This is my favorite new restaurant.
This is my new favorite restaurant.

Why is the meaning of these two different when you swap the adjectives?

Is it because favorite and new modify restaurant in the first one and favorite becomes a noun modifier where new modifies favorite meaning new favorite modifies restaurant in the second one?

I’m just confused because usually you can swap around adjectives without changing the meaning of the phrase but that is not the case here.

1 Answer 1


In the first example, "favorite" is modifying "new restaurant," so it refers to your favorite among the new restaurants.

In the second example, "new" is modifying "favorite restaurant," so it refers to the most recent of your favorite restaurants (i.e. to the restaurant that has most recently become your favorite).

This is a good example of what Huddleston & Pullum (2002) call stacked modification. In your first example, "new" modifies "restaurant," and then "favorite" modifies "new restaurant." Instead of modifying the noun simultaneously, the adjectives modify the noun in sequence.

  • Do you happen to know why "my new favorite" has become much more productive than "my favorite new" since around 2000? books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – JK2
    Apr 22 at 2:30
  • @JK2 "My favorite new" is likely unpopular for semantic reasons. There aren't many cases in which you would say "my favorite of the new things"; "new" is usually too ambiguous to define a precise class from which you could select a favorite.
    – alphabet
    Apr 22 at 2:52
  • I'm not sure why "my new favorite" took off, though.
    – alphabet
    Apr 22 at 2:53
  • @JK2 The 3-grams do not cut out the false positives of the form 'This/He ... is my new favorite.'. Apr 22 at 15:25
  • @EdwinAshworth Possibly. But this shows the same trend: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – JK2
    Apr 23 at 1:57

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