I was wondering where put adjectives used to describe a pair of clothing items.

Which is correct:

  1. A pair of black pants or a black pair of pants?
  2. An expensive L-sized pair of pants or a pair of expensive L-sized pants?

I would very much appreciate your answers and explanations.

  • I think both "a pair of black pants" and "a black pair of pants" are fine; the former seems to be much more common, but I wouldn't blink at either one.

  • Neither "an expensive L-sized pair of pants" nor "a pair of expensive L-sized pants" sounds right to me, for two reasons:

    • I don't think I've ever heard someone say "L-sized". The abbreviation "L" is always pronounced 'large' in my experience. (However, extra-large, double-extra-large, etc., are often pronounced 'ex-ell', 'two-ex-ell', etc.)
    • We usually say "large, expensive ____" rather than "expensive, large ____" (though the Ngram ratio is not as extremely skewed as I'd have expected, so maybe there's some regional variation or something).

    Personally, I'd recommend "an expensive pair of large pants"; or better yet, something like "a $300 pair of large pants".

  • I do think it's important to say "size L" (or L-sized, not sure which I like better) instead of "large" if you're talking about the "t-shirt size" (S, M, L). A pair of large pants could be something like pants big enough for two people. – ColleenV Jun 5 '17 at 0:05
  • @ColleenV: Pants are an odd example anyway, because they don't come in named sizes (at least for adult men's pants in the US, which are the only ones I buy); but for T-shirts, I would say "size large", not "size L". – ruakh Jun 5 '17 at 6:14
  • It's seems strange to me that you've never seen size L men's pants - when I search for 'men's size L pants' on Google there are tons of results. I don't know that I've ever seen athletic pants that weren't sized S/M/L/XL. – ColleenV Jun 5 '17 at 11:43
  • @ColleenV: My mistake. I haven't owned sweatpants in years -- I always work out in shorts -- buy I do own a pair of lounge pants, and whaddaya know, they're size L! – ruakh Jun 5 '17 at 14:44
  • It's hard sometimes to notice what assumptions we're making about the meaning of certain words once we have a picture in our heads :) – ColleenV Jun 5 '17 at 16:37

Although you will be understood when saying whichever of the two, the adjective order is specified, for example here:


That means:

A pair of black pants


A pair of expensive L-size of pants

should be the go-to expressions here.

Note that these are very minor differences and you are unlikely to come across anyone who would flinch at either one. (apart from a very malicious grammar test)

  • I think you must have a typo; did you really mean to suggest "A pair of expensive L-size of pants"? – ruakh Jan 15 '19 at 23:15

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