Tag Archives: coordinate adjectives

Student Q 1. Final Exam.

6 Jan

Up until the final, I’ll post responses to questions.

 Q 1.  Could you explain to me how I write cumulative adjectives?

This is not on the final, but it does appear in the text on page 107-110.

Let’s start with a review of adjectives.  Adjectives describe nouns (people, places, thing or ideas) and pronouns. They add color to your writing; and provide interesting or fun facts about what things look like, how many of something, and other more specific details. In your text book, First Steps in Academic Writing, the author suggests asking yourself the following questions to determine an adjective: ‘What kind?’ ‘Which one?’ And ‘How many?’  If a word can answer any of these questions – it’s an adjective!

If you want to understand cumulative adjectives, you also need to understand coordinate adjectives.  The biggest difference between them is word order, in other words, where they are placed in a sentence.  The problem arises when there is more than one adjective describing a noun.

Where do coordinate adjectives go?  They can go before a noun or after a linking verb.  

What are linking verbs you ask?  The following are always linking verbs: be (in all tenses), become, and seem. Then there are ‘sometimes’ linking verbs.  They are verbs that can be replaced with ‘be’ and the sentence would have the same meaning. The following are linking verbs: appear, feel, get, grow, lie, look, prove, remain, smell, sound, stay, taste, turn.  An example of how one could be replaced, ‘I feel tired.’ could be changed to ‘I am tired.’  It’s the same meaning with a different linking verb.  

 Examples of coordinate adjectives

– Our English textbook is boring.* (Word order: ‘English’, coordinate adjective before ‘textbook’, noun. ‘is’ linking verb and ‘boring’ coordinate adjective after the linking verb).  

Coordinate adjectives have equal weight.  If there is more than one coordinates adjective in the sentence you can reverse the adjectives and still make sense.  The order of the adjectives doesn’t matter.

–         Thousands of screaming, yelling, and cheering fans filled the arena.  

–         Thousands of yelling, screaming, and cheering fans filled the arena.

–         Thousands of cheering, screaming, and yelling fans filled the arena.

 It doesn’t matter what order you put screaming, yelling and cheering.  They all describe fans with equal weight.  Note that coordinate adjectives always use commas. You could also use each adjective alone.

            –Thousands of screaming fans filled the arena.

            –Thousands of yelling fans filled the arena.

            –Thousand of cheering fans filled the arena.

 Here’s another example:

            –Over the years, he has grown to be a confident, intelligent, and kind man.

            –Over the years, he has grown to be a kind, confident, and intelligent man.

Once again, all the adjectives can individually modify the noun, ‘man.’ The order doesn’t matter and the adjectives intelligent, kind, and confident are separated by a comma.  It’s the same principle as the previous example.  You could take away one or two of the adjectives and still have a description of the man.

 Now that you’re confident about coordinate adjectives let’s take a look at cumulative adjectives. First rule, cumulative adjectives must go before a noun. Cumulative adjectives are like steps, working their way up to the noun.  Cumulative adjectives do not use commas because they work as a team.  They give a whole description of the noun.  There are rules for the order of cumulative adjectives. 

Look at this example:

–         The game featured new several players.

This sentence is incorrect.  New and several cannot go in this order. They need to work as a group.  The sentence must be:

 –         The game featured several new players.

 In your text there is a chart describing the word order for cumulative adjectives.  It goes like this:

  1. Articles, demonstrative pronouns, possessives
  2. Quantity
  3. Opinion
  4. Appearance
  5. Age, color
  6. Nationality, religion
  7. Material, purpose
  8. Noun used as an adjective

 Let’s go back to our initial example for coordinate adjectives:

–  Our English textbook is boring.

We also have an example of cumulative adjectives here.  

 Our English textbook…

 ‘Our’ is a possessive pronoun.  ‘English’ is a noun used as an adjective.  Therefore, ‘our’ must go before ‘English,’ according to the cumulative order rules.  It makes sense.  Imagine if you said, ‘English our textbook is boring.’   That would clearly be incorrect.  

Remember, one of the most important things about proper usage is not being able to define fancy grammatical terms, but developing the ability to use them with ease. You probably already put your cumulative adjectives in order without even knowing it!  If it turns out you’re writing a super long description, of someone or something, you can always check your word order by referring to the above.

 Here’s a nice long example:

 My fifteen interesting young UAE students ask great questions.


Fogarty, Mignon. Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Holt Paperbacks: New York. 2008. 198-199. Print.

 Hogue, Ann. First Steps in Academic Writing. Pearson Longman: White Plains, NY. 2008. 107-110. Print.

 Troyka, Lynn Quitman and Douglas Hesse. Simon & Schuster Handbook for Writers. 9th. ed. Pearson: Upper Saddle River NJ. 2009. 430-431. Print.