How can I can explain to a learner why we say "an empty blue glass" and not "a blue empty" glass, both adjectives seem to be facts.

  • It would be good to explain what rule of adjective position you are using. I guess it is "opinion before fact" But there are other rules "Opinon/size/age/shape/color/origin/material/type" is one
    – James K
    Sep 1 at 9:43
  • @JamesK hmm, it sounds quite philosophical that whether a glass is empty or full is "opinion" :) Agree with your answer below though Sep 1 at 9:54
  • There are some situations in which you might say "a blue empty glass". For example, maybe there are many glasses, of many different colors, some full and some empty. If you choose a full glass, you must drink its contents. If you choose an empty glass, I will fill it with water, unless you choose a blue empty glass, in which case I will fill it with milk.
    – stangdon
    Sep 1 at 21:25

One explanation of the adjective order is that adjectives that are more fundamental to the nature of an object sit closer to it.

In the case of a glass, the colour of the material is more fundamental to its nature than whether it is filled or empty. You can't change its colour, but you can fill an empty glass.

It is a "blue glass" which might be empty or full.


Where more than one adjective are to be applied to something, the normal order is:

Opinion, size, physical quality, shape, age, colour, origin, material, type, purpose.

'Empty' is a physical quality, so comes before "blue", a colour.

Adjectives order (Cambridge Dictionary)

You could have an ugly, small, empty, round, old, blue, German, wooden, reclining, TV-viewing chair.

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