Why should we be interested in whether adjectives are gradable or not?
- 1. - it largely decides what intensifiers, adverbs like quite, very and absolutely, we can use before them.
- 2. - learning some strong versions of gradable adjectives will increase your vocabulary, and make your English more varied and interesting.
Looking for a list of gradable and ungradable adjectives?
Exercise 1 - Gradable and non-gradable ?
- Gradable- can be graded or given different degrees on a sliding scale.
- Non-gradable - can be divided into two types:
- Strong or Extreme adjectives - stronger equivalents of gradable adjectives.
- Absolute adjectives- they are either true or not true, there is no middle ground.
- Strong or Extreme adjectives - stronger equivalents of gradable adjectives.
The most common intensifiers
Exercise 2 - Basic intensifiers (one or two perhaps not quite so basic) ?
|3.||gradable and non-gradable with the same meaning|
|4.||gradable and non-gradable with a different meaning|
- As you can use it with both gradable and non-gradable adjectives, you don't have to worry about the grammar side of things.
- It has more emotional content than very. Look at these sentences:
- Thanks for the party, I had a very good time.
- Thanks for the party, I had a really good time.
How can we tell if an adjective is gradable or not?
1. Can we make comparative and superlative versions of the adjective?
- It's hotter today than it was yesterday. (gradable)
- It's more boiling today than it was yesterday. (strong)
- This house is more unique than that one. (absolute)
2. Can we use the determiner very before the adjective?
- I'm very tired. (gradable)
- She's very exhausted. (strong)
- It's very unique. (absolute)
Exercise 3 - Gradable, strong or absolute?
Why do we use intensifiers with non-gradable adjectives?
- quite tired
- very popular
- extremely cold
- completely exhausted
- absolutely right
- totally unique
Gradable and strong - descriptive adjectives
Exercise 4 - Match the gradable adjectives on the left with their strong equivalents on the right.
Gradable and strong - Adjectives describing feelings etc
Exercise 5 - Match the gradable adjectives on the left with their strong equivalents on the right.
Exercise 6 - Cross out the wrong option.
|1.||It's a(n) absolutely / really / very nice day, isn't it?|
|2.||I thought the film was absolutely / quite / extremely amazing.|
|3.||It's absolutely / very / really marvellous news.|
|4.||The forecast is looking pretty / quite / totally promising.|
|5.||We were really / totally / very unlucky at the races.|
|6.||I'm getting absolutely / quite / really bored with this book.|
|7.||She was extremely / pretty / totally amazed to see him there.|
|8.||We got really / totally / very soaked in the rain.|
|9.||He's absolutely / extremely / pretty clever for his age.|
|10.||Her first day at work was extremely / pretty / quite disastrous.|
|11.||We had a really / totally / very pleasant day by the seaside.|
|12.||They were really / totally / very astonished at the news.|
More than one strong equivalent
Exercise 7 - Divide these adjectives into six groups of four, according to meaning. You can copy and paste them into the six boxes.
-ing and -ed adjectives
- amazing - really good
- amazed - really surprised
- stunning - really beautiful (also really surprising)
- stunned - really shocked (also really surprised)
- thrilling - really exciting
- thrilled - really pleased, happy (also really excited)
Not all gradable adjectives have strong equivalents
- describing people - busy, friendly, popular, rich
- intermediates - warm, cool
- attributes - fast, slow, strong, weak, young
- dimensions - deep, shallow, high, low, long, short, tall, wide, narrow
Can we use both grading and absolute intensifiers with some adjectives?
Surprised? She was absolutely flabbergasted!
Exercise 8 - Fill the gaps with strong versions of the adjectives in the sentences.
|1.||Her work is always very thorough. - Thorough? It's !|
|2.||Her house is quite big. - Big? It's absolutely !|
|3.||You look a bit tired. - Tired? I'm totally (UK slang).|
|4.||That film was rather bad. - Bad? It was !|
|5.||It's so hot. - Hot? It's absolutely !|
|6.||Its important to do this properly. - Important? It's absolutely !|
|7.||What he said was a bit silly. Silly? - It was totally !|
|8.||Isn't it good news? - Good? It's absolutely news!|
|9.||It's very annoying when he does that. - Annoying? It's !|
|10.||Isn't she beautiful? - Beautiful? She's absolutely !|
|11.||Was it very expensive? - Expensive? It was !|
|12.||Are you hungry? - Hungry? I'm absolutely !|
Some more intensifiers
Exercise 9 - Decide whether these intensifiers go with gradable or ungradable adjectives. Try saying them with tired, exhausted and unique, and see which you think sounds better.
|1.||a bit, a little|
Bringing it all together
Exercise 10 - Underline the best option.
|1.||I'm fantastically bad / terrible at maths.|
|2.||It is hugely important / essential that this should be done well.|
|3.||It's unusually boiling / hot for this time of year.|
|4.||The hotel is fairly immense / large .|
|5.||It was a very accomplished / marvellous performance.|
|6.||Her sense of humour is utterly unusual / unique .|
|7.||I'm incredibly delighted / pleased at the news.|
|8.||She was completely puzzled / stupefied by his suggestion.|
|9.||She was totally surprised / euphoric when she won the award.|
|10.||He's immensely excited / thrilled about his trip.|
|11.||She is virtually penniless / poor .|
|12.||My phone is completely broken / useless .|
|13.||This vase is perfectly hideous / ugly .|
|14.||She's almost old / ancient .|
|15.||He was rather furious / annoyed when he found out the truth.|
|16.||I'm a bit exhausted / tired .|
|17.||We're reasonably pleased / delighted with the results.|
|18.||These cakes are exceedingly delicious / good .|
|19.||He has a fairly colossal / inflated sense of his own importance.|
|20.||We were entirely satisfied / overjoyed with the arrangements.|
|21.||This chocolate is simply sublime / tasty .|
|22.||Their prices are rather exorbitant / high .|
|23.||They charge an absolutely trifling / small amount for the service.|
|24.||I'm slightly astounded / surprised at his behaviour.|
|25.||She's a dreadfully brilliant / talented dancer.|
Afterthoughts and some Ngram links.
- Although I would say totally exhausted rather than very exhausted, I think I can also imagine myself saying rather exhausted, even though rather is normally used with gradable adjectives. Ngram
- Satisfied seems to collocate equally well with very and completely Ngram
- New - Although we can certainly use fairly, rather and very with new, totally and completely seem to be more popular. Ngram
- Thrilled - Like sure and certain, thrilled also seems to be making the journey from gradable to strong. Ngram
- Puzzled is another interesting case. More gradable than not, but emphasisers also possible.Ngram
- And exceedingly appears to collocate with delicious (ungradable) almost as well as with tasty (gradable), even though exceedingly normally goes with gradable adjectives: exceedingly pretty, exceedingly fast, exceedingly thirsty etc. Ngram
- Stonehenge is (absolutely) unique.
- We sell totally unique jewellery. Nobody else makes anything like it.
- This painting is unique in the history of British art.
- This diamond is almost unique. There are only two others like it in the world.
- The influence of the private education system in Britain is practically unique.
- A nearly unique experience.
- The Mudéjar style of architecture is unique to Spain.
- This type of cooking is unique to one part of India.
- Having stamps without the name of the country is unique to Britain.
- He has a rather unique sense of humour.
- Chicago is no less unique an American city than New York or San Francisco
- This trip offers a really unique opportunity to explore the Borneo rainforest.
- A list of gradable and ungradable adjectives
- Extreme adjectives matching game
- Lesson on intensifiers