I have a question concerning adjective order in English.

As far as I know the adjective order goes this way:

number, opinion, value, size, age, shape, weight, color, origin, material, and purpose

How do you explain this word order then?

a pink patterned shirt

  • 1
    English speakers don't consciously think 'I must place the adjectives in this order', we just say what comes naturally! A 'pink patterned shirt' suggests to me a shirt whose main colour is pink, but with a pattern on it. The prescribed 'adjective order' is just the typical order in which people use adjectives, not a hard-and-fast rule. Jun 7, 2022 at 9:22
  • It could be a pink-patterned shirt. Jun 7, 2022 at 9:30
  • It could be "a patterned pink shirt" too.
    – gotube
    Jul 17, 2022 at 2:22
  • In the world of fabrics (materials or cloth), the pattern comes first: plain fabric versus patterned fabrics or checkered or checked fabrics. Just add pink. Also, try check or checkered pattern. So, I'd say color first, type afterwards. Red and black check fabric, for instance. zazzle.co.uk/black+and+red+check+fabric Here the word order might very well come from the people in the trade and how they say it. That is what would guide me in this case.
    – Lambie
    Nov 14, 2022 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


Ablaut reduplication is a phenomenon in English where words with similar sounds (in this case, pink pat-terned) sound "better" when the vowel order is I-A-O.

For most speakers "pink patterned shirt" sounds more natural than "patterned pink shirt", even though it goes against the usual adjective order and introduces some ambiguity (is a "pink patterned shirt" a pink shirt with a pattern, or a shirt with a pink pattern? Googling the phrase shows examples for both cases).


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