Gradable and Ungradable Adjectives for intermediate learners

'Gradable' means being able to put something into different grades. So, What are the differences between gradable and ungradable adjectives?

"Gradable and Ungradable Adjectives" in the English Grammar

What Are Gradable and Ungradable Adjectives?

In English, based on whether we can measure them or not, adjectives are divided into two groups. Let us take a quick look at the list below:

  • Gradable Adjectives
  • Ungradable Adjectives ( Also Called Non-gradable Adjectives)

Gradable Adjectives

Gradable adjectives are those that we can measure. In other words, they have a point on a scale. 'Hot' and 'cold' are adjectives that can be measured. We can say 'a little cold', 'cold', 'extremely cold'. Take a look at the following examples:

The weather is a little cold right now.

It is extremely hot in this room.

Modifying Gradable Adjectives

We can use some adverbs in order to strengthen or weaken a gradable adjective. Take a look at the list below:

  • Very
  • Really
  • Rather
  • Most
  • Pretty

Now let us see some examples below:

It is pretty cold in the evening here.

I'm really sorry for the mistake I made.


It is useful to know that among the adverbs mentioned, 'very' is the most common with using gradable adjectives. Let us study the following examples carefully:

It is very hot in summer.

This car is very expensive.

Ungradable Adjectives

Contrary to gradable adjectives, ungradable adjectives cannot be measured. They are either absolute (dead), extremes (boiling), or classifying (nuclear) adjectives. Take a look at the following examples:

Be careful when you want to pour the boiling water on it.

As you can see, we cannot say 'a little boiling', or 'very boiling' because boiling is a fixed state.

As I was walking along the pavement, I came across a dead woman.

Please note that someone cannot be 'a little dead' or 'very dead'.

Modifying Ungradable Adjectives

Just like gradable adjectives, we have some non-grading adverbs that we can use with ungradable adjectives in order to add an extra impact to them. Take a look at the list below:

  • Absolutely
  • Utterly
  • Completely
  • Almost
  • Nearly

Make sure you study the following examples carefully:

She was totally dead when I saw her.

He was quite sure of himself the other day.

Normally, Ungradable adjectives cannot be made weaker or stronger. Therefore, study the following examples carefully:

This is a very enormous house. → This is an enormous house.

My grades are slightly excellent. → My grades are excellent.


Be careful that not all adverbs can get along with all adjectives. You have to pay attention to their collocations.


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