Grammar: strings of adjectives

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Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 24, 2018, 2:31:52 AM5/24/18
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I thought I knew how to write strings of adjectives correctly. It turns out I don't.

According to Bonnie Mills, "Commas with Adjectives" ( https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/commas-with-adjectives ):

>>>>> When you use a string of adjectives, you often separate the adjectives with commas, as in “He is tall, dark, and handsome.” Sometimes, though, you don’t use a comma between two adjectives.
>>>>>
>>>>> The comma rule comes down to the difference between two kinds of adjectives: coordinate adjectives and cumulative adjectives.

I didn't realize the subtleties of when to add or omit commas in strings of adjectives. I've never heard of "coordinate adjectives" or "cumulative adjectives" before.

According to Kitty Nash, "Order of Adjectives" ( https://www.englishgrammar101.com/module-5/modifiers-adjectives-and-adverbs/lesson-4/order-of-adjectives ):

>>>>> In English syntax, adjectives belong in a certain order:
>>>>> [chart omitted]
>>>>> ... Most people who are native English speakers recognize when adjectives are out of order. Students learning English must study the sequence.

I had no idea there was a standard order of adjectives in English.

I plan to be more cautious when reading and writing strings of adjectives. I updated my paths forward document [PF] to reflect this change.

[PF] Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, "Alisa's paths forward policy: Reading sentences in several different ways" https://bitbucket.org/petrogradphilosopher/fi/src/default/pf.md#markdown-header-reading-sentences-in-several-different-ways

Elliot Temple

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May 24, 2018, 3:17:11 AM5/24/18
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On May 23, 2018, at 11:31 PM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

> I thought I knew how to write strings of adjectives correctly. It turns out I don't.
>
> According to Bonnie Mills, "Commas with Adjectives" ( https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/commas-with-adjectives ):
>
>>>>>> When you use a string of adjectives, you often separate the adjectives with commas, as in “He is tall, dark, and handsome.” Sometimes, though, you don’t use a comma between two adjectives.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> The comma rule comes down to the difference between two kinds of adjectives: coordinate adjectives and cumulative adjectives.
>
> I didn't realize the subtleties of when to add or omit commas in strings of adjectives. I've never heard of "coordinate adjectives" or "cumulative adjectives" before.

Certain phrases like "old man" and "oak tree" form a unit.

If you just want to list 2 traits of something, you comma them. Like "Big, red car." But if you have one adjective applying to the group of things that come after, then you don't comma: "Big oak tree." Just like "Red car." has no comma. You can tell things are a unit when you can't change the order: "Oak big tree" sounds HORRIBLY WRONG, with or without a comma after "oak".

Peikoff covers this in his grammar course (i think he used the oak tree example). My notes on the course may mention some of this.


> According to Kitty Nash, "Order of Adjectives" ( https://www.englishgrammar101.com/module-5/modifiers-adjectives-and-adverbs/lesson-4/order-of-adjectives ):
>
>>>>>> In English syntax, adjectives belong in a certain order:
>>>>>> [chart omitted]
>>>>>> ... Most people who are native English speakers recognize when adjectives are out of order. Students learning English must study the sequence.
>
> I had no idea there was a standard order of adjectives in English.
>
> I plan to be more cautious when reading and writing strings of adjectives. I updated my paths forward document [PF] to reflect this change.
>
> [PF] Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, "Alisa's paths forward policy: Reading sentences in several different ways" https://bitbucket.org/petrogradphilosopher/fi/src/default/pf.md#markdown-header-reading-sentences-in-several-different-ways

Neat about the adjective order. I didn't know that formally.

Coordinate adjectives are when you are giving multiple modifiers to a single thing. Then you give a (comma separated) list of adjectives. "Cumulative" adjectives is when you create a new unit then modify that – then there's no comma. Like "sports car" is a unit, so "red sports car" has no comma b/c there aren't 2 equal adjectives in a row modifying the same unit (and note you can't say "sports red car").

Elliot Temple
www.curi.us

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