When you are writing this electric fan description...

Old, rusty, electric fan.


Old rusty electric fan.

Which is correct?

Do I have to always use sentence1 in every situation? I find that uncommon...

1 Answer 1


The comma rule comes down to the difference between two kinds of adjectives: coordinate adjectives and cumulative adjectives. Coordinate adjectives are adjectives in a row that each separately modify the noun that follows (1), as in “heavy, bulky box.” Both “heavy” and “bulky” modify “box.” You can even rearrange the adjectives and say, “bulky, heavy box.”

Cumulative adjectives, on the other hand, don’t separately modify the noun that follows even though they are all stacked up before the noun too (2). Instead, the adjective right before the noun pairs with the noun as a unit, and then adjective before that unit modifies that. An example will make this more clear: In the phrase “exquisite custom houseboat,” “custom” modifies “houseboat”—they become a unit—and then “exquisite” modifies “custom houseboat.”

Commas with Adjectives | Grammar Girl - Quick and Dirty Tips

Both could be correct, but I would use the version without commas in your context. It seems to me that you are talking about an electric fan that happens to be old and rusty rather than a fan that happens to be old, rusty, and electric. You could argue that the comma between old and rusty might be appropriate, but I think it would be odd to put a comma there without one between rusty and electric.

  • Got it. But, as I see it, I can apply both sentence1 and sentence2, can't I? They are both correct according to the way I analyze from your answer.
    – John Arvin
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 22:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .