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Where does "big" come before "old"?

Where does "three" come before "triangular"?

Where does "intelligent" come before "studious"?

Where does "smooth" come before "pearly"?

Where does "beautiful" come before "green"?

There is one place (or rule, or method) where all these orders make sense. Can you find the key that satisfies all conditions?

Notes:

  1. The alphabet is not a part of this puzzle. I know that four out of five pairs are in alphabetical order, but that's actually irrelevant.

  2. I did not come up with this ordering system. It's much older than anyone on this forum and everyone here knows what it is - you might not be able to define it on the first try, but you use it all the time.

  3. All of the orders follow the rule exactly. There is no stretching/bending of rules.

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  • $\begingroup$ Using this system, is it possible that two words "rank" in the same position (i.e. neither comes before the other?) $\endgroup$ – Hugh Feb 10 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Hugh that's actually a really hard question to answer. Strictly using the source I did, the answer is "yes". $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ Well, it kind of is a rule, I would think. Perhaps you could make this an answer ;) ? $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ @EricTressler & Brandon_J — well that's clever... $\endgroup$ – Hugh Feb 10 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Hugh just our of curiosity, was that serious or sarcastic? $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 22:56
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I think your question is referring to

the usual order of adjectives/adverbs in English (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/about-adjectives-and-adverbs/adjectives-order), which are given there as:

  1. opinion (mysterious)

  2. size (giant)

  3. physical quality (flat)

  4. shape (rectangular)

  5. age (ancient)

  6. colour (black)

  7. origin (alien)

  8. material (???)

  9. type (monolithic)

  10. purpose (judging)

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  • $\begingroup$ For 8, "wooden" would be a possible value. See also this post on another SE site which I was going to suggest that this was a duplicate of because i had just come from that site and was obviously still a bit confused. :-) $\endgroup$ – Hellion Feb 11 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ No; it's unclear what the material is, but wood seems unlikely $\endgroup$ – Eric Tressler Feb 11 at 4:04
  • $\begingroup$ whoops, clearly I missed the theme of the examples. $\endgroup$ – Hellion Feb 11 at 5:14
  • $\begingroup$ That's okay, I was just trying to make the answer a little more interesting. For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure I saw the post you linked to, a few years ago. I did some further reading and eventually found this article, which stuck with me as well. $\endgroup$ – Eric Tressler Feb 11 at 5:50
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At a stretch it could be...

A dictionary with the Pe page ripped out and placed at the end.

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    $\begingroup$ Haha good one - but no stretching or tearing is necessary. $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 22:09
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How about

the order in which a baby will learn these words?

It does fit pretty nicely, however it may not be the expected answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm afraid I don't understand - could you elaborate a bit? $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, I see what you mean. No, the rule isn't anything that I've created. It's been around for longer than I've been alive. $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Brandon_J Edited again :) $\endgroup$ – Arnaud Mortier Feb 10 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ I like this idea (upvote), but it's not what I was looking for. I've updated my post with a contradictory pair of words. Very creative solution, though! $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Brandon_J Thanks! I've also upvoted your question as it seems to be quite far-reaching given the amount of reasonable yet wrong answers. $\endgroup$ – Arnaud Mortier Feb 10 at 22:37
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I have a solution!

In the alphabet. B comes before O, th comes before tr, I comes before S and S comes before P.

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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, P comes before S in the alphabet :) Good try, though! $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry. Oops, I was so happy! $\endgroup$ – E.Hinde Feb 10 at 21:51
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One possible answer may be:

Time. One chronologically can come before the other.
It does not say that it always has to come before, since it uses "where does" instead of "what always". Therefore, I believe that time is a possible answer.

Where does "big" come before "old"?

When you are old, you shrink. A person is often a couple inches shorter (or more) when they are very old, largely due to spinal compression from gravity along with loss of bone density. So, you are bigger when you are younger.

Where does "three" come before "triangular"?

You need 3 sides first before you can have a triangle.

Where does "intelligent" come before "studious"?

If you are intelligent, it can follow that you are also studious, as you are more likely to study a lot. It does often follow that the person is studious when they are intelligent.

Where does "smooth" come before "pearly"?

In order to be considered pearly, you must first be smooth. While is is possible to be smooth and not pearly, it is unlikely to be considered pearly if it is not smooth first.


Update:

You edited your question with a new pair.

Where does "beautiful" come before "green"?

You changed the terms of this question. Please don't change a question which invalidates existing answers. That said, I can still follow the rule:

A picked flower. A picked flower in a vase must first be beautiful if it is to remain green. If the flower is ugly, it will not be green as it will be thrown in the trash and become brown.

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    $\begingroup$ Another good possibility (upvote) - but not what I'm looking for. I should probably add some new pairs. $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ Haha! Great :) Yes may not be your original intent but based on what currently exists in the question I believe my answer is possible :) $\endgroup$ – Riddler Feb 10 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ There we go - I've invalidated your answer :) $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Brandon_J One of the unspoken rules on this site is Please don't change a question which invalidates existing answers. It is considered rude. Thanks! :) $\endgroup$ – Riddler Feb 10 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose it's spoken now :) I only did it to narrow down possible answers and justify explaining why your answers aren't what I was looking for. Should I rollback? $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Feb 10 at 22:38

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