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What is the most common word order when it comes to an adjective describing a noun? For example, Duolingo considers the following correct sentences.

Li volas postenon gravan.

vs.

Li volas gravan postenon.

Both mean He wants an important job. In formal writing, should the adjective come before the noun as it does in English or after it as it does in Spanish?

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"Adjective + noun" is definitely the most common word order, both in spoken and written Esperanto. Both variants are correct, but I'd recommend you write "gravan postenon" so your reader doesn't wonder why you used an unusual order.

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    I wouldn't make such a recommendataion. There is nothing 'unusual' in postenon gravan. As mentioned Spanish, and also other languages, use the other word order. – Lyubomir Vasilev Sep 27 '16 at 7:09
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    True, but from what Esperanto I have come across, adj+noun definitely seems to be more common. However, due to the morphological endings Esperanto is more flexible than English with its word order, so, as Mutre says, they are both correct. Note that there are also a few adjectives in English which come after the noun, eg She is the president elect. Or That was the way in times past. – Oliver Mason Sep 27 '16 at 8:04
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Lernu explains that you can even mix adjective order and have some before and some after the noun. Lernu makes no difference between formal or informal language.

Lernu klarigas tion tiel:

Epitetaj adjektivoj staras plej ofte antaŭ la substantivo, sed ili povas stari ankaŭ post ĝi. Eĉ povas esti adjektivoj samtempe antaŭ kaj post la sama substantivo

Epiteta adjektivo, kiu staras post sia substantivo, ofte estas emfazita.

Ekz. la granda gramatikisto sveda

The Esperanto Teacher, part 49 also does not distinguish these in any ways:

La novan libron - la libron novan

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The more common order definitely seems to be adjective + noun, but that doesn't mean it's the one you should use. I always recommend using whichever word order you feel most comfortable with whenever someone asks, because the wonderful thing about Esperanto's free word order is that people will still be able to understand you, even if you're speaking differently than they're used to. Although because English is likely your native language, you probably want to use adjective + noun, since that's the way it's done here. Of course, if you feel like purposely mixing things up to distance your Esperanto from your English, (as I do on occasion) be my guest!

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