Read about using gradable and ungradable adjectives. Then, when you are ready, test yourself with these practice exercises.

Using strong and weak (gradable or ungradable) adjectives

I'm absolutely freezing!Cold is a "weak" or "gradable" adjective. It could be a bit cold or very cold. We use gradable adjectives with words like slightly, a bit, very and extremely:

Tom is very cold.

Freezing is a "strong" or "ungradable" adjective - it is very, very cold! It can't be a bit freezing. We use ungradable adjectives with words which suggest "the most", for example absolutely, completely, totally and utterly:

Sarah is absolutely freezing.

If you aren't sure whether an adjective is strong or weak, you can use "really" - it works with almost all adjectives.

I'm really / very hungry. (weak)

I'm really /absolutely starving. (strong)

I'm really / extremely tired. (weak)

I'm really / completely exhausted. (strong)


Strong / Weak adjectives: Advanced Points

Terrible means very bad. But terribly just means very - for example, "the documentary was terribly interesting". We often use it with a negative sentence: "the film wasn't terribly good" (meaning "it wasn't very good"). Awfully and dreadfully work in the same way.

Quite means different things with strong and weak adjectives.

It was quite funny. (quite + weak adj = slightly)

It was quite hilarious. (quite + strong adj = absolutely)

Now, try these exercises to practise using gradable and ungradable adjectives.