I know that if there are two or more adjectives that modify one noun, they all should be placed after that noun. From other question Significance of adjective placement:

If you use two or more adjectives that refer to the same noun they are placed after the noun. Examples: La mujer guapa e inteligente, La casa es grande y bonita.

Two questions in regards to this:

  1. Is it really always like this or sometimes there are exceptions (for example, one adjective before this noun and second/third adjective after this noun)? One example with explanation that I could come up with myself is below.

    So, as you know, sometimes placing adjective before or after noun can be correct in both cases in case you want to state 2 different meanings by this. Taken from another question on StackExchange (Significance of adjective placement):

    "El señor pobre vs El pobre señor. In this example El señor pobre means the man has no money. El pobre señor means that the man is in a bad situation with troubles not necessarily related to money."

    So, maybe it would be correct to say: "El pobre señor alto" to mean that that man is tall AND in a bad situation with troubles not necessarily related to money?

    ALSO: maybe you can put one adjective before noun if you want to emphasize particular trait and put second adjective after this noun as an additional detail? For example:

    La HERMOSA niña alta

  2. There can be several type of adjectives describing noun (yellow, dangerous, clean, etc.). Does it matter in which particular order these adjectives follow when they are after a noun which they modify? Or in real practice, nobody really cares about that and would not notice any mistakes regarding this (if there could be any in the first place)? To be honest, I never knew how to order adjectives in English (I am not native), but I managed to survive somehow without ever knowing about this and never noticed any strange reaction. And there IS a rule in English. But I could be simply lucky enough memorizing (unconsciously) examples from texts and also there could be slight differences between American and British English.

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1 Answer 1


There is no rule that states that adjectives should come all before or all after the noun. There are some restrictions based on the type of adjective one uses, but these are not exclusive of phrases with more than one adjective. For example you can say

  • el famoso periodista científico ("the famous science journalist")
  • la hermosa campiña inglesa ("the beautiful English countryside")
  • los elaborados cuentos góticos ("the elaborate Gothic stories")
  • las viejas convenciones tipográficas ("the old typographic conventions")

but in none of these is it idiomatic to invert the order of the adjectives. It would be grammatically correct to invert the order in the last two, but in one case the meaning would change: los cuentos góticos elaborados refers to a subset of Gothic stories (the ones which are elaborate), while los elaborados cuentos góticos refers to Gothic stories in general (and comments that they are elaborate: it describes but it doesn't specify).

Regarding the ordering of more adjectives of different types, there seems not to be such a clear hierarchy as in English, or at least it hasn't been studied and formalized, but some tendencies are recognized. From here and here:

By compiling a considerable number of examples (1,645) from 28 contemporary Spanish writers, it has been possible to observe that the writers do tend to follow instinctively a certain order of priority, unless they wish to deviate from the usual practice for reasons of style or expressiveness. The main findings are: (1) adjectives of similar physical qualities tend to be presented with the most visible, apparent or common first; (2) with adjectives of dissimilar physical qualities, the aspect, shape or size tends to take precedence over other sense qualities; (3) with adjectives of abstract qualities, the tendency is to place the most specific, or the negative, last; (4) when concrete and abstract qualities are combined, the former nearly always come first.

The other comment is in Spanish and is also rather long so I'll translate, summarize and add examples. According to it there are, for our purposes, three (semantic) types of adjectives, which we'll call

  1. value adjectives, or adjectives of subjective value, which express opinions or feelings, such as interesante, bueno, espléndido;
  2. qualitative adjectives, or adjectives that express an objective quality of the noun, such as alto, verde, moreno;
  3. classifying adjectives, or just classifiers, which place a noun within a class, e.g. científico, constitucional, aéreo.

If you imagine three slots, one before and two after the noun, the value adjectives tend to go in the first one (before the noun), the classifiers go right after the noun, and the qualitative adjectives come at the end:

  • un famoso cantante africano albino
  • los elaborados vestidos femeninos antiguos
  • terribles erupciones volcánicas masivas

The border between value and qualitative adjectives is sometimes fuzzy; the more emotional content they have, the more they tend to go before the noun. Also, if there is more than one adjective of a single class the order within the slot is not always free.

Because Spanish cannot make adjectives out of nouns and verbs as readily as English can, phrases with many adjectives in a row tend not to appear in the first place. We naturally break them up into subordinate phrases. That's why I'm struggling to present to you examples of Spanish nominal phrases with three or more adjectives of different types: they just don't sound natural.

  • I understand your zeal to explain which is great. But explicative and specificative are not really words in English. We would say: explanatory and specific or specifying. Also, I do not know what "objective and subjective value" means here...
    – Lambie
    Nov 8, 2019 at 18:55
  • @Lambie Thanks for the comment. I just took the words from the other question. I've rewritten the sentence to avoid technical terms in the first part. In the second part, with the 3-way classification of adjectives, I've added a short explanation of each, as I understood the original source.
    – pablodf76
    Nov 8, 2019 at 22:47
  • Dear pablodf76, I think I understand now. I got confused because of the rule given in the link spanish.stackexchange.com/q/328/23475. One of the rules stated: "If you use two or more adjectives that refer to the same noun they are placed after the noun. Examples: La mujer guapa e inteligente, La casa es grande y bonita." As I see it, it is more flexible and depends on many factors which I think I understood overall from your explanations.
    – Alex
    Nov 10, 2019 at 21:45

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