Italian Language/order of adjectives


Dear Maria,

Can you please tell me if there is any special way to determine the correct order of Italian adjectives when two adjectives are used to modify the same noun.

I understand that in English there are “coordinate adjectives” (that can be in any order) and “cumulative adjectives” (that must remain in a certain order).  Can you please tell me if the same type of concept exists in Italian.

It would help me very much if you would please tell me how to say the following sentences in Italian:

Rich had a short, happy life.

Brian drives a red fire truck.

I am wondering if the adjectives  must be in the same order in the Italian sentences, or if they can also be reversed in order.

Thank you very much.  I tried searching the internet but was not able to find this information.   I will very much appreciate your help.

Very Sincerely,


Dear Rich,

Actually  there is no special way to determine the correct order of Italian adjectives when two adjectives are used to modify the same noun as in “Rich had a short, happy life” or “Brian drives a red fire truck”.

Also, we do not have “coordinate adjectives” (that can be in any order) and “cumulative adjectives” (that must remain in a certain order),  but, generally speaking,  when there are two qualifying adjectives  in sequence with the same noun, if one of them denotes  colours or nationalities, the qualifying adjective such as "bello" must come before the noun and the other after, as in e.g. “Il mio amico ha una bella macchina tedesca”  or “Lei ha comprato una bella macchina rossa”.

Anyway,  in “Ho molti buoni amici” both adjectives come before the noun, just as in ”E’ un caro vecchio amico” or  “Hai molte meravigliose idee”, though this last sentence can also have a different order of the adjectives and then it can be written as “Hai molte idee meravigliose”, according to the emphasis that one wants to give to the adjective.
See also:“Ha vissuto una lunga vita felice” which can also be written as “Ha vissuto una vita  lunga e felice” with the conjunction "e".

As for  “Rich had a short, happy life “ and “Brian drives a red fire truck”, they may be translated as follows:

-“Rich ha avuto una vita breve, ma felice” where we point out that his life was short, but however happy.

-“Brian guida un’autopompa rossa” where  “fire truck” is “autopompa” and “red”, which is an adjective denoting  a colour,  follows the noun, as you can read below.
Note that it would be wrong to say: “Rich ha avuto una breve felice vita” and “Brian guida una rossa autopompa”.

To conclude, I have to point out  that :

-in Italian, the order of the adjectives is not fixed, so that, whereas in English the adjective comes before the noun, in Italy it often goes after the noun.
For example, we usually put the qualifying adjectives after the noun as in e.g. “Era un uomo intelligente”, “E’ una ragazza alta”, “Mi hai suggerito un’idea buona”, but we can also put them before the noun as in “E’ un buon amico”, “Era una vecchia amica”, “Il tuo fu un cattivo consiglio”, “Mi hai suggerito una buona idea”, etc.

-the demonstrative, possessive, indefinite, interrogative and numeral adjectives  come before the noun as in “Mio padre venne a trovarmi”, “Quell’uomo è simpatico”, “Questa casa non mi piace”, “Nessun panorama mi attrae quanto quello della campagna”, “Quale film ti è piaciuto?”, “Aveva tre macchine”, etc.

- the adjectives denoting colours or nationalities follow the noun.
See for example:”Egli ha una macchina tedesca”, “Lei possiede una macchina rossa”, “Indossava un abito nero”, “Ho fatto amicizia con  una signora americana”, etc.

- the position of the adjective can often denote a different meaning.
For example: "Un uomo grande" means “a big man”, whereas "un grand'uomo" means “a great man”; “Un buon amico” means “a true friend”, whereas “Un amico buono” means “ a good-hearted friend”; “un pover’uomo” means “an unlucky man”, whereas “Un uomo povero” means “A poor man”,  etc.

As you can see, it is the context as well as the choice of the speaker/writer that determines the correct order of Italian adjectives so that I’m afraid I cannot help you more for it is the everyday use of the language that can teach you the correct order of the adjectives.

Best regards,


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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.


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I received my Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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