Grammar rules vs Real-life English

The other day, I wrote about my experience in ordering a cup of coffee at a McCafe. I wanted iced coffee (as opposed to hot). I wanted a medium-sized coffee (as opposed to large). I wanted almond coffee (as opposed to ordinary coffee). I wanted to say everything in one sentence – and then realised I was not sure how to do that in Chinese!

Teachers of English will know that there is a grammar rule governing the order of adjectives that come before a noun. Specifically:

opinion> size> age > temperature> shape> colour> origin> material (e.g.,
It was an ugly, big, blue, plastic bag.)

After presenting the ‘rule’, some teachers will continue to get students to practise the rule through exercises, to make sure that students are getting the order correct.

But I have always wondered: How often do native speakers use a long string of adjectives before a noun? In real-life communications, they will likely break it down into two or three utterances.

Bottom line: What grammar references or coursebooks say is one thing; what we should teach is another.


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