Nepali is a Subject + Object + Verb language. Hence, verbs come at the end of the sentence. That means, John oranges ate would be a standard sentence. Here, John would be the subject whereas Oranges would be the object.
Adjectives, like in English, comes before the word it modifies. Hence, the word order would be like:
Adjective + Noun
So, ’thulo ghar’ means ‘Big house’ where ’thulo’ means ’big’ and ’ghar’ means ’house’.
Let’s learn the ordering of Adjectives!
There are two types of adjectives, the pure types and the ones made by addition of ’ko’. As you know, ’ko’ shows the relation between two object, usually ’X’s Y’. In Nepali, words modified by ’Ko’ is classified as ‘Adjectives’. Let’s see about ’ko’ for now:
When you say ’the green tree on the road’, you mean ’the green tree’ which constitutes one part, is located on the ’road’, a second part. (Tree and Road are both nouns). You do not mean a tree which is located on a green road! When you use ’ko’, that word ko modifies behaves as an adjective. Due to the SOV property, the adjectives made by ’ko’ go from general to specific rather than specific to general (as in the case of English).
So breaking that sentence would give:
हरियो रुख (hariyo rukh) = Green Tree
बाटो (bato) = Road
Any relation between the tree and the road? Yes, a possessive relation (road is ’possessing’ the tree). Hence, the genitive marker ’ko’ is used. Hence:
बाटोको हरियो रुख (bato ko hariyo rukh)
= The green tree on the road
[Road’s + Green + Tree]
As you can see, the adjectives went from General (Road) to Specific (Tree). Do other sentence parts follow the same pattern? Let’s see:
अमेरिकाको विद्यालयको गुरु (amerika ko bidyalaya ko guru)
= A School Teacher from America
[America’s + School’s + Teacher]
The possessive element in English is hidden but you cannot ignore that in Nepali. When we convert nouns to adjectives, we usually use the genitive marker ’ko’. Since ‘America’, ‘School’ and ‘Teacher’ are all Nouns, we cannot just simply say ’america school teacher’ in Nepali. It doesn’t make sense.
So, do you see something? The adjectives go from America (general) to Teacher (specific).
विरुवाको पातको रेखा (biruwa ko paat ko rekha)
= Lines on Plant’s Leaves
[Plant’s + Leaves + Lines]
You can reword the sentence into:
Plant’s Leaves’ Lines
Lines on the leaves of the plants ….. etc.
….but the meaning remains the same. So, ’paat ko rekha’ means ‘Lines of leaves’. But where is it? Whose is it? It belongs to a plant. Hence it is ‘biruwa ko’. Still, the word order goes from general (plants) to specific (lines).
हाम्रो घरको ढोका (hamro ghar ko dhoka)
= Our House’s Door
[ Our + House’s + Door]
But what if, the adjectives were….pure adjectives? Try saying ’a big green tree’. Makes sense right? Now say ’a green big tree’…doesn’t feel right is it? While natives subconsciously get that word order correct, learners can be frustrated with it. You wouldn’t know whether it is correct or not, because you are learning it after all!
So, let’s split that ‘Big green tree’! Translating, you would get:
ठूलो हरियो रुख (thulo hariyo rukh)
[Big + Green + Tree]
And…..you see the word order is very similar to English. So, what is the tree’s colour? It is green right? Hence, the tree is a ’green tree’. What is the size of it? It is ’Big’ hence it is a ’big’ ‘green tree’. It went from a ’ general, noticeable character’ to a ’specific, detailed character’.
The order of Adjectives would be something like this:
Order: Size > Age > Shape > Colour > Origin > Material + Noun
Example: Big > Old > Round > Red > English > Metal + Noun
So, it is almost same as English in that case.
What if ‘ko’ and pure adjectives were mixed? In that case, it would depend on what you mean. Do you mean ’A House’s yellow door’ or ’A Yellow House’s Door’? If you mean the former:
घरको पहेलो ढोका (ghar ko pahelo dhoka)
It would mean that ‘a house’ has a ’yellow door’.
However, if you mean the latter:
पहेलो घरको ढोका (pahelo ghar ko dhoka)
It would mean ’a yellow house’ which has ’a door’ (of some colour).
When adjectives, demonstratives and numerals are all present, then the order will be:
Demonstrative > Numeral > Adjective
त्यो एउटा ठूलो घर हो
= That is a big house.
[That + One + Big + House + Is]
A. REARRANGE THE FOLLOWING:
1. रातो (rato/ red) घर (ghar/ house) ठूलो (thulo/ big) [a big red house]
2. झ्याल (jhyal/ window) घरको (ghar ko/ house’s) सेतो (seto/ white) [A house’s white window]
B. IS THE WORD ORDER CORRECT?
1. नीलो आकाशको बादल (nilo aakash ko baadal/ the cloud on the blue sky)
A. 1. ठूलो रातो घर
A. 2. घरको सेतो झ्याल
B. 1. Yes