See https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/1155/what-is-the-rule-for-adjective-order for the equivalent question in English. I didn't find any discussion online of the order for multiple Chinese adjectives.

Searching for people asking the equivalent question for English in Chinese, there are some example sentences, for example at http://jingyan.baidu.com/article/fedf07371d781e35ac89773b.html we have:

two beautiful new green silk evening dress 两件又新又漂亮的丝绸女士晚礼服 that hungry, tired, sleepy little match girl 那个饥饿、疲劳、困倦的卖火柴的小女孩 an old large brick dining hall 一个旧的红砖砌的大餐厅

It can be seen that the order is slightly different - 新 comes before 漂亮, 小 after 卖火柴, 红砖砌 before 大 as opposed to beautiful before new, match after little, large before brick. Are there standard rules in Chinese?


5 Answers 5


There are a few general points on the order:

  • words with two or more characters should be further away than single character words
  • phrases/words ending in should be further from those without
  • the type/class/make/category of the described noun should be right next to it

For example:

  • 漂亮的 (adjective pretty) (adjective new) 丝绸 (dress' type silk) (dress' style evening) 礼服 (noun dress)

  • 新的 (adjective new) 漂亮 (adjective pretty) 丝绸 (dress' type silk) (dress' style evening) 礼服 (noun dress)

  • 丝绸的 (adjective silken) 漂亮 (adjective pretty) (see note) (adjective new) 礼服 (noun dress)

  • 丝绸的 (adjective silken) 漂亮 (adjective pretty) (dress' style evening) 礼服 (noun dress)

Note: Avoid putting two single character words next to each other.

Note Two: Actually, avoid squeezing so many adjectives into a sentence in the first place.

The question's example of 又新又漂亮 is an entirely different situation. That's because it is using the syntax 又 X 又 Y.

  • Thanks, some interesting ideas. Not sure about two single character words next to each other - how about 小白马?
    – Simon D
    Aug 19, 2014 at 15:13
  • @SimonD I don't mean to suggest that you can't have two single character words ever - just that it tends to start sounding awkward, especially when the sentence is already so full.
    – Semaphore
    Aug 19, 2014 at 15:17
  • 又X又Y has a similar problem: "又矮又丑" has about twice as many search results as "又丑又矮"...
    – Simon D
    Aug 20, 2014 at 13:17
  • @SimonD It's not a real problem. Both are equally valid. That's why results still number in the hundreds of thousands. It's like grey vs gray.
    – Semaphore
    Aug 20, 2014 at 14:34
  • @SimonD the order in 又矮又丑 is a semantic thing, which has a lot to do with culture but not so much with grammar.
    – NS.X.
    Aug 21, 2014 at 7:23

I'm afraid that there is no easy answer to this question. I searched with keywords 汉语+形容词连用顺序 and found an article 《现代汉语多个形容词定语短语的定语顺序》discussing exactly the same question. The article mentions that some scholars speculate that there seems to be some kind of rules and they've analyzed different scenarios from various approaches and made explanations but still no affirmative rules could be summarized.

Take 小白马 as an example which Simon D mentioned in a comment. Why don't we Chinese say 白小马? Why does it become 白色的小马 instead of 小的白色马 if we use 白色 instead of 白? As a native Chinese speaker, I'm amused by thinking of such questions and no doubt a Chinese learner will be confused. But that's part of the fun of language learning, right?


I don't think we will use so many adjectives in Chinese. Usually we will use alternative sentence structure to overcome such situations depending on the original English sentence. For example, for "There are two beautiful new green silk evening dress in the display window", we may say "廚窗裡那兩套新的綠色絲質晚裝真漂亮".

BTW, "sleepy" is (/can be translated as) "睏倦" in Traditional Chinese, whereas "困倦" means weary. In Simplified Chinese, "睏" is simplified as "困" as well. As a result, you need to deduce the meaning of "困倦" by the context of the whole sentence.

Edit(1): As for the order of adjectives, the general rule is the more specific the nearer to the noun, but those with the form "XXX色" or "XXX的" are put further away; and the quantity is put the furthest. For example, we say "一朵小紅花" or "一朵紅色小花".

  • 睏倦 is the same as 困倦 according to moedict.tw/睏倦 Both mean weary.
    – thyu
    Oct 22, 2019 at 16:20

I remembered seeing something like this in "Chinese: A Comprehensive Grammar" (Yip and Rimmington) and checked it. They have the following order:

Numeral + MW
State or Activity

Their example is 他鞋架上去年那(一)双穿了又穿(的)破破烂烂的尖头的黑色棉布拖鞋.

Checked another grammar book 现代汉语使用语法分析 on Google Books (http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=A6_NII-r8UMC&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q&f=false) and it has another order:


Examples are 朋友送给我的一双从上海买来的非常漂亮的意大利名牌皮鞋 and 老师给我推荐的一本最近出版的非常好用的汉语词典.


The adjectives can go in any order as long as they are before the noun.

  • 3
    Thanks, but do you have a reference or can you elaborate a little. "褐色小球" - 284,000 results in Google, "小褐色球" - 384 results: I would consider both grammatically correct but clearly the former is much more common, much like the opposite order "small brown ball" is more common in English.
    – Simon D
    Aug 19, 2014 at 14:48

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