As the title implies, when introducing a list of a definite number of examples, do I write the number before or after "following"?

Personally, I use "Three following examples". However, "following three examples" also exists, but feels wrong for me. Searching for the "three following examples" and "following three examples" in Google, it shows there are more of the second example than the first.

I would assume that in "Three following examples", "following" is treated as an adjective, thus uses the rule where quantity precede all other adjectives. This is why I prefer this one. But I have no idea why "following three examples" is prefered.

Alternatively, I know "the following examples" exists, but I want to see if there's a rule for the definite number.

Example 1:

"Today we're talking about poetry. What's poetry?"

  • Please read the three following examples:


  • Please read the following three examples:

Example 2:

"I'll read the first question. Number 1:"

  • Which of the three following examples are correct?


  • Which of the following three examples are correct?
  • You need to provide more context. At least a full sentence, and perhaps the sentence before. – Hot Licks Sep 30 '16 at 11:54
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of What is the rule for adjective order? – Mitch Sep 30 '16 at 12:15
  • I'm not sure whether my 'lack of research' close-vote reason will be shown, hence this comment. 'Neither of which have enough examples for me to have a definite rule.' needs explaining, especially in the light of there being many thousands of hits on Google for both "three following examples" and "following three examples". – Edwin Ashworth Sep 30 '16 at 14:26
  • Examples added. Sorry. – dgood1 Oct 1 '16 at 2:23
  • @Edwin_Ashworth I tried your search entry ("three following examples" etc ) now, and I do see them now. At that time, I wasn't looking for those exact words though. Just the rule. My bad. But now it's pointing at the second one (following three examples), and I still don't know why that is. – dgood1 Oct 1 '16 at 2:24

Can't get the right source, but I definitely remember Michael Swan saying that it should be:

  • Tensions between the rich and poor grow higher under the following five circumstances:

Here are more examples:

In my opinion:

  • "Which of the three following examples are correct?" - Means that the examples are following someone or something. While it should be "Which of the following three examples are correct?" - That means the three examples are to follow this sentence.

Here's a source: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/following that says:

  • [treated as singular or plural] What follows or comes next. ‘the following are both grammatically correct sentences’
| improve this answer | |

I would actually perceive the position of the word "three" as indicating your "point of reference" in the sentence.

For example, "three following examples" can be thought of as three examples that succeed or "follow" some sort of statement. Your "point of reference" would precede those three examples.

The "following three examples" statement can be thought of as your "point of reference" succeeding those three examples. That is, your statements occur after the three examples have been provided.

Here is an example:

"The three following cookies are yours"


"The following three cookies are yours"

We could presume, in theory, that in the first context, the three cookies are already known. Whereas in the second context, the three cookies are unknown.

This answer might be slightly misplaced. However, hopefully you understand it.

| improve this answer | |
  • Welcome to ELU.SE. Anonymous Exchangist, this site strives to provide objective answers. As it stands your answer could be improved by adding references. Take the tour or have a look at the help center to find out more about good answers. – Helmar Oct 1 '16 at 14:30
  • From how I understand it (and this is frankly just a guess), you're trying to say that there's an expected statement before or after the examples, and whether it's before or after is implied with where the "three" is: "Three following examples" meaning the expected statement is before. Is this correct? – dgood1 Oct 2 '16 at 4:57
  • Yes, that is what I intended to mean. – Anonymous Exchangist Oct 2 '16 at 5:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.