Order of adjectives: "thick ugly brown sweater" or "ugly thick brown sweater"?


Usually we put an adjective that gives an opinion in front of an adjective that is descriptive. If so, why is "He was wearing his thick ugly brown sweater.", considered correct? If I say, " He was wearing his ugly thick brown sweater.", am I making a mistake?


Posted 2015-07-21T15:15:14.003

Reputation: 3 562

1It would depend on whether the thickness contributed to the ugliness, or if it was only the shade of brown that was ugly. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-07-21T19:29:11.583

1There is a so-called default order to the types of attributive adjective modifiers w.r.t. linear order. And that's probably what you are asking about. But that default order applies when there are no other considerations involved. Context will often easily override that so-called default order. For example, consider: A: "He was wearing his ugly brown sweater." B: "Which one? His thick one or his thin one?" A: "His thick ugly brown sweater." B:"Ah, yes. His thick ugly brown sweater is much uglier than his thin ugly brown sweater." :D – F.E. – 2015-07-22T01:15:37.667



To me as a native US English speaker, they both sound about the same, and equally correct. They may convey slightly different shades of meaning.

Note that commas are used between adjectives when the order can be changed without changing the meaning:

He was wearing his thick, ugly, brown sweater.


Posted 2015-07-21T15:15:14.003

Reputation: 1 760

I love when someone points out that punctuation might actually improve a sentence. +1 – Ast Pace – 2015-07-21T20:32:10.620


I am not a native speaker. I will go for the adjectives order as I have read in Grammar i.e. observation + size + color. So the correct sentence is:

He was wearing his ugly thick brown sweater.


Posted 2015-07-21T15:15:14.003

Reputation: 26 261

+1, but perhaps you could mention that that is the so-called default order. – F.E. – 2015-07-22T01:19:30.480

1I didn't know that. Your comments have added to my knowledge. Thanks. – Khan – 2015-07-22T02:27:26.547


I'm going to have to suggest that it depends.

Specifically, it depends on which aspect of the sweater is important to the speaker, or which aspect the speaker thinks the listener would find important. The first adjective in a list is usually the one which the list-maker considers most important.

"Thick, ugly, brown sweater" could be preferred if the speaker wants to emphasize that the sweater makes the wearer look bigger or bulkier (the emphasis is on the external, less personal aspect).

To choose "Ugly, thick, brown sweater" draws more attention to the speaker's opinion of the sweater. This would be important if the speaker wishes to subtly prejudice the reader against the wearer.


Posted 2015-07-21T15:15:14.003

Reputation: 4 265