Grammer-Sequential Adjective Rule?

While driving my 11 year old daughter back home from track practice, she announced that she would inherit the colt, (her mother’s Dodge Colt} when she becomes 16. Now this is just not going to happen, with both her parents having been teenage car owners based on personal earnings, and her much older sister never was given a car either. She obviously was planting ideas and pushing.

Now I’m always impressed with this girl’s spunk and cando attitude so I responded " Daughter, its all right to think big and be positive, but in this case you’re just as likely to end up with a male young horse (i.e. not very likely) than with your mother’s car. Immediately upon uttering the phrase, I felt a slight discomfort as if it came out wrong. Should I have said ***young male horse *** which definitely sounds more correct?

I’ve been mulling over this problem for the last 24 hours and its been bugging me. For another more clear example that there must be some convention for order in sequence of adjectives try *** basketball black player*** as opposed to *** black basketball player ***.

** So is there some grammatical rule on the order of sequence of adjectives? **

Here’s one summation of rules.

Look also at The Ordering of Adjectives.

Is basketball an adjective as used?

BTW, the word is spelled “grammar.” Don’t wish to appear picky, but while we’re on the subject of English…

I work for an agency of the federal government which has some boilerplate language to be used. One of these is the following phrase: “past relevant work.” However, the phrase refers to work which is now vocationally relevant. The way the phrase is worded, it appears to mean that the work is no longer relevant. Correct is “relevant past work.” So, sometimes the order of the adjectives can change the meaning.

There’s a rule in English, but I can’t find my old text books right now. However, this website suggests you use the determiner (a thing, the thing, those things), and then a general observation such as ugly or beautiful; and then the physical description in which you put, in order, size, shape, age, and color; then the origin of the thing and its material; and then a qualifier. Then the noun.

Therefore, my first car, a '79 Buick Elecktra, would be a wonderful big-ass boxy old lime green American death machine.

I also remember a rule that says not to use more than five adjectives in a row, although I had another teacher tell me the rule was three.

Damn. Now I’ve got to find my English book.

Yes, unless one is referring to someone who only plays with black basketballs.

I don’t know, I would say that basketball player is a compound noun, and that black is the adjective modifying it.

The other option I see is that black is modifying basketball, as you said, but I can’t think of a way to put that in a sentence. I don’t see how basketball could be an adjective (and my dictionary lists it as a noun only).

young male horse is a different issue since it clearly has two adjectives. The rule Ringo posted looks right to me.

However, I can think of a way where male young horse would sound more or less okay: A colt is a male young horse and a filly is a female young horse. I assume that’s because the emphasis is on the gender of the young horse. Or maybe I’m just imagining things. :slight_smile:

I don’t know, I would say that basketball player is a compound noun, and that black is the adjective modifying it.

The other option I see is that black is modifying basketball, as you said, but I can’t think of a way to put that in a sentence. I don’t see how basketball could be an adjective (and my dictionary lists it as a noun only).

young male horse is a different issue since it clearly has two adjectives. The rule Ringo posted looks right to me.

However, I can think of a way where male young horse would sound more or less okay: A colt is a male young horse and a filly is a female young horse. I assume that’s because the emphasis is on the gender of the young horse. Or maybe I’m just imagining things. :slight_smile:

hmm…my book on English grammar has a slightly different ordering. It’s color, origin/place, material, purpose.

So, we either get “red leather Spanish boots” following the rule cited by Ringo

or

“red Spanish leather boots” following the rule in my book.

but “Spanish red leather boots” doesn’t sound so bad either, does it?

There might be some argument as to whether one should use the term “compound noun” or “adjective.” Nevertheless, when a noun is used this way, it is being used as, and is performing as, an adjective. If it walks like a duck, and swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

An observation from a colleague: he surmised that “basketball” as used above would be an adjective as the phrase would still make sense without it, but you couldn’t drop “player” and still have the phrase make sense.

It’s important to remember that this “order of adjectives” is not a “grammar rule”; it’s not wrong to use a different order. It’s a rule in the scientific sense: a generalization based on observation, and not necessarily true for any particular case.

That said however, it’s a powerful custom, and it usually sounds very weird when it’s violated.