B2 First: adverb + adjective collocations

Why don't we say "absolutely good" or "very fantastic"? Well, adjectives like good are known as weak or gradable adjectives, while adjectives like fantastic and perfect are known as strong and ungradable adjectives. Very is used with weak / gradable adjectives, and absolutely is used with strong / ungradable adjectives.

I'm very tired.
I'm absolutely exhausted.

Some common gradable adjectives are: tired, good, bad, surprised, angry and hungry. These are used with adverbs such as very, extremely, incredibly, terribly, awfully, fairly, and a bit.

Some common ungradable adjectives are: exhausted, fantastic, awful, amazed, furious and starving. These are used with adverbs such as absolutely, completely, totally, and utterly 

Really can be used with most adjectives - it doesn't matter what type they are.

That's a really interesting/fascinating book.

Quite can also be used with both gradable and ungradable adjectives, but its meaning changes.

That book's quite interesting. ( = a bit)
That book's quite fascinating. ( = absolutely)

Note: If you make an adverb from a strong adjective (e.g. awfully, amazingly), it is usually used with weak adjectives. For example:

This is awfully difficult.
He's amazingly good at cooking.

Practice 1: multiple choice cloze (use of English part 4)

Choose the best word to complete the following sentences.

1. I'm _____ sleepy. I'm going to bed.
incredibly absolutely totally utterly
2. It was _____ impossible to decide what to do.
extremely absolutely incredibly rather
3. I bought some ____ cheap shoes at the weekend.
extremely absolutely utterly totally
4. Sam's got a very ____ nose.
enormous huge large massive
5. I was ______ disappointed by the food in the new restaurant.
utterly terribly completely totally
6. The painting he bought was absolutely ______.
expensive priceless valuable pricey
7. Your children are ____ noisy! I wish they'd be quiet!
utterly totally completely incredibly
8. The meal Sarah cooked for us was absolutely _____.
delicious tasty nice good
9. I've known Frank for  ____ long time.
 an utterly  an awfully a quite a totally
10. Don't ask Simon to help - he's _____ useless.
completely very extremely awfully
11. I was a bit ____ when I went to be after watching the horror film.
terrified petrified scared horrified
12. It's extremely ____ that we try to solve this problem quickly.
crucial essential vital important


You can find some more practice for this on the main grammar pages: adverbs + adjectives.