When do adjectives come AFTER the noun in English? Example:I speak English well.

1 Answer
Apr 14, 2016

There isn't a fixed rule; however, see below for a discussion of usage.


Note that the "example" is invalid relative to the question since it does not contain an adjective; "well" is an adverb modifying the verb phrase "speak English". Using an adjective, we might say: "I speak good English."

Never-the-less, the question itself is interesting.

Placing an adjective, or adjective phrase, after its noun is used to break the normal flow and emphasize the description. In current usage you will very seldom find this arrangement used with a single adjective but more often with an adjective phrase.

Some examples:

The black clouds began to gather on the horizon.
#color(white)("XXX")#...natural language sequence.

The clouds, black, began to gather on the horizon.
#color(white)("XXX")#Shifting the adjective "black" jolts the reader out of the normal flow
#color(white)("XXX")#and gives emphasis to the "blackness".
#color(white)("XXX")#However, this form would currently be thought overly artificial.

The clouds, dark and menacing, began to gather on the horizon.
#color(white)("XXX")#Compared to "The dark and menacing clouds..."
#color(white)("XXX")#gives an emphasis to the description and
#color(white)("XXX")#is a more likely usage than the single adjective version.

Usage of the inverted (adjective after noun) form can become tiresome if overused and should only be employed after careful consideration.