Gradable and non-gradable adjectives

12 October 20204 mins read

What are they?

Using adjectives is a great way of making your language more descriptive. Adjectives describe a quality that something has, such as the temperature, appearance or size, and they fall into two categories: gradable and non-gradable. But what does this mean? To describe variations in temperature, for instance, we can use hot or cold, which are gradable adjectives, but to describe the limits or extremes of temperature we use boiling (= very hot) or freezing (= very cold); these are non-gradable adjectives.

Let’s look at some examples

Take a look at the table below to see a list of gradable and non-gradable adjectives.



Some gradable adjectives have more than one non-gradable equivalent. For example, good can be fantastic, amazing, incredible or great.

Can you think of any more non-gradable adjectives that mean very bad?

Using modifiers

We use adverbs to give more detail about the adjective. So, which adverbs can we use with gradable and non-gradable adjectives?

GROUP A – Before non-gradable adjectives we use these adverbs: absolutely, completely, totally, utterly, really
GROUP B – Before gradable adjectives we use these adverbs: very, extremely, a bit, slightly, really

How did you do? Challenge yourself by using any of the gradable and non-gradable adjectives from this post with the correct adverbs today!

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