Adjectives: gradable and non-gradable

Adjectives: gradable and non-gradable

Do you know how to use adjectives in phrases like a bit cold, really cold and absolutely freezing? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how gradable and non-gradable adjectives are used.

It's really cold.
It's absolutely freezing.
This exercise is really difficult.
This exercise is completely impossible.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Adjectives: gradable and non-gradable: Grammar test 1

Grammar explanation

Gradable adjectives

Most adjectives are gradable. This means we can have different levels of that quality. For example, you can be a bit cold, very cold or extremely cold. We can make them weaker or stronger with modifiers:

She was quite angry when she found out.
The film we saw last night was really funny!
It can be extremely cold in Russia in the winter.

Here is a list of some common gradable adjectives and some modifiers that we can use with them.

Modifiers a little/a bit pretty/quite really/very extremely
Adjectives angry, big, boring, cheap, cold, expensivefrightening, funny, hot, interestingold, prettysmall, tasty, tired, etc.

Non-gradable: absolute adjectives

Some adjectives are non-gradable. For example, something can't be a bit finished or very finished. You can't be a bit dead or very dead. These adjectives describe absolute qualities. To make them stronger we have to use modifiers like absolutely, totally or completely:

Thank you, I love it! It's absolutely perfect!
Their farm was totally destroyed by a tornado.
My work is completely finished. Now I can relax.

Here is a list of some common absolute adjectives and some modifiers that we can use with them.

Modifiers absolutely/totally/completely
Adjectives acceptable, dead, destroyed, finished, free, impossible, necessary, perfect, ruined, unacceptable, etc.

Non-gradable: extreme adjectives

Adjectives like amazing, awful and boiling are also non-gradable. They already contain the idea of 'very' in their definitions. If we want to make extreme adjectives stronger, we have to use absolutely or really:

Did you see the final match? It was absolutely amazing!
After 32 hours of travelling, they were absolutely exhausted.
My trip home was really awful. First, traffic was really bad, then the car broke down and we had to walk home in the rain.

Here is a list of some common extreme adjectives and some modifiers that we can use with them.

Modifiers absolutely/really
Adjectives amazing, ancient, awful, boiling, delicious, enormous, excellent, exhausted, fascinating, freezing, gorgeous, terrible, terrifying, tiny, etc.


Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Adjectives: gradable and non-gradable: Grammar test 2

Language level

Average: 4.6 (332 votes)
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Submitted by alexandre.magedanz on Tue, 26/03/2024 - 17:49


Tank you.

Submitted by Chel Zin on Wed, 13/03/2024 - 09:56


I found a library in the downtown and it was  completely free so that we don't need to give the registration fees. 

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Submitted by Brady_Samuel_F… on Mon, 11/03/2024 - 13:22


But I can know nothing. It’s completely impossible to understand for me! Why could it be?

Hi Brady_Samuel_Fame_796,

Sorry to hear that it was difficult. Some grammar lessons are more difficult than others. If you have questions about it, feel free to ask them here.

Or maybe you can try a different lesson and come back to this one later on?


LearnEnglish team

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Submitted by leader99 on Thu, 01/02/2024 - 09:43


i heard about this lesson but it was a bit dificult to understand, but with British council its really easy and i enjoyed it, thank you BC team <3

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Submitted by NGUYEN VU THANG on Fri, 26/01/2024 - 14:03


Thanks for the lesson!

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Submitted by ltampu81 on Fri, 26/01/2024 - 04:38


Thank you. The lesson improves my English.