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Find the mistakes in the following sentences:

1. I bought the first two Egyptian cotton shirts the assistant showed me.

2. I bought a big pretty long dress.

My answer

1. I bought the first two Egyptian cotton shirts the assistant showed to me.

2. I think it is correct.

Some grammar books say that adjectives that express opinion like pretty, ugly, beautiful...etc precede adjectives that describe size. According to this rule, the second sentence should read: I bought a pretty big long dress. Is this order of adjectives correct? I am perplexed.

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Omar Ahmed1. I bought the first two Egyptian cotton shirts the assistant showed me.

I don't see anything wrong with this sentence.

Omar Ahmed2. I bought a big pretty long dress.

The fact that 'pretty' has two definitions makes this exercise a nightmare.

pretty: in some degree; somewhat (adverb of degree)

pretty big, pretty long, pretty far, pretty cold, pretty high

pretty: pleasing, pleasant, nice (adjective)

a pretty dress, a pretty girl, a pretty ring, a pretty flower


Assuming the adjective form was intended,

I bought a pretty, big, long dress.

CJ

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Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
  1. I bought the first two Egyptian cotton shirts the assistant showed to me.
  2. I bought a big pretty long dress.

Is there anything wrong with the sentences the way I wrote them?

Omar AhmedI bought a big pretty long dress.

We normally do not buy big dresses.

If a dress is big, it does not fit well. We do not know it is big until we take it home and try it on. Then we take it back and exchange it for a smaller size.

Of course there are exceptions. If I have a young daughter, I might buy a big dress because next year it will fit well. She will grow into it.

1. OK, but as discussed, 'to' is not needed.
2. Commas are needed, as shown earlier.

CJ

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

I understand from your answer to the second sentence that it is correct to place the adjective that shows size before the adjective that shows opinion. Did I get you right?

As a native speaker, I don't follow all those complicated rules about the order of adjectives — mostly because I don't know them. In fact, native speakers rarely use more than two adjectives with a single noun anyway.

Consequently, I can't help you with all those categories of adjectives. The basic idea behind all of that complicated talk about adjectives is that the adjective that is most closely associated with the noun comes closest to the noun, and adjectives that are increasingly less essential to the identity of the noun come increasingly far from the noun. Most of the time it's not the end of the world if you switch the order from what the books tell you, but just know that the books are there for the times when you, for some strange reason, want a lot of adjectives before a noun.

I think that sometimes I am even influenced by the sound of the grouping, i.e., its rhythm, to some extent as well. Also, I tend to treat 'big' and 'little' differently with regard to order. I'd say "strong little boy", but "big strong boy".

CJ

Sometimes when I get an answer from this wonderful site and show it to my instructor, he declines it. He claims that the moderators of all sites depend on informal English and he assures that they are not teachers of English. He also says that we must depend on dictionaries and grammar references and not on non-specialist native speakers. Is that true?

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Omar Ahmed

Sometimes when I get an answer from this wonderful site and show it to my instructor, he declines it. He claims that the moderators of all sites depend on informal English and he assures that they are not teachers of English. He also says that we must depend on dictionaries and grammar references and not on non-specialist native speakers. Is that true?

It depends on your reason for learning English, I suppose.

If you want to speak and write English as near as possible to the way we English speakers speak and write, then you can't go wrong with the advice you get from any native speaker, especially from those who are interested enough to participate in forums like this one.

If you want to speak and write very formal English at all times, then you do need to use dictionaries and reference books. (But these sorts of references are good even for informal speech and writing.) A great many of us on the forum, and on other forums, are teachers of English, however, so even for formal speech and writing, you can get a lot of valuable advice on forums. We, too, often mention dictionaries and grammar references when we answer questions.

If you are studying English in a non-English speaking country, and you are learning it for the purposes of furthering your education in an English-speaking country or for travel you may need to do as part of your working career, then your best bet is to learn both formal and informal styles.

The formal aspects of the language will be useful for writing papers in your academic work. However, if you go into a fast-food restaurant and order your food in a very formal way, as it would be written in a formal essay, people may think you're a bit strange! So for all the practicalities of everyday life, like finding a place to live, eating in a restaurant, making friends with other students, or going shopping, it would be very wise for you to learn how to match your speaking style to that of the people around you, and that means learning to speak informally. (Of course, if you have no plans to travel for your education or for your work, then learning conversational English is not so important. )

CJ

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