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There, they're, or their?

Homonyms are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings and usages. This can be confusing sometimes as one must rely on context to figure out which word is meant or should be used. 

 

Even native speakers sometimes fail to use the homonyms "there," "their," and "they're" correctly. Here is a quick review of which one is appropriate for which occasion. 

 

1) The word "there" is used to refer to a physical or abstract location.

 

When I flew in on the float plane, they were all there on the boat.
Caption 4, Alaska Revealed: Endless Wave

 

Also, it is commonly combined with a conjugation of “to be” or a modal verb to discuss the existence of something.

 

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
Caption 28, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

 

I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. 
Caption 9, A Charlie Brown Christmas: Opening

 

2) "Their" is a possessive adjective used before a noun when the subject is "they." With "their," we are speaking about something that belongs to two or more people.

 

What are their names? -Their names are Naya and Alex.
Caption 14, Caralie and Annie: Getting to know each other

 

Their goal is a plan to finally help humanity reduce its carbon footprint.
Caption 3, Green TV: What Is COP21?

 

3) "They’re" is a contraction of "they are" used to refer to two or more people in the third person. It is especially useful for shortening sentences in the present continuous tense.

 

I think they're nice. 
Caption 12, Comic-Con 2015: Jennifer Lawrence

 

They're playing a game on the lawn.
Caption 10, Jessica: In Prospect Park

 

Further Learning
Check out the examples above on Yabla English to get a better sense of the full context for the use of "there," "their," and "they're." Try to write a few sentences in which you use two or even all three of these words to solidify your understanding. An example would be: "They're not sure when they will get there. It depends on when their plane lands."

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Winter Vacation and the Holidays

As we approach the end of December, many people are looking forward to having some time off. The “holiday break," “Christmas break,” or "winter vacation" observed by schools gives students up to two weeks off. Universities may have closer to a month of time off. Workplaces and offices close as well, although not for so long!

 

It is a time to relax and a time to spend with family and friends. If the weather outside is cold, there are some classic outdoor activities that people enjoy, although you may decide to simply stay nice and warm indoors.

 

And nowadays Rose and I do downhill skiing primarily.
Caption 73, Jimmy Carter - interviews Jimmy Carter

 

She could only rest in a corner next to the fireplace,
Caption 12, Fairy Tales: Cinderella

 

Many families take time to do activities like baking or cooking together, and also decorate to their homes.

 

And what's your favorite part of the Christmas dinner?
Caption 13, Christmas in London: People

 

But, up until that point, we decorate our houses with lots of different things.
Caption 6, Christmas traditions: in the UK

 

Many people are also preparing for the holidays and the tradition of exchanging presents:

 

I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards.
Caption 13, A Charlie Brown Christmas

 

...and then unwrap our presents and all the family will be there.
Caption 12, Christmas in London: People

 

Of course, the holidays can be stressful, especially if you are late with the preparations!

 

So they're looking for their last-minute presents for their loved ones.
Caption 3, Christmas in London: People

 

Our Yabla English team wishes you a lovely winter break and holiday season, filled with relaxation and the warm company of family and friends!

 

Further Learning
Go to the links listed above, or do your own search for Yabla English videos that reference holiday traditions. Another idea: look up the English words for the presents you are giving people this year if you don’t know them already.

 

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Winter is Coming

Characters in the popular television series Game of Thrones often repeat that "winter is coming," but somehow it never actually arrives. The results of the recent presidential election in the United States, however, have left many liberals preparing for a political winter that could last for at least four years. Here are some Yabla videos dealing with common expressions relating to this coldest of seasons.

 

Welcome to winter time... right here.
Caption 33, Jason Mraz: Tour of Studio

 

The winter came and the lake froze over.
Caption 37, Fairy Tales: The Ugly Duckling

 

However, there's still a large difference between winter and summer.
Caption 4, English with Lauren: The Weather

 

In this winter of our hardship, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come.
Captions 87-89, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

 

Instead of lush fields, we would have long winters and sparse, ice-covered landscapes in Europe.
Captions 55-56, Nature Preservation: The Gulf Stream & Climate Change

 

You will have your home prepared and winter-proofed in next to no time.
Caption 38, British Gas: Top Tips on Preparing your Home for Cold Weather

 

Further Learning
Watch the above videos in their entirety and search for examples of winter on Yabla English to see other related terms used in a real-world context. 

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The Four Seasons

The four seasons in English are winter, spring, summer, and fall. The season "fall" is also called "autumn." The name of the seasons are written lower-case. Different places and cultures have different ways of reckoning the dates of the seasons, but by scientific meteorological methods, winter in the northern hemisphere is from December 1 to February 28 (or 29 in a leap year). In the southern hemisphere winter is from June 1 until August 31.

 

In the winter it's very cold in New York.
Caption 7, Caralie and Annie: Get to know each other

 

Spring in the northern hemisphere is from March 1 to May 31, in the southern hemisphere from September 1 to November 30.

 

First, we have spring, when the leaves turn green.
Caption 19, Lydia explains: weekdays, seasons and months

 

Summer in the northern hemisphere is from June 1 to August 31, in the southern hemisphere from December 1 to February 28 or 29.

 

The summer is especially beautiful this year.
Caption 2, Nature & Wildlife - Search for the Ghost Bear

 

Fall (or autumn) in the northern hemisphere is from September 1 to November 30, in the southern hemisphere from March 1 to May 31.

 

Third, we have fall, or you could say autumn.
Caption 21, Lydia explains: weekdays, seasons and months

 

Further Learning
Search for examples of the seasons on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Frequency Adverbs

There is a standard set of adverbs (words that modify verbs) that describe how often something happens, from not at all (never) to all the time (always). Let's see some examples from Yabla English.

 

I've never done that in my life. 
Caption 70, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

 

I very rarely have a day off.
Caption 11, Sharon Stone: Jimmy Carter interview 1994

 

Do you have someone who can take the air out of your tires occasionally?
Captions 40, 41: Will Smith: Enemy of the State

 

I sometimes will write it on a piano.
Caption 27, Bee and Flower: Interview

 

Whales feed at depth in waters that are often pitch dark.
Caption 19, Sustainable Human: How Whales Change Climate

 

I usually leave it to simmer a little bit.
Caption 85, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: Pam's Trinidadian Caribbean Kitchen

 

It is always held in Leicester Square.
Caption 25, In London with Lauren: Piccadilly Circus

 

The adverbs are written in bold above in increasing order of frequency: never, rarely, occasionally, sometimes, often, usually, always.

 

Further Learning
Search for examples of frequency adverbs on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Infinitive Verbs Part II

An infinitive verb is the plain form of a verb that is not conjugated and often has the word "to" before it. It is good to know the plain or base form of a verb, since that is the form that is typically the main listing for the word in a dictionary. You may hear the infinitive "to sit" conjugated as "sat" or "sitting," but the form of the word you will need if you care to look it up is the infinitive "sit." In standard usage, the infinitive will always be preceded by another verb.

 

An infinitive is often used in a sentence in combination with a conjugated from of "to be." In these examples, the subject "it" is used to make general observations: 

 

It is going to blow up!    
Caption 37, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: Pam's Trinidadian Caribbean Kitchen

 

It is going to boil down.
Caption 6: Cooking with Aria: French toast and a berry topping

 

It is not enough to obey Big Brother. 
Caption 15, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

 

It is time to detox.
Caption 55, Greenpeace: Detox: How People Power is Cleaning Up Fashion

 

The infinitives are written in bold above: to blow up, to boil, to obey, and to detox.

 

Further Learning
Read this in-depth article on infinitive verbs, then search for examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Infinitive Verbs

An infinitive verb is the plain form of a verb that is not conjugated and often has the word "to" before it. It is good to know the plain or base form of a verb, since that is the form that is typically the main listing for the word in a dictionary. You may hear the infinitive "to sit" conjugated as "sat" or "sitting," but the form of the word you will need if you care to look it up is the infinitive "sit." In standard usage, the infinitive will always be preceded by another verb.

 

The Japanese tradition is to sit on the stool in front of the faucets.
Caption 22, An apartment: in Japan

 

In the example above, the infinitive is "to sit." Infinitives preceded by "to" are called "full infinitives."

 

You can sit right here. -Thank you.
Caption 5, Jessica and Liz: in a Restaurant

 

In this example, the infinitive is the verb "sit." An infinitive without the "to" is called a "bare infinitive."

 

It's really exciting to know that I'm setting a good example for young people.
Caption 24, peta2 Interviews: Vegan Surfer Tia Blanco

 

You did well to tell me. We must know everything.
Caption 35, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

 

In the first example above, you see the full infinitive "to know," and in the second example the bare infinitive "know."

 

Further Learning
Read this in-depth article on infinitive verbs, then search for examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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English Gerunds

A gerund is a noun that has been formed by adding the suffix -ing to a verb. The gerund will often function as a verb within the clause, but in the context of the complete sentence forms a subject. Progressive active participle verbs also end in -ing, but retain verb form. Let's learn to tell the difference between a gerund (noun) and a progressive active participle (verb).

 

But believing ends in seeing.
Caption 43, Katie Melua: A Happy Place

 

You will be seeing them again.
Caption 37, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four - BBC TV Movie

 

In the first example, "seeing" and "believing" are gerund nouns. Try placing the definite article "the" before the words and see if the sentence still makes sense: "But the believing ends in the seeing." The fact that it works grammatically shows that both "seeing" and "believing" are gerunds. But in the second example, "You will be the seeing them again" would be grammatically incorrect, because in this case "seeing" is a verb. 

 

I'd like your opinion about fast driving on the highway.
Caption 21, James Dean: Interview & Famous Drive Safely Spot

 

I'm in a truck, we're driving through the bush.
Caption 23, Kiting For Conservation: Kenya

 

In the first example, "the fast driving" works, so it is a gerund noun. In the second example, "we're the driving..." does not work grammatically, so it's a verb.

 

Further Learning
Try taking examples of some English verbs and adding -ing to the end of them to make the gerund nouns, then search for examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Irregular Verbs Part 3

In the previous lessons, we saw how a regular verb conjugates into the past tense and past participle by simply adding -ed to the end of the infinitive: ask/asked, talk/talked, watch/watched, etc. Irregular verbs, on the other hand, each follow their own set of rules of conjugation. There are, however, some basic patterns that can help you remember how to conjugate some of these irregular verbs.

Some verbs with "ea" as the central vowels may (or may not) have an added -t at the end in past and past participle forms, but all of the past and past participle forms have in common that the "ea" is changes pronunciation. "I am reading a book" (pronounced "reeding"), but "I have read a book" (pronounced "red"). 

Many of the challenges can't be dealt with by individual companies alone.
Captions 29-30, The British Monarchy: Global Sustainability

You can finally live the life you always dreamt of.
Caption 10, Movie Trailers, Bruce Willis: Surrogates

I meant what I wrote, shall we meet?
Caption 1, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

The father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people.
Caption 84, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

In all of the cases above, the present tense verbs "deal," "dream," "mean," and "read" have the long "ee" sound like "reed", but change in the past and past participles to the short "e" sound like "red."

Further Learning
Go back to the lessons for Irregular Verbs Part 1 and Part 2 and review some of the patterns that can help you learn English irregular verbs. Find examples of the verbs listed above in their past and past participle forms and learn them by searching for examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 
 

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Irregular Verbs Part 2

In last month's first part, we saw how a regular verb conjugates into the past tense and past participle by simply adding -ed to the end of the infinitive: ask/asked, talk/talked, watch/watched etc. Irregular verbs, on the other hand, each follow their own set of rules of conjugation. There are, however, some more basic patterns that can help you remember how to conjugate some of these irregular verbs. 

Some verbs switch their central vowels to an "o" in the past and past participle, such as the verbs "to break" (broke, broken),"to choose" (choose, chosen), "to forget" (forgot, forgotten), "to freeze" (froze, frozen), "to get" (got, gotten), "to speak" (spoke, spoken), "to tear" (tore, torn) "to wake" (woke, woken) and "to wear" (wore, worn). Here is the verb "to steal" in the past and past participle:

Then they took you away, stole you out of my life.
Caption 41, Lana Del Rey: Blue Jeans

They've stolen my heart away.
Caption 49, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

Many verbs with "ee" as the central vowels change to a single "e" in past and past participle, and these are made easier in that the past and past participle forms are the same: "to bleed" (bled), "to feel" (felt), "to keep" (kept), "to lead" (led), and "to meet" (met). A few more examples using the verbs "to sleep" and "to feed":

The Frog slept all night.
Caption 8, Fairy Tales: The Frog King

They have fed quite well.
Caption 53, Nature & Wildlife: Search for the Ghost Bear

Further Learning
Find examples of the verbs listed above in past and past participle and learn them by searching for examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Irregular Verbs Part 1

regular verb conjugates into the past tense and past participle by simply adding -ed to the end of the infinitive: ask/asked, talk/talked, watch/watched etc. Irregular verbs, on the other hand, each follow their own set of rules of conjugation. There are, however, some basic patterns that can help you remember how to conjugate some of these irregular verbs. 

Many verbs ending in -ow are made past tense changing the -ow to -ew, and past participle by adding an -n the -ow, such as grow/grew/grown, know/knew/known, and throw/threw/thrown. Here is the verb "to know" in the past and past participle:

Don't think you knew you were in my song.
Caption 31, David Bowie: Five Years

David Jones, now little better known as David Bowie.
Caption 1, David Bowie: Interview at 17!

Here too you have to be careful though, as some verbs ending in -ow are regular, such as tow/towed/towed and flow/flowed/flowed, and some irregular ones ending in -ew in the past tense and -own in the past participle don't end in -ow in the infinitive form, such as fly/flew/flown. 

Another pattern can be seen in irregular which end in -ght in the past and past participle, such as buy/bought/bought, teach/taught/taught, and think/thought/thought. Here is the verb "to think" in the present and past tense:

Well, I think we're all fairly tolerant.
Caption 16, David Bowie: Interview at 17!

I never thought I'd need so many people.
Caption 19, David Bowie: Five Years

Further Learning
Study this list of English irregular verbs and find examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Three Moods of Grammar

Even grammar can be "moody," but grammatical moods express the attitude of what a person is writing or saying. The three grammatical moods commonly used in English are the indicative, imperative, and subjunctive moods.

The indicative (or realis) mood is used to make a statement of fact:

You cannot outlast us and we will defeat you.
Caption 19, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech 

You will learn the true nature of the society we live in.
Caption 41, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

The imperative mood is for commands or requests:

Step away from your vehicle and put your hands on your head.
Captions 10-11, Movie Trailers: Men In Black

All emergency service cars please come to Vesey and West Streets!
Caption 4, World Trade Center: Story on the 2006 film

The subjunctive mood is used to express a a wish, desire, or something that has not yet happened. 

I'd like to have something interesting to do and I'd like to have nothing to do.
Caption 54, Leonard Nimoy: Talking about Mr. Spock

I would like to explain how we talk about the time in English.    
Caption 3: Lydia explains: the clock

Further Learning
Read more about grammatical moods and find examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context.

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Active and Passive Voices

In English grammar, the "voice" describes the relationship between the verb and its participants. If the subject of the sentence does the action, the verb is in the active voice. If the subject does not actively participate in the action described and the focus is on the action itself, not the subject, then the verb is in the passive voice.

It is important when you write in English that you distinguish between the active and passive voice. If you want the focus to be on the subject, or actor, use the active voice. If you wish the emphasis to be on the action itself, and not the actor, use the passive voice. 

Here are two examples of the active voice from Yabla English: 

He created the mythology.
Caption 54, New Zealand 100% Pure: “The Hobbit” cast talks about New Zealand

Now, we'll have a demonstration from some of your instructors.
Caption 15, Karate Kids, USA: The Little Dragons

In the first example, the focus is on the subject "he" having created the mythology. It is usually easy to make a passive voice sentence out of the active by using the verb "to be" and the past participle of the original verb. In this case, we can write it in passive voice thus: 

The mythology was created by him. 

The mythology did not do the creating. The focus here is not the fact that he created it, but the fact that it was created

In the second example, we can render it passive like this: 

Now, there'll be a demonstration for us from some of your instructors. 

"We" are no longer emphasized as the ones who will be the audience of the demonstration, but rather the fact of the demonstration is the most important thing.

Further Learning
Read more about the active voice and the passive voice and find examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context.

 

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Verb, Noun, or Adjective?

Whenever you see what appears to be a verb in English ending in -ing, you have to be careful as to how you interpret the sentence, as it may wind up that this apparent verb is actually a noun or an adjective! In English, gerunds and present participles are formed by adding -ing to the infinitive form of the verb ("to surf" becomes "surfing"), or for verbs ending in -e, dropping the -e and adding -ing ("to love" becomes "loving"). A gerund is a verb that acts as a noun in sentence. A present participle is a verb that is used to make a verb phrase or an adjective.

Therefore an English verb ending in -ing can either be noun (gerund), an adjective (formed from a present participle), or a verb (a present participle). This all sounds a bit complicated, but if you look at some examples, it's pretty easy to tell the difference!

I've always loved surfing.
Caption 19, Kiteboarding, Rider Profile: Tom Court

What does he love? He loves surfing. In the above example, the subject of the sentence is "I," and the object of the sentence is "surfing." Since you can make a noun out of "the surfing" as used here, it is a gerund.

We watch a couple of surfing videos.
Caption 26, Kiteboarding: Sam Light Interview

What kind of videos is he watching? Surfing videos. Here it is clear that "surfing" is an adjective that is modifying the noun "videos."

The four of us have just been surfing different spots.
Caption 10, Naish SUP: Aloha Big Island!

What have they been doing? They have been surfing. In this last example, by pairing the verbs together, you get "have been surfing." This is the verb "to surf" in its form as present participle verb.

Further Learning
Write down some of your favorite verbs, add -ing to them, following the rules above, and search Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context as either a gerund, adjective, or present participle verb.

 

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Irregular Verbs

Regular verbs in English consist of a base verb from which all different tenses can easily be formed. For example, the verb "to learn": present tense: learn; continuous present tense: learning, perfect tense and past tense: learned. As you see, all tenses of the regular verb "to learn" can be formed by adding the endings -ing and -ed.

English irregular verbs, however, have no definite rules, and although some irregular verbs have certain patterns in common, the best way to learn them is by looking at each individual verb. Let's look at the irregular verb "begin" in its simple present tense as an example.

Starting today, we begin again the work of remaking America.
Captions 26, 27: Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

As you see, in the simple present tense it remains the same. But in the present continuous tense:

It's beginning to turn into a lovely red color!
Caption 28: Tara´s recipes: Chilli Prawns and Golden Couscous

Just like a regular verb, this irregular verb adds -ing, but with an extra '"n": However, in the past tense:

She got a fright when the clock suddenly began to strike twelve.
Caption 15, Fairytales: Cinderella

The base verb "begin" changes to "began." And as a past participle:

Bottled water sales have begun to drop.
Caption 67, Nature Preservation: The Story of Bottled Water

The base verb "begin" changes to "begun."

Further Learning
Take a look at this list of English irregular verb forms, and search Yabla English for some of your favorite English irregular verbs to see them used in a real-world context.

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The Continuous Tense

The continuous (or progressive) tense comprises two parts: the verb "to be" in the present, past, or future tense, combined with the present participle of the main verb. It is a common verbal form in the English language, actually more common than the simple tense in the spoken language.

Let's find an example on Yabla English of the present continuous tense:

Time is running out.
Caption 29, George Clooney: Video diary from Sudan and Chad

To form the above present continuous tense, the present tense of the verb "to be" ("is") is combined with the present participle of the verb "to run" (by adding "ing," or in this case "-ning") to the end of the verb. The present continuous tense expresses something that is presently incomplete or unfinished. In the above case, there is still time enough now, but soon there will not be.

And the past continuous tense:

I was laughing so hard.
Caption 42, Jim White: Interview

To form the above past continuous tense, the past tense of the verb "to be" ("was") is combined with the present participle of the verb "to laugh." The past continuous tense expresses something that is incomplete or unfinished in the past. In the above case, laughing was occurring during a past event.

And lastly, the future continuous tense:

This is where you will be working from.
Caption 14, Business English: Starting on a new job

To form the above future continuous tense, the future tense of the verb "to be" ("will be") is combined with the present participle of the verb "to work." The future continuous tense expresses something is incomplete or unfinished that will happen in the future. In the above case, work will be performed at some point in the future.

Further Learning 
Take a look at this list of basic verb forms, and search Yabla English for some of your favorite English present participle verbs (ending in -ing) and see these tenses used in a real-world context.

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The Simple Tense

The simple tense, in its present, past and future forms, is called "simple" because it consists of just one word, unlike other verb tenses such as present progressive and present perfect. The first-person form of the simple present tense is almost always the same as the dictionary form of the verb.

With the verb "to write," for example, the simple present tense in first person is "I write."

Well, when I write songs ...
Caption 27, Bee and Flower: Interview

In the simple past tense, the basic form "write" changes to "wrote." Some basic verbs just add "-ed" to become past tense, but many are irregular and must be learned.

I wrote this song.
Caption 35, Rise Up And Sing: Recording the song

The simple future tense consist of adding "will" (or "shall") before the verb:

Tammy will write a song and then record it on her laptop.
Caption 92, Royalchord: Interview

Further Learning 
Take a look at this list of basic verbs and their irregular simple past tenses, and search Yabla English for some of your favorites to see how they are used in context.

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Attribute Adjectives

An adjective is a "describing word" that describes or modifies a noun. Today we'll take a look at the most basic type of adjective, called an "attribute adjective," which in simple sentences in English usually precedes the noun.

It's quite a big video!
Caption 32,  Adele: The Making of “Chasing Pavements”

In the sentence above, the adjective "big" describes the noun "video." If you have more than one adjective, however, it is important to understand they must be put into a particular order: an adjective describing size is mentioned first, then shape or quality, followed by age, color, origin, and, lastly, material. For example:

And mix it well into this beautiful red tomato onion paste.
Caption 34, Tara´s recipes: Chilli Prawns and Golden Couscous

In the sentence above, the adjective order is: beautiful (quality), red (color), and tomato onion (materials). The last two are actually nouns that are acting as adjectives. You can see how the order is important, because to say, "And mix it well with this tomato beautiful onion red paste" doesn't make sense!

A noun can be used as an adjective too, as in "a stone house", which describes "a house made of stone."  But an adjective can become a noun too:

The ever widening gap between the rich and the poor is despicable.
Caption 6, Occupy DC: Barry Knight

The adjectives "rich" and "poor" become nouns when the article "the" precedes them.

Further Learning 
Take a look at this list of the most commonly used 500 adjectives in the English language and pick a few out that you are less familiar with, then learn how they are used in context on Yabla.

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