Possible Duplicate:
Why do some adjectives follow the nouns they modify?
Attributive and predicative position of an adjective
“A place nearby” but not “A place good”

My natural language is French, and I am full fluent in Spanish. Since in Spanish we can use almost any adjectives to precede or go after a noun or pronoun. I would like to know if in English is the same case, or do the adjectives always precedes a noun or pronoun?

Is there any exception? What are the grammatical rules involved?

  • 1
    "Due partially to borrowings from French, English has some adjectives that follow the noun as postmodifiers, called postpositive adjectives, such as time immemorial. Adjectives may even change meaning depending on whether they precede or follow, as in proper: They live in a proper town (a real town, not a village) vs. They live in the town proper (in the town itself, not in the suburbs). All adjectives can follow nouns in certain constructions, such as tell me something new." — Wikipedia
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 8, 2012 at 12:50
  • As you can see from your own question, they normally go before the noun, although there are exceptions; and if they serve as subject complements, they normally don't go before the noun. Aug 8, 2012 at 12:50
  • They are also found after the noun in some verse. Aug 8, 2012 at 12:51
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    Lastly, you might wish to support our proposed sister site for English language learners. Thanks.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 8, 2012 at 13:07

1 Answer 1


Adjectives in contemporary English almost never go after the noun. If they do, it's a deliberate inversion and is probably used for dramatic or poetic effect.


The most prominent family in town was the family McCoy (norm. the McCoy family)
He languished 16 years in durance vile (meaning captivity, but this is an example of archaic and very purple prose).

Other elements of style can cause an adjective to follow a noun:

His thought processes were of a type bizarre and yet curiously logical.

Here what looks like a simple inversion is actually an example of ellipsis. The writer has dropped "that was" from between the noun and the adjective. To be utterly explicit (not necessary here), the sentence could have been written:

His thought processes were of a type that was bizarre and yet curiously logical.

When Hamlet's father's ghost speaks of "murder most foul" we can interpret this as an example of ellipsis or simply an archaic noun-adjective inversion.

Almost all instances of such inversions in contemporary speech and writing are throwbacks. Cf. "body politic" and so on.

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