Gradable and non-gradable adjectives
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?
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
Choose an adverb from the correct group (A or B) to complete the following sentences. Remember – there is more than one possible answer!
- 1. It’s ____ cold today so don’t forget your scarf.
It’s very cold today so don’t forget your scarf. (B)
- 2. I thought that TV programme was ______ fantastic.
I thought that TV programme was absolutely fantastic. (A)
- 3. I felt _____ exhausted after the gym session
I felt completely exhausted after the gym session. (A)
- 4. My sister is _____ certain that she wants to be a teacher.
My sister is absolutely certain that she wants to be a teacher. (A)
- 5. I think books about real-life adventures are ____ amazing.
I think books about real-life adventures are totally amazing. (A)
- 6. I was ____ surprised when he told me the news.
I was slightly surprised when he told me the news. (B)
- 7. The food in England is ____ tasty.
The food in England is really tasty. (B)
- 8. They were ____ scared of the barking dog.
They were a bit scared of the barking dog. (B)