Adjectives in a Series

When you have adjectives in a series, sometimes they’re divided up by commas, and sometimes they are not. So, I want to take a look at when you need to use a comma, and when you don’t need to use a comma.

This first sentence says: “An interesting blue box.”

The next lesson: Degrees of Comparison, both lessons are included in Practice Tests.

The following transcript is provided for your convenience.

Now, you notice that “interesting” and “blue” are both adjectives because they describe “box“. But, do you need a comma between interesting and blue? The answer is you do not because there’s a simple test you can use to decide whether you need a comma or not. The question is, can we use, or can you insert “and” or “but” in between the two adjectives?

So, if we insert “and” between “interesting” and “blue“, would it make sense?

An interesting and blue box.”

That doesn’t really sound right. You wouldn’t say that in a sentence. Can we insert the word “but“?

An interesting but blue box.”

That really doesn’t make sense either. So, since we can’t insert “and” or “but” in between the two words, then we don’t need a comma.

So, take a look at this next sentence. It says:

A serious, kind man.”

Serious” and “kind” are both adjectives describing “man“, and a comma separates the two adjectives. Why? Because try inserting “and” between the two adjectives.

A serious, and kind man.”

Well, that doesn’t really sound right, because “serious” and “kind” are totally opposite. So, let’s try inserting “but“.

A serious, but kind man.”

That would make sense. You could write a sentence using that phrasing. So, we are going to put a comma in between these two words.

Now, although that’s a test to figure out whether we need a comma or not, that’s not really the reason you need a comma or the reason you don’t need a comma.

The reason is there’s a certain order that adjectives come in, and it’s not very easy to describe what order those adjectives need to come in, but when you speak English for a little bit, you just get a feel for what order of adjectives need to come in.

So, basically, if you have adjectives that are alike, that are kind of describing the same attributes of something that the adjective is describing, then you need to use a comma.

Practice tests help you remember. Take this mini-test to solidify your memory.
Mini-test: Adjectives in a Series 

If a comma is needed between the two underlined words, choose from drop down menu “comma” . If not, choose: “no comma”.

With dinner they served a tossed green salad.
She is a creative intelligent executive.
3. It was an invigorating fall afternoon.


The next lesson: Degrees of Comparison, both lessons are included in Practice Tests.