How to properly use adjectives and nouns in a sentence

Saturday March 5 2016

A teacher takes Class Three pupils through an English lesson at Kawangware Primary School, Nairobi, on October 5, 2015. PHOTO | GERALD ANDERSON | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A teacher takes Class Three pupils through an English lesson at Kawangware Primary School, Nairobi, on October 5, 2015. PHOTO | GERALD ANDERSON | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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In English — except in poetry and in certain other special locutions — adjectives do, as a rule, precede the nouns which they describe. Thus we speak of “a good boy”, not of “a boy good”. Similarly, we should speak of a “top Judiciary organ”, never of a “Judiciary top organ”. I culled the latter from the March 1 number of Kenya’s self-styled “Bold Newspaper”.

In a page-one pointer, The Standard wrote that a “Judiciary top organ” had formed a “team to investigate Supreme Court Judges...” Note where the adjective top lies. The noun is organ. But what kind of organ is it? Describing it are two adjectives: First, it is a Judiciary organ. But, into the bargain, it is a top organ.

In such a construction — let us reiterate — organ is the substantive, the controlling noun. But adjectivally, the organ is both judiciary and top. However, Judiciary is the essential or primary adjectival character of the organ. That is why it is essential to juxtapose that primary adjective to the noun organ (that it describes).

For, of the two adjectives, top is not the primary one. It is only secondary. Primary to the organ — especially for those whom it directly concerns — is the fact that it is Judiciary (better to say judicial). That is why the adjective top, because it is describing the whole noun-phrase “Judiciary organ”, must come before that noun-phrase.


In a word, you must say, “top Judiciary organ”, not “Judiciary top organ” (as The Standard claimed). For the adjective Judiciary or judicial is common to all the organs in that category, whether they be top, bottom or middling. What distinguishes this particular organ from all the rest is that it is top. Top, being the adjective describing the fact that the organ is Judiciary, is what is of primary interest to those concerned.

Let us emphasise this. The fact that an institution is judicial or Judiciary is common to all organs in that category. But the fact that it is also top is the distinction that one such institution has over all the other examples in that category. For it sticks out like Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Convention Centre that an organ must first be judicial or judiciary before it can top its whole category.

But, like Kilimanjaro, the fact sticks out that not all judicial organs can be top. Most of the ones which operate “down there” — in what the politicians claim to be “the grassroots” — cannot be described as top, no, not even if the county sponsoring them be called Nairobi, and not even if the said organ be situated in a favoured part of Nairobi, like “The Hill” or Muthaiga.

What about the colonial judicial organ that once upon a time found Jomo Kenyatta and his associates guilty of having organised Mau Mau? If it was a crime to fight for independence — and if the grand Old Man had obeyed such a law — how many of you (politicians) would now be strutting like tausi all over Nairobi?