimes called purpose. Think, bicycle race, theme park.)
Going back to Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”: “Crazy” falls into the opinion category, so it appears before size, “little.” If Queen were for some reason singing about their teenage love lives, it would be “Crazy Little Young British Thing Called Love.” Sounds like a hit to me.
You now might be asking yourself: Shouldn’t Queen use commas between all those adjectives? Yes and no.
If the string of adjectives comes from different categories like in Queen’s song, don’t use a comma. If two or more adjectives come from the same category, separate them with a comma.
Queen was a gifted, successful band. (Gifted and successful are both “opinion” adjectives.)
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