I have a question about the noun phrase their previously washed clothes (meaning 'the clothes that they had washed before'). I know we can't say this, but is there anyone who can explain to me why we can't? What is the underlying rule, as it were?

  • 1
    I would say it as you did, "their previously washed clothes." What makes you say that we cannot say this?
    – Chaim
    Sep 16, 2018 at 14:39
  • Oh... well, it sounds terribly wrong to me – but perhaps it's just me?
    – Hannah
    Sep 16, 2018 at 15:05
  • It's fine, though I would hyphenate it "previously-washed" to make a compound adjective. Why do you think we can't say it?
    – BillJ
    Sep 16, 2018 at 16:28
  • Maybe "already washed" sounds better, but why use either one in the first place? "their washed clothes" had to be already washed or you couldn't say it.
    – user3169
    Sep 16, 2018 at 22:54
  • Thank you so much for your answers, all of you! I guess it's just me then :) No wonder I couldn't find a rule for it if it's not wrong in the first place :)
    – Hannah
    Sep 17, 2018 at 18:38

2 Answers 2


There is nothing wrong with your phrase.

their previously washed clothes

their (adjective) previously (adverb) washed (adjective) clothes (noun)


our previously worn socks
the previously read books
the completely cooked pork


Need more context. If there are previously washed clothes and clothes that are not previously washed, then it's correct.

They put their previously washed clothes away in the cupboard. They put their dirty clothes in the hamper.

But you shouldn't try to stitch sentences together by adding description from a second sentence. That gets you bodice ripper type sentences.

As he stood on the heaving deck he grabbed her yielding body with his rippling muscled arms.

Is there another deck he could have been standing on? Does she have a yielding body and another one that is not yielding? Has he got another set of arms that are not rippling or muscled?

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