Coordinate and cumulative adjectives

  • Coordinate adjective and cumulative adjectives are parts of speech that have different grammar rules. Grammar is the way in which language is structured, the rules that are the foundation of that structure and the study of those rules. Grammar is the way words are used together to form sentences. Grammar includes punctuation such as periods, commas, apostrophes, colons, semicolons, quotation marks and parentheses; parts of speech such as nouns, pronouns, prepositions, verbs, conjunctions; modifiers such as adjectives and adverbs, and much more. Grammar rules such as subject and verb agreement, verb tense, possessives, and much more are covered in grammar rules. English has borrowed from many other languages and as a result, it is very complex and prone to grammar mistakes. There are numerous rules concerning English grammar, and many exceptions to those rules. Grammar can be tricky because the rules may change. Knowing grammar rules and proper grammar and punctuation will help you to avoid grammar mistakes and improve your writing skills. We will define the coordinate adjective and the cumulative adjective and how to treat them, examine how to identify them, and look at some examples of their use in sentences.


    Coordinate adjectives modify a noun. Coordinate adjectives are two or more adjectives listed before a noun that may be placed in any order without changing the meaning of the sentence:

    I like the clean, breezy taste of that toothpaste.

    I like the breezy, clean taste of that toothpaste.

    Changing the order of the adjectives clean and breezy does not change the meaning of the sentence, so these are coordinate adjectives. Note that coordinate adjectives require commas. Here’s another example and another way to determine coordinate adjectives:

    The chilly, blustery day made me yearn for hot cocoa.

    The chilly and blustery day made me yearn for hot cocoa.

    It is possible to put the word and between coordinate adjectives and still have a grammatically correct sentence.

    Cumulative adjectives modify a noun by building meaning. Cumulative adjectives are two or more adjectives listed before a noun that must be placed in a specific order to convey the meaning of the sentence:


    The waiter brought a tall baby chair.

    The waiter brought a baby tall chair.

    As you can see, the first sentence contains cumulative adjectives. The word baby must be next to the noun it modifies, chair, to make sense. If the cumulative adjectives are reversed, the entire meaning of the sentence changes. Note that when using cumulative adjectives, no comma is used.

    The beautiful Dutch doors opened into the backyard.

    The Dutch beautiful doors opened into the backyard.

    In the above sentence, a Dutch door is a particular type of door, and the adjective Dutch must appear immediately before the word door to convey the intended meaning of the sentence.

    Choosing the order of cumulative adjectives is confusing for many people but there are specific rules governing the order of cumulative adjectives. This list will help when ordering your adjectives:

    Opinion or quality – such as beautiful or priceless
    Number or quantity – such as few, an or three
    Size – such as gargantuan or petite
    Shape – such as square or oblong
    Age – such as young or aged
    Color – such as red, pink or ash
    Origin – such as Greek or Dutch
    Material – such as wooden or plastic
    Qualifier – the qualifier is an adjective that denotes the item’s type or purpose, some examples are evening bag and cooking pot

    The order of adjectives can vary slightly from style guide to style guide.

    About Grammarist
    Contact | Privacy policy | Home
    © Copyright 2009-2014 Grammarist