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. There are lots of adverbs you can use with these. For example: very, extremely, incredibly, terribly, awfully, fairly, and a bit.

Some common ungradable adjectives are: exhausted, fantastic, awful, amazed, furious and starving. There are four main adverbs we use with these: 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)

Be careful: If you make an adverb from a strong adjective (e.g. awful+ly, amazing+ly), 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.
  2. It was _____ impossible to decide what to do.
  3. I bought some ____ cheap shoes at the weekend.
  4. Sam's got a very ____ nose.
  5. I was ______ disappointed by the food in the new restaurant.
  6. The painting he bought was absolutely ______.
  7. Your children are ____ noisy! I wish they'd be quiet!
  8. The meal Sarah cooked for us was absolutely _____.
  9. I've known Frank for  ____ long time.
  10. Don't ask Simon to help - he's _____ useless.
  11. I was a bit ____ when I went to be after watching the horror film.
  12. It's extremely ____ that we try to solve this problem quickly.

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