Gradable and non-gradable adjectives

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Gradable and non-gradable adjectives

  1. 1. GRADABLE and NON-GRADABLE ADJECTIVES Adjectives describe qualities (characteristics) of nouns. Most adjectives have a meaning which can be made stronger or weaker; these are called gradable adjectives . e.g.: rather hot, hot, very hot, hotter, the hottest. Other adjectives have a meaning which is extreme or absolute and cannot easily be made stronger or weaker; these are called ungradable adjectives . e.g.: freezing, dead, unique. Not all adjectives can be used with all adverbs as adverbs can also be divided into grading and non-grading adverbs . Don't try to learn lists of gradable and non-gradable adjectives. It's better to understand what makes an adjective gradable or non-gradable. This is a matter of logic and common sense. Most native-speakers have never heard of gradable and non-gradable adjectives. They just feel that it doesn't make sense to say very unique or very freezing.
  2. 2. GRADABLE and NON-GRADABLE ADJECTIVES Gradable adjectives represent a point on a scale. Ungradable adjectives represent the limits of a scale. Ungradable adjectives free freezing vast/enormous cold large hot small boiling minute/tiny (limit of the scale) very cheap cheap Gradable adjectives not very cheap a bit expensive expensive very expensive Ungradable adjectives (limit of the scale) priceless
  3. 3. GRADING ADVERBS and GRADABLE ADJECTIVES We can make comparative and superlative forms from all gradable adjectives. e.g.: less expensive than; much cheaper. However, ungradable adjectives are not usually used in comparatives and superlatives. e.g.: The Ming vases are more priceless than the Egyptian mummies. Gradable adjectives can be used with grading adverbs (such as very or extremely ) that vary the adjective's grade or intensity, that is, they say if a thing or person has more or less of a particular quality. Grading adverbs Gradable adjectives a bit, dreadfully, extremely, hugely, immensely, intensely, rather, reasonably, slightly, very, somewhat, bitterly, pretty, highly, terribly angry, big, busy, clever, common, deep, fast, friendly, happy, important, low, popular, quiet, rich, strong, weak, young e.g.: She was extremely rich. e.g.: The people there are reasonably friendly.
  4. 4. NON-GRADING ADVERBS and NON-GRADABLE ADJECTIVES Ungradable adjectives describe qualities that cannot vary in intensity or grade because they are: - extremes: freezing - absolutes: dead - classifying: nuclear Ungradable adjectives are not used with adverbs such as very or extremely because we don't usually imagine degrees of the quality referred to. We can use adverbs which emphasise their extreme or absolute nature such as completely or simply . Adverbs such as almost or exclusively, which indicate the extent of the quality, are commonly used with classifying Non-grading adverbs adjectives. absolutely, completely, entirely, perfectly, practically, simply, totally, utterly, virtually; almost, exclusively, fully, largely, mainly, nearly, primarily Non-gradable adjectives awful, excellent, huge, impossible, superb, terrible, unique, unknown, whole; domestic, environmental, nuclear e.g.: She gave us a completely impossible problem to solve e.g.: It was absolutely superb.
  5. 5. BOTH GRADING and NON-GRADING ADVERBS The adverbs fairly (= a large degree, but usually less than very), really (= very much) and pretty (= similar to fairly but used in informal contexts) are commonly used with both gradable and non-gradable adjectives. e.g.: She's fairly popular at school. / It was a fairly awful film. e.g.: I'm really busy at the moment. / The flooding was really terrible. e.g.: It's a pretty important exam. / The bill was pretty huge. However, notice that we don't generally use fairly with gradable adjectives such as perfect, superb or wonderful which indicate that something is very good or necessary. With gradable adjectives quite usually means fairly (although it can have other meanings depending on stress and intonation). With ungradable adjectives quite means completely, emphasising the strength of the adjective. e.g.: The lecture was quite interesting. e.g.: The tenor's performance was quite amazing.
  6. 6. BOTH GRADABLE and NON-GRADABLE ADJECTIVES Some adjectives have both gradable and non-gradable senses. - Some adjectives (civil, clean, critical, electric, empty false, late, odd, original, particular, straight, etc.) have different senses when they are gradable and non-gradable. e.g.: The house is very old. (= existed many years, gradable) e.g.: I met my old politics professor yesterday. (= former, ungrad.) e.g.: Smith is a very common name. (= frequently found, gradable) e.g.: We have a lot of common interests. (= shared, non-gradable) - When nationality adjectives are non-gradable we mean that a person or thing comes from a particular country; when they are gradable we mean that they have characteristics of that country. e.g.: There's a shop around the corner that sells Italian bread . e.g.: He has lived in Britain for 20 years, but he's still very Italian.
  7. 7. BOTH GRADABLE and NON-GRADABLE ADJECTIVES - Some adjectives have similar meanings when they are gradable and non-gradable. However, when they are gradable we talk about the quality that a person or thing has; and when they are non-gradable we talk about the category or type they belong to (classifying adjectives). e.g.: They had a very public argument. (= seen/heard by a lot of people, gradable) e.g.: He was forced to resign by public presssure. (= from many people in the community, non-gradable) e.g.: I don't know where he came from, but he sounded slightly foreign. (= not from this country, gradable) e.g.: She is now advising on the government's foreign policy. (= concernig other countries, non-gradable) (Some of these adjectives are academic, adult, diplomatic, genuine, guilty, human, innocent, mobile, private, scientific, technical, true)
  8. 8. 1. Put each adjective into the correct box below. Each box will contain ten adjectives . amazing attractive cold correct dead enormous exciting expensive extinct fascinating freezing good ugly interesting huge large minute paralysed shy sick Gradable adjectives Non-gradable adjectives
  9. 9. GRADABLE vs. NON-GRADABLE ACTIVITIES 1. Put each adjective into the correct box below. Each box will contain ten adjectives . amazing attractive cold correct dead enormous exciting expensive extinct fascinating freezing good ugly interesting huge large minute paralysed shy sick Gradable adjectives Non-gradable adjectives Attractive, cold, exciting, expensive, good, ugly, interesting, large, shy, sick Amazing, correct, dead, enormous, extinct, fascinating, freezing, huge, minute, paralysed
  10. 10. GRADABLE vs. NON-GRADABLE ACTIVITIES 2. Use the adverbs below to rewrite each sentence, making it either stronger or weaker according to the instructions. Use each word once only. virtually very somewhat a bit highly absolutely fabulously fairly 1. (weaker) These days mobile phones are cheap. 2. (weaker) Be careful changing gear; the gearstick’s stiff. 3. (weaker) The inscription on the tomb was unreadable. 4. (weaker) Many of the Inca religious ceremonies were bloodthirsty. 5. (stronger) Jane’s flat was freezing last night. 6. (stronger) This new computer game sounds interesting. 7. (stronger) Hillary’s new boyfriend is rich. 8. (stronger) Victory in our next game seems unlikely.
  11. 11. 2. Use the adverbs below to rewrite each sentence, making it either stronger or weaker according to the instructions. Use each word once only. virtually very somewhat a bit highly absolutely fabulously fairly 1. (weaker) These days mobile phones are FAIRLY (pretty) cheap. 2. (weaker) Be careful changing gear; the gearstick’s A BIT stiff. 3. (weaker) The inscription on the tomb was (somewhat) VIRTUALLY unreadable. 4. (weaker) Many of the Inca religious ceremonies were SOMEWHAT bloodthirsty. 5. (stronger) Jane’s flat was ABSOLUTELY freezing last night. 6. (stronger) This new computer game sounds VERY interesting. 7. (stronger) Hillary’s new boyfriend is FABULOUSLY rich. 8. (stronger) Victory in our next game seems HIGHLY unlikely.
  12. 12. GRADABLE vs. NON-GRADABLE ACTIVITIES 3. Five of these sentences contain mistakes with the adverbs and adjectives. 1. Iceland is colder than Sweden. 2. Casualties during the Crimean War were very enormous. 3. Steve’s new girlfriend is very attractive. 4. Clients are advised that Miami tends to be more boiling than Los Angeles during the winter months. 5. Milan cathedral is slightly huge. 6. In many areas of Europe the wolf is virtually extinct. 7. Last night’s episode was really gripping. 8. I can’t stand that actor; he’s absolutely ugly. 9. The club’s very empty for a Saturday night. 10. It’s slightly free to get in; less than one Euro, in fact.
  13. 13. 3. Five of these sentences contain mistakes with the adverbs and adjectives. 1. Iceland is colder than Sweden. 2. Casualties during the Crimean War were very enormous. 3. Steve’s new girlfriend is very attractive. 4. Clients are advised that Miami tends to be more boiling HOTTER than Los Angeles during the winter months. 5. Milan cathedral is slightly huge. 6. In many areas of Europe the wolf is virtually extinct. 7. Last night’s episode was really gripping. 8. I can’t stand that actor; he’s absolutely ugly. 9. The club’s very empty for a Saturday night. 10. It’s slightly free to get in; less than one Euro, in fact.
  14. 14. GRADABLE vs. NON-GRADABLE ACTIVITIES 4. Choose the most appropriate adverb to fill each gap. 1. Jim hates speaking in public, he’s ………………… shy. a. absolutely b. completely c. painfully 2. The Wimbledon final was ………………. exciting. a. absolutely b. utterly c. terribly 3. Your new bracelet’s beautiful. It looks ………………. expensive. a. very b. completely c. absolutely 4. I think I’d better lie down, I feel ……………… sick. a. practically b. a little bit c. virtually 5. Yes, sir. You are …………………… correct. I’ll give you a refund. a. quite b. very c. rather 6. Since the accident Clive has been ………………… paralysed. a. totally b. absolutely c. very 7. After a month with no rain the grass is ......................... dead. a. slightly b. almost c. somewhat 8. I wasn’t expecting much but, surprisingly, the play was …………… good. a. nearly b. absolutely c. quite
  15. 15. 4. Choose the most appropriate adverb to fill each gap. 1. Jim hates speaking in public, he’s ………………… shy. a. absolutely b. completely c. painfully 2. The Wimbledon final was ………………. exciting. a. absolutely b. utterly c. terribly 3. Your new bracelet’s beautiful. It looks ………………. expensive. a. very b. completely c. absolutely 4. I think I’d better lie down, I feel ……………… sick. a. practically b. a little bit c. virtually 5. Yes, sir. You are …………………… correct. I’ll give you a refund. a. quite b. very c. rather 6. Since the accident Clive has been ………………… paralysed. a. totally b. absolutely c. very 7. After a month with no rain the grass is ......................... dead. a. slightly b. almost c. somewhat 8. I wasn’t expecting much but, surprisingly, the play was …………… good. a. nearly b. absolutely c. quite

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