Can these phrases be interpreted differently:

1 - old foggy London

2 - foggy old London

I tend to think the first imply London has always been foggy and the second that Lodon became foggy at one point of its existence. Make any sense?

  • 1
    Research order of adjectives.
    – Astralbee
    Jan 2 at 14:05
  • 1
    I don't think there is any difference in meaning. "[Adjective] old [noun]" is a common combination which can be either affectionate or contemptuous - "Good old Jim" - "nasty old thing". Jan 2 at 14:19
  • 3
    Off-topic I guess, but it annoys Brits when they hear from foreigners that London is 'foggy'. It hasn't been seriously foggy for 60 years or more. Jan 2 at 14:28
  • @KateBunting - yes, you could say 'good old Jim' even if Jim is aged 20. Jan 2 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


There are three uses of the word "old" that could be intended in these sentences:

  1. Constructed a long time ago. The typical meaning of "old".

  2. Former; original. Used of cities to denote some area that comes from an older period than the rest.

  3. An intensifier or familiarizer or even meaningless particle, as in "good old Dan" (Dan is not actually old).

"Old, foggy London" has the first meaning. London is old and foggy.

"Foggy Old London" (note capitalization) has the second meaning. Old London (a part of the city) is foggy.

"Foggy old London" has the third meaning. London, that jolly old city of ours, is foggy.

Maybe you could argue that "foggy old London" could have the first meaning as well, but it sounds like the wrong order of adjectives to me.

  • do you think the phases: "English native speaker" and "native English speaker" could be understood to mean the same thing of course with the listener realizing the speaker is not a native speaker of English or do you think thse phrases could differ in meaning? I ask you that because the phrase: "native English speaker" made think of "old foggy..." and "foggy old..." example Jan 2 at 14:56
  • @fabianoluna No, "English native speaker" sounds plain wrong. I think it's only because of the flexibility of "old" that there are multiple possibilities for the London example. Jan 2 at 15:00
  • Native qualifies the phrase English speaker, not just speaker. Jan 2 at 15:22
  • @Kate Bunting, could "English" qualify: "native speaker" so that would be a native speaker of English? Jan 2 at 16:39
  • 1
    To me, English native speaker would mean 'a native speaker from England', and native speaker means nothing without a language. Jan 2 at 17:47

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