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 (303 votes)
Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

Submitted by Ezz.77 on Mon, 18/09/2023 - 15:44

Permalink

Thnx a lot but I'm still confused between the absolute adj and the extreme adj

Helllo Ezz.77,

Gradeable adjectives are those which can be made stronger or weaker. For example, I can be extremely happy, very happy, quite happy, a little bit happy, slightly happy and so on. 'Happy' can describe a very wide range of feelings.

Extreme or limit adjectives are less flexible. They are already a kind of maximum. For example, I can't be a little bit delighted. Delighted is already very strong; we can't make it less. It would be a little bit like saying something is a little bit perfect or slightly dead – it doesn't make sense. We can only emphasise the meaning, not change its degree, and so we use absolutely, completely, totally and utterly to add emphasis.

You can read more about the topic here:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/adjectives_2

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ReemMahdi on Thu, 14/09/2023 - 11:20

Permalink

I am very thankful for your porgramme , it is completly perfect .

Submitted by ismo77 on Wed, 13/09/2023 - 16:47

Permalink

thank for sharing this lesson. It's amazing

Submitted by FerNeave on Sat, 09/09/2023 - 00:59

Permalink

It was a really amazing lesson.

Submitted by diadaoudi on Fri, 08/09/2023 - 17:55

Permalink

Thank you so much BRITISH COUCIL for sharing this lesson, it was absolutely colossal.

Submitted by aamnaelkomy on Thu, 07/09/2023 - 12:01

Permalink

Really itis interesting lesson thank you

Profile picture for user palomaceciliagr

Submitted by palomaceciliagr on Tue, 05/09/2023 - 20:26

Permalink

I quite liked it this lesson!

Profile picture for user frsiam

Submitted by frsiam on Tue, 29/08/2023 - 06:20

Permalink

It's absolutely perfect lesson.