Gradable and Non-gradable Adjectives

In this section you will learn information about what gradable and non-gradable adjectives are with examples.

What are gradable adjectives?

Gradable adjectives indicate a degree; they can be intensified or weakened with grading adverbs. Additionally, gradable adjectives can have comparative and superlative forms.

Alice is quite intelligent
It’s very hot outside.
The book is really interesting.

Gradable adjectives: afraid, angry, bad, beautiful, big, boring, busy, cheap, clean, cold, common, confused, cool, dark, dirty, embarrassed, energetic, excited, expensive, fast, frightening, funny, good, greedy, happy, hot, hungry, rich, important, interesting, large, light, little, loud, lucky, muddy, old, polite, poor, quiet, rude, scared, small, strong, sure, surprised, tall, tasty, tired, ugly, unpleasant, warm, windy, young.

Gradable adverbs to intensify gradable adjectivesGradable adverbs to weaken gradable adjectives
ExtremelyA little
ReallyA bit
Pretty Slightly

What are non-gradable adjectives?

Non-gradable adjectives do not indicate degree; they cannot be intensified or weakened with grading adverbs; also, gradable adjectives do not have comparative and superlative forms.

The final results are incomplete.
The view is stunning.

Types of non-gradable adjectives

1-Absolute adjectives are special adjectives because they cannot be altered in their form, which means that they do not have comparative forms.

Absolute adjectives: absolute, alarming, alive, complete, correct, dead, direct, essential, eternal, excessive, extraneous, final, flawless, genuine, ideal, incomplete, infallible, infinite, inherent, perfect, pure, reliable, true, unconditional, unique.

2-Strong or extreme adjectives indicate a stronger degree or intensity; they add emphasis.

Strong adjectives: ancient, astounding, awful, boiling, dreadful, enormous, excellent, exhausted, fantastic, fascinating, freezing, furious, gigantic, gorgeous, intense, hideous, hilarious, horrible, huge, intimidating, scorching, soaked, spotless, starving, stunning, terrible, terrified, terrifying, tiny, wonderful.

We only use non-gradable adjectives with non-gradable adverbs: absolutely, almost, completely, entirely, essentially, fully, largely, mainly, nearly, practically, primarily, simply, totally, utterly, virtually.

The living room is practically spotless.
When she arrived home, she was totally exhausted.


We can use really, pretty and very with gradable and non-gradable adjectives.

It’s really quiet. (gradable adjective)
We are really terrified. (non-gradable adjective)
The joke was pretty funny. (gradable adjective)
The situation is pretty intense. (non-gradable adjective)
Claire is very excited for her birthday. (gradable adjective)
You are a very unconditional partner. (non-gradable adjective)

Read more about adjectives here.

Read more about types of adjectives here.