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Why do some adjectives follow the nouns they modify?

In English, adjectives usually precede the nouns they describe, as in "organic carrots".

However, in some cases "normal" adjectives are reversed - possibly for emphasis or to add an exotic flair.

For example, Curtis Mayfield's album "A Love Supreme"; this would normally flow "a supreme love", but is reversed for some reason.

Whatever the case may be, is there a word for this switcharound?


This is called hyperbaton, which means to use the words out of their normal order. This can be used as an impact strategy. The writing guide Bang: Writing with Impact explains it this way:

Any time you place words out of their normal order, you create impact. You force the reader to pay attention to them, reflect on them, and remember them. In this strategy, you immediately follow the name of a thing with an adjective or descriptive phrase. In this way, the description becomes part of the name of the thing; they are inseparable. When your reader thinks of the thing, he or she will also think of the description because the description becomes part of the name.

Your reader will notice this immediately, which means this strategy can be used to emphasize a key characteristic. However, because this change in word order is so obvious and so prone to sounding contrived, it must be used carefully and infrequently. In the right place, it can be a highly effective technique for emphasizing a point. Use it at the end of a sentence for greatest impact.

“This is a plan impossible.”

  • I think you may have answered this as I was editing the question, but it's spot on either way - thank you! – Samuel Hulick Oct 5 '11 at 21:40

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