English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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2.2 Ordering information before the main noun

A great deal of information can be conveyed by placing adjectives, adverbs and other nouns before the noun. However, these must be placed in the order indicated by the table below.

You probably do this much of the time without thinking, but academic writing can be helped by becoming more aware of the underlying ‘rules’.

Table 2
Which?How is it? What is it like?What kind?Main noun


(my, the, a, this, some)

























Activity 2

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Look at the following word lists and create a grammatically correct noun group for each one.

  1. corporation – multinational – large – a – American
  2. insect – a – flying – brightly coloured – long
  3. long-term – undesirable – economic – several – effects
  4. solution – temporary – accounting – acceptable – an
  5. task – time-consuming – very difficult – this – reading
  6. very small – five-year-old – cat – a – rescue – black
  7. antique – impressive – table – dinner – marble – Italian – an


  1. a large American multinational corporation
  2. a long brightly coloured flying insect
  3. several undesirable long-term economic effects
  4. an acceptable temporary accounting solution
  5. this very difficult time-consuming reading task
  6. a very small five-year-old black rescue cat
  7. an impressive antique Italian marble dinner table


This activity shows that a great deal of information can be conveyed through noun groups. Adjectives (e.g. large, difficult, antique), adverbs (very, brightly) and nouns (dinner, marble, rescue) placed before the main noun allow a writer to convey a great deal of information in a clear and concise way.

Writing concisely using noun groups that give detailed information is often important in assignments where there is a need to keep within a strict word limit. Of course, it is important not to overuse adjectives and adverbs as, if too many are included, the text can become too dense and difficult to read.

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