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New ‌huge ‌Japanese company.

In the sentence above, why does new go before huge?

As I know new is a size adjective and huge is an opinion adjective. Therefore, huge has to go before new, but the answer sheet says I'm wrong.

  1. new, huge, Japanese company

Can anybody tell me reason why, please!

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  • 13
    Without further context it's impossible to say. "Huge new japanese company" sounds better to me, but "new huge" is still possible. Please give us more information. Why do you think you are wrong? Nov 10, 2022 at 1:52
  • 9
    How is new a size adjective, and huge is not? Nov 10, 2022 at 12:30
  • 3
    I agree. I’d normally say, “huge new”.
    – Davislor
    Nov 10, 2022 at 18:13
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    @AndrewLeach Depending on perspective, either ‘huge’ or ‘new’ (or both) could be an opinion adjective. Almost anything that can be measured in a relative manner can be an opinion adjective. Nov 10, 2022 at 18:36
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    @AmateurDotCounter - That link contains a very interesting table and IMHO you should post an answer that quotes/replicates that table. Nov 10, 2022 at 22:51

8 Answers 8

44

Without a special context, "huge new Japanese company" is correct, and the version you present is incorrect. This phrase should follow the normal adjective order rules as you describe them.

However, if there's a special context, like where the topic is "huge Japanese companies", and now you're describing a new one, then yes, it makes sense to say, "new huge Japanese company" because in that context, [huge Japanese company] is a constituent noun phrase, and "new" modifies it.

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  • Hm - maybe because I'm not an english native speaker - but to me the row of attributes represents their importance. And the original phrase clearly emphasizes that NEW is more important than the size of the new company. Also to me "Huge" is a size attribute, while "New" is a time-related attribute.
    – eagle275
    Nov 10, 2022 at 10:07
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    Both are grammatically fine (huge new or new huge). Semantically, they mean different things. However, "new, huge, Japanese company" is wrong in any case due to the second comma.
    – Lambie
    Nov 10, 2022 at 15:54
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    This is a similar situation to OP's previous question: Loud heavy or heavy loud
    – MJD
    Nov 10, 2022 at 16:11
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    @MJD - Indeed. The OP actually asked this same (Japanese) question in the comments, under the answer, and I asked them to post a new question (as that is the correct thing to do). Nov 10, 2022 at 17:16
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Most likely because ‘huge Japanese company’ is the noun phrase being modified by ‘new’, not ‘company’ or ‘Japanese company’.

English is generally exceedingly strict about ordering of categories of adjectives, functionally requiring them in the order: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose. As is typical with the English language though, there are a small handful of special exceptions to this:

  • When a specific reordering would result in ablaut reduplication, or something that sounds very close, then that reordering is generally preferred. This is why we talk about the ‘big bad wolf’, and not the ‘bad big wolf’.
  • When a specific subset of the adjectives are part of a particular noun phrase that is being discussed, then they do not get re-ordered with any adjectives modifying that noun phrase.

That second exception is likely what’s going on here. Another example of this would be the difference between ‘a firefighting Japanese company’ and ‘a Japanese firefighting company’. The first one is a company from Japan that fights fires. The second may mean the same thing, or it may mean a group of Japanese firefighters (a ‘company’ is the basic organizational unit of firefighters in many parts of the world).

Usually, when this is the case, the relevant noun-phrase will have already been established as what is being discussed, so context is generally important for establishing such an exception.

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    As is typical with the English language though, "You are utterly familiar with the rule of ablaut reduplication. You’ve been using it all your life. It’s just that you’ve never heard of it." bbc.com/culture/article/… (I love me some Wikipedia, but that link should've gone straight to the meme)
    – Mazura
    Nov 11, 2022 at 23:29
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    I'd have said a 'Japanese firefighting company' is the default ordering for a company which fights fires and a 'firefighting Japanese company' is a Japanese company (of any purpose) struggling to avoid going underwater - this is entirely consistent with the ordering you mentioned as 'firefighting' is purpose in the former and opinion in the latter.
    – Cong Chen
    Nov 12, 2022 at 0:38
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Adjective closest to the noun

To expand upon the last paragraph in gotube's answer, it is important to remember that the adjective closest to the noun is the most important (given a particular context), and that importance decreases, the further that the adjective is placed away from the noun.

Therefore, in the OP's context:

  • the main topic is about companies in Japan, and;
  • the second most important part of the conversation is about those companies in Japan which are huge.

Thus, the overall topic of the conversation is

huge Japanese comapnies

Therefore, if a participant in the conversation wants to bring up the fact that there is a new example of such companies, then the "new" needs to be tacked on to the start (because it is of the least importance, given the context of the preceding conversation):

new huge Japanese company.

Examples for alternate main topics

Taking this even further, if the conversation was about huge companies around the world, and the new huge company was opening in Japan, then (while it does sound strange) it would make sense to say:

A new Japanese huge company.

Likewise, if the conversation was about new companies opening around the world, and one such company was opening in Japan, then the following would make sense:

A Japanese new company.

These are obviously edge cases, and really do not sound natural - because usually, in most natural conversations, the geographical location of the company is the most important aspect of the company, and not its newness or size.


Another example would be in a theoretical (not to mention bizarre) conversation about new doors, it would be logical to say

I have a green new door.

However, in normal conversation (and not one specifically about new doors being fitted), the above would sound strange, and it would be more natural to say

I have a new green door


Having said all of that, I would add that if I was reading the newspaper and I saw that Elon Musk has opened a "giga-factory" in Kyoto, I would most likely say to my friends,

A huge new Japanese factory has just been opened!

It just sounds the most natural way of saying it, if it was a non-sequitur statement, i.e. no one had previously been talking about factories, be that Japanese, huge or otherwise.

Why does it seem the most natural? Because, in order of importance: the factory is in Japan; it is new, and; it just so happens to be huge.

Therefore, as no particular context was given in your worksheet, I would say that you worksheet is incorrect.

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  • 1
    I disagree with your analysis of "A Japanese new company" because "A Japanese startup" is perfectly natural. The phrase "new company" alone has difficulty operating as an atom in a larger phrase, because there are more popular atoms.
    – Ben Voigt
    Nov 10, 2022 at 20:40
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    @BenVoigt Like many synonyms "startup" has slightly different nuances / connotations from "new company". Wiktionary defines it as (emphasis mine): "A new company or organization or business venture designed for rapid growth." and there's even a Wikipedia article about the concept.
    – IMSoP
    Nov 10, 2022 at 21:03
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In the sentence above, why does new go before huge?

It doesn't, at least not most of the time. To me, it sounds VERY odd and unnatural.

Greenonline is right, so far as I can see because I didn't read it all. There are some cases when you might say "new huge company," and it might be correct, but it definitely will sound odd to any native speaker.

To me, the discussion about rules and correctness above seems a bit legalistic. The question often with language is a question of collocation: that is, regardless of whether or not it might be "correct" in some sense, DO we say it? And in this case, the answer is, no, we do not say it.

Almost 100% of the time, you should say, "huge new Japanese company."

However, this kind of question is incredibly specific. You really do not need to worry about these kinds of details if you only want to understand the language and communicate effectively, and the fact that you're even interested in these details indicates that your English level is already very advanced and certainly sufficient, and you should be proud. These are the kinds of questions you want to ask only if you want to attempt to pass as a native speaker.

Having said that, if you are STILL interested in the question, then I would suggest that attempting to apply rules and logic to questions of this specificity might not necessarily be helpful. At this advanced level of English study, the rules become increasingly irrelevant, since there are so many exceptions to rules in language. The most helpful way to speak more like a native is to focus on absorbing as much of the language as possible in as many contexts and formats as possible--and, of course, putting all of that to use as often as possible.

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    Hi Brady, you're posting this as an answer, but most of it is your idea of how the English language and learning it work. Please only put address the specific question. Stack Exchange is not a forum, but a Q&A website.
    – Joachim
    Nov 11, 2022 at 21:23
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As far as the question-and-answer PDF goes specifically, I think it's wrong for the reasons everyone's already outlined. If you're given a list of adjectives and told to put them in the "correct" order, huge new Japanese company is what people would usually expect to hear. With no other context, if there's a "correct" order then that would be it!


But as people have said, the context (and delivery) of the sentence does matter. If you're talking about huge Japanese companies, then adding new to the beginning modifies that whole phrase. It puts emphasis on the new, as in "there's another one of those huge Japanese companies".

This is tricky because I'd argue it depends on how established huge company is as a single concept. For example, if you were talking about how big cars are these days, if you said you saw a green big car then to me, that sounds strange! Big car doesn't sound like a single phrase to me, so that ordering feels unnatural - I'd expect the speaker to say big green car and use tone for emphasis, rather than word ordering. (This could change if big car became a common phrase and started to sound like a name in its own right, though!)


But another thing you can do in speech is introduce information bit by bit, instead of as a whole. And I'd argue you can break the rules when you do that - delivering the description in a way that acts as a narrative:

"She got a job there - it's a new, huge, Japanese company"

"Someone was speeding in a green, fast, BIG car"

This might sound fairly informal a lot of the time, but it gives a sense that the speaker is adding information as they think of it, or that they're getting the least important information out of the way first, and adding the more important, more interesting adjectives as the "story" progresses. So you might see this kind of thing sometimes outside of formal written English - just in case you ever run into it!

But just to reiterate, there's no context like this in the PDF example, and this isn't the standard way to order adjectives - it's deliberately breaking the rules, so even if they allowed it as an answer, I wouldn't consider it the single correct answer.

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As usual, Google Ngram has the answer. If you click on that link, you will see that "huge new" is currently over 17 times more popular than "new huge". I see no reason why this ratio should not apply to Japanese companies.

So to sum up: both are acceptable (with slightly different meanings), but "huge new" is much more likely than "new huge". Your answer sheet is wrong.

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  • Huge is a size adjective.
  • New is an age adjective.
  • Size adjectives come before age adjectives (assuming no special context).
  • It should be "Huge new Japanese company."
  • Your source saying otherwise is wrong.
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Going by Mark Forsyth's rule, the order of adjectives in English is:

  1. opinion
  2. size (including huge)
  3. age (including new)
  4. shape
  5. color
  6. origin (including Japanese)
  7. material
  8. purpose

So the correct order is “huge new Japanese company”, which also happens to sound most “natural” to me as a native English speaker.

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