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)
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Submitted by Kim Daisy on Mon, 28/08/2023 - 18:02


I hope there will have more exercises to UNDERSTAND, REMEMBER AND PRACTICE

Submitted by meemy2019 on Fri, 25/08/2023 - 10:35


I like these lessons it’s the best

Submitted by ayoub bouagna on Wed, 23/08/2023 - 12:13


this lesson was so fascinating
more than what i need

Submitted by jaimeleusin on Sun, 20/08/2023 - 08:46


Really interesting lesson! tks

Submitted by Nasta23 on Sun, 13/08/2023 - 10:25


Thank you for sharing this course. Really it was very amazing course.

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Submitted by Mikael97 on Sat, 12/08/2023 - 20:55


Thank you so much !!!

I’m quite disappointed because I’ve been studying English for 12 years, and I’ve been suggested to study material at intermediate level 😟.

Hello Mikael97,

Please don't be disappointed! The level test is necessarily a very blunt instrument which is intended as a guide and no more. To properly assess your level would require an interview and a piece of writing at least, and even then it might need to be revised over time.

The level test is intended to give you an idea where to start in terms of looking for material. You can judge for yourself if the level of challenge is appropriate and adjust accordingly.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by GustavoGatti on Fri, 11/08/2023 - 12:49


Thank you for sharing this course, it was amazing to learn this topic ! go head in this way ; )

Submitted by rxro2 on Wed, 02/08/2023 - 06:43


why cant I say
"it was a bit frustrating"? it's wildly accepted

Hi rxro2,

You can say 'a bit frustrating'. There's nothing on this page that suggests you can't. Frustrating is a grazeable adjective and the common modifiers we give for these are a little/a bit → pretty/quite → really/very → extremely.



The LearnEnglish Team