Ungradable adjective

Adjectives are words like "small", "green", "old", "nice", "healthy", etc. which describe the characteristics of things.

Most adjectives can be intensified with "very":

  • very small
  • very old

But there are certain adjectives that don't fit well with intensifiers like "very". These ungradable adjectives are already complete or very strong on their own. When you try to use "very" with one of these , it sounds wrong. Here are some examples of combinations that sound strange:

  • very terrible
  • very freezing
  • very married

When it comes to intensifiers other than "very", it's a little more complicated. These are OK:

completely terrible

quite terrible

absolutely freezing

rather freezing

But these are strange:

absolutely married (because a person is either married or not)

a bit freezing

Here's a list of adjectives that are ungradable.

  • fantastic
  • amazing
  • wonderful
  • awful
  • horrible
  • terrible
  • perfect
  • delicious
  • useless
  • devastated (very, very sad)
  • ecstatic (very, very happy)
  • hilarious (very, very funny) 
  • gorgeous (very beautiful)
  • exhausted (very tired)
  • starving (very hungry)
  • ancient (very old)
  • disgusting (very unappealing)
  • spotless (very clean)
  • filthy (very dirty)
  • slammed (very busy)
  • excruciating (very painful)
  • adorable (very cute)
  • enormous (very large)
  • minuscule (very small)
  • wasted (very drunk)
  • freezing (very cold)

 You should also look at the PhraseMix lessons which contain ungradable adjectives.

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