Cumulative Adjectives

Have you ever come across a phrase that describes a noun in terms of a combination of multiple adjectives? Cumulative adjectives are an interesting way to describe and visualize any noun like a person, thing, animal, or place. They are sometimes referred to as ‘pileups’ or ‘strings’ and are characterized by two or more adjectives being used together for emphasis. In this article, we’ll take a look at some examples of cumulative adjectives and explore their usage and correct order.

What are Cumulative Adjectives?

Cumulative adjectives are series of adjectives that are used together to describe a noun. They are usually placed before the noun they modify. Since they function as a unit, cumulative adjectives are not separated by commas. Moreover, this string of adjectives follows a correct order.

Here are five examples of cumulative adjectives used in sentences:

1. Ariana wore a beautiful bright yellow silk dress.

2. My friends ate a delicious homemade Italian pizza.

3. John bought a shiny new electric car.

4. She found a bunch of old rusty metal keys.

5. Dahlia went to a beautiful large modern Mediterranean vacation house.

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Arrangement and Order of Cumulative Adjectives

The arrangement and order of cumulative adjectives are important to ensure that the phrase conveys the intended meaning. Generally, adjectives are arranged in a specific order depending on their type.

Refer to the table below for the correct order of cumulative adjectives:

Order of AdjectivesExamples
Determinerthe, a, an, this, that, these, those, my, his, her, a few, some, a lot
Quantityone, two, three, four, five, dozen
Intensifierexceedingly, somewhat, rather, very, utterly, really
Opinion or Observationstrict, pretty, cryptic, ugly, amazing, bulky, flawless, nice, powerful
Sizebig, small, gigantic, tiny, enormous, medium, large, immense, pocket-size
Ageolder, elderly, younger, senior, adult, antique, modern, junior, new
Shapecircle, square, flat, rectangular, curved, round, straight, wide
Colorpink, green, purple, light yellow, ash grey, crimson, black, blue
OriginIndian, Korean, German, French, Italian, American, Chinese
Materialmetal, glass, silver, wooden, brass, cotton, wool, concrete, plastic
Purposesleeping (mat), vacation (house), living (room), washing (machine),
Order and Arrangement of Adjectives Table
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Examples of Cumulative Adjectives in Sentences

Cumulative adjectives paint a descriptive image of nouns in a reader’s head when used correctly. Here are twenty-five examples of cumulative adjectives in sentences:

1. The seamstress sewed numerous very flattering long cotton skirts.

2. Kyle gave my sister a bouquet of fragrant freshly-picked red roses.

3. Her grandmother used to be a famous classical pianist.

4. We found a large ancient rectangular wooden brown chest in the attic.

5. I bought a pair of really comfortable black leather shoes for work.

6. I saw a beautiful bright orange sunset over the horizon.

7. My aunt gave me a cute little furry white kitten as a gift.

8. The cozy traditional Japanese restaurant is a great place to eat.

9. His large emerald green yoga mat is here.

10. Leochares created that beautiful white Greek marble statue in the museum.

11. My grandmother knitted a beautiful large pink woolen scarf for me.

12. The old rusty metal gate creaked when opened.

13. I saw a beautiful slender white swan swimming in the lake.

14. Her small old rustic Italian house was charming.

15. My dad bought me two really expensive luxurious blue denim jackets.

16. This fancy modern French restaurant was featured in a famous magazine.

17. The child made a small green paper boat.

18. Kristina likes to eat sweet yellow Philippine mangoes for dessert.

19. We saw the ancient Egyptian pyramid while we were on vacation.

20. My mom bought me a cute little fluffy white teddy bear for my birthday.

21. The baker made freshly-baked golden brown wheat bread loaves yesterday.

22. Saturn is a giant bright yellow gas planet.

23. His beautiful large colorful abstract painting was the highlight of the exhibition.

24. These delicate handmade silver earrings are a great gift.

25. Bianca gave me those round red sunglasses last year.

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Cumulative Adjectives Exercises with Answers

Arrange the adjectives inside the parentheses below correctly to complete the sentence.

1. The child accidentally broke (round, that, bottle, antique, glass, American).

2. The florist showed me (very, tiny, two, pretty, purple, orchid flowers).

3. (somewhat, middle-aged, snobbish, A, British man) was walking down the street.

4. Buy (paper boxes, eco-friendly, square, a dozen of) for the party.

5. Michael Phelps is (Olympic, talented, a, very) swimmer.

6. (Spanish bread, Their, soft, freshly baked, palm-size) is the best in town.

7. The anthropologist found (gold, an, coin, old, Byzantine).

8. Pablo lost (pocket-sized, his, Japanese, rectangular, extremely, blue, four, pricey) books.

9. We went to (small, a, fancy, somewhat) family gathering.

10. I want (ivory white, a, marble, minimalist) table for my living room.


1. The child accidentally broke that round antique American glass bottle.

2. The florist showed me two very pretty tiny purple orchid flowers.

3. A somewhat snobbish middle-aged British man was walking down the street.

4. Buy a dozen of eco-friendly square paper boxes for the party.

5. Michael Phelps is a very talented Olympic swimmer.

6. Their soft palm-size freshly baked Spanish bread is the best in town.

7. The anthropologist found an old Byzantine gold coin.

8. Pablo lost his four extremely pricey pocket-sized rectangular blue Japanese books.

9. We went to a somewhat fancy small family gathering.

10. I want a minimalist ivory white marble table for my living room.

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Cumulative Adjectives Frequency List

Order of AdjectivesExamples
Determinerthe, a, an, this, that, these, those, my, his, her, a few, some, a lot
Quantityone, two, three, four, five, dozen, half dozen
Intensifierexceedingly, somewhat, rather, very, utterly, really, too
Opinion or Observationlovely, smart, cheap, bustling, majestic, fast, quiet, dangerous
Sizebig, small, gigantic, tiny, enormous, miniscule, immense, pocket-size
Ageolder, elderly, younger, senior, adult, antique, modern, junior, new
Shapecircle, square, flat, rectangular, curved, round, straight, wide
Colorblue, red, green, yellow, violet, blue green, red orange, peach
OriginIndian, Korean, German, French, Italian, American, Chinese, German
Materialalloy, glass, silver, wooden, brass, cotton, wool, concrete, plastic, gold
Purposedining (table), lounge (chair), driving (license), travel (bag), running (shoes)
Cumulative Adjectives Frequency Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Language learning is a step-by-step process of understanding and mastering the nuances of a language. One of the key aspects of learning English is understanding and using cumulative adjectives correctly. Cumulative adjectives are words used to describe something in more detail, such as size, shape, color, or material. Below are learning tips you can do to improve your learning process:

1. Learn the basics of grammar and sentence structure first. Sentences comprise individual words put together to form meaning. Once you know the function of different word units, it will be easier to put them together following the grammar rules. Before using a string of adjectives, you can start with one or two first before mastering the cumulative adjectives.

2. Practice using cumulative adjectives in sentences by writing them down or speaking them aloud. After learning about a grammar component, transfer and test your knowledge by putting it into practice. For example, pick three objects in your surroundings and describe them using cumulative adjectives. Writing helps you memorize and strengthen your understanding of the topic.

3 . Read books, magazines, and other materials written in English. Acquiring knowledge through observation is one of the best strategies for English learners. Through reading, learners observe patterns of the words used in sentences. They can mimic a sentence pattern until they are comfortable writing on their own. Furthermore, the concepts they learn from reading solidify their language acquisition and help them become more proficient in using cumulative adjectives.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand Coordinate Adjectives, Order of Adjectives and Adjectives Definition and Examples.

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Common Mistakes Made by English Learners

There are eleven groups of words to remember under cumulative adjectives. As such, memorizing the correct order of those words may not always be easy for English language learners. It results in them committing mistakes when using a string of adjectives in speaking and writing. Here are mistakes you must know and avoid as you study this topic:

Common MistakesWhy it HappensCorrectionExamples
Improper Order of AdjectivesMemorizing eleven different word groups and their correct order is challenging.

When learners confuse the arrangement of adjectives, they compromise the meaning of the sentence and are considered grammatically wrong.
Don’t use all the eleven word groups in writing and speaking. Start small by using only three or four. You can add more adjectives as you improve.

Moreover, you can create mnemonics and divide the string. For example

(1) DetQuanInOp:

for determiner, quantity, intensifier, and observation;

(2) SiAgeShCol:

for size, age, shape, and color; and

(3) OrMatPur:

for origin, material, and purpose.
Here are sentences using a string of three to five string of adjectives:

The bubbly little schoolboy wants ice cream.

I need to buy a very durable ergonomic chair for my office.

He cooks nutritious Korean food daily.
Using CommasOne common misconception is placing a comma to separate cumulative adjectives.

This problem might spring from the general function of a comma: to separate words, phrases, or ideas.

However, the cumulative adjective is an exception to the rule.
Remember that cumulative adjectives provide a description for one noun. Thus, there is no need to separate the adjectives used following the correct order in a sentence.Correct:

He is a bright young German entrepreneur.

Incorrect: He is a bright, young, German entrepreneur.


She lost her small brown leather purse.


She lost her small, brown, leather purse.
Cumulative Adjectives vs Coordinate AdjectivesCumulative adjectives are often mistaken for coordinate adjectives. It’s because both are a string of adjectives.

However, adjectives on the former are of different importance. In contrast, adjectives under the former are of equal rank.
A comma is an identifying factor in determining if a string of adjectives is cumulative or coordinate. Cumulative adjectives don’t use a comma. Meanwhile, coordinate adjectives do.Cumulative Adjectives:

– expensive large Persian carpet
– creative pink modern art

Coordinate adjectives:

– strong, independent woman
– happy, fulfilling life
Cumulative Adjectives Common Errors Table
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Learning Cumulative Adjectives Strategies and Best Practices

Cumulative adjectives provide a more detailed description of a noun. It is a relatively easy topic to learn. However, memorizing the string of words that forms it is challenging. To address this, get creative in your learning process. One strategy suggested above is creating a mnemonic for ease of recall. You can also create a table to guide you remember the correct order as with the cumulative adjectives listed above.

Practice your knowledge by answering quizzes from English textbooks and online. You can also learn with a partner and convert this topic into a game to make learning fun. Create a deck of cards that contains various nouns, alternately pick one, and provide a sentence with a cumulative adjective string for it. Finally, apply your knowledge in your writing. This will help you remember the rules and practice your grammar skills.

Cumulative Adjectives Frequently Asked Questions

When using cumulative adjectives, it is essential to remember that the order of the adjectives matters. The correct order of cumulative adjectives is: Determiner – Quantity – Intensifier Opinion or Observation – Size – Age – Shape – Color – Origin – Material – Purpose.

Coordinate adjectives contain two or more equal adjectives separated by a comma or the conjunction “and.”

For example, “smart, funny lady” and “rainy and gloomy day.” In contrast, cumulative adjectives don’t use a comma, and “and” to separate adjectives.

Moreover, it follows this order: Determiner – Quantity – Intensifier Opinion or Observation – Size – Age – Shape – Color – Origin – Material – Purpose.

Yes. You must use a comma between two adjectives when they are coordinate adjectives. However, don’t place a comma when using cumulative adjectives.

Ideally, you can use three to four adjectives to describe a noun. In doing so, ensure that you are following the correct order of cumulative adjectives to avoid mistakes.

Cumulative adjectives are important in English grammar because they allow you to express more information about a noun.

For example, instead of just saying “big house,” you can say, “beautiful big Japanese house” to give an accurate mental picture of the noun.

Additionally, cumulative adjectives can help to make sentences more interesting and descriptive.

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