Adjectives: Extreme and Gradable

Adjectives are words that describe the qualities of something. What are extreme and gradable adjectives? Some adjectives in English are gradable – that means you can have different degrees or levels of that quality from “a tiny bit” to “extremely”. For example, the weather can be a little cold, rather cold, very cold, or extremely cold.  (= “boiling = “very/ extremely” + “hot”).

Exam in Mind Level B1/B2

Extreme adjectives or non-gradable adjectives are words that mean “extremely + adjective” – for example, “freezing” means “extremely cold”. The weather can’t be “a little bit freezing” or “very freezing” – because the word “freezing” itself automatically means “extremely cold”.

Regular/Gradable Adjective – Extreme Adjective

angry – furious
bad – awful, terrible, horrible
big – huge, gigantic, giant, enormous
clean – spotless
cold – freezing
crowded – packed
dirty – filthy
funny – hilarious
good – wonderful, fantastic, excellent, marvellous, perfect, incredible, fabulous, brilliant, outstanding
hot – boiling
hungry – starving
interesting – fascinating
old – ancient
pretty – gorgeous
scary – terrifying, frightening, intimidating
small – tiny
surprising- astounding
surprised – stunned, amazed
tired – exhausted
ugly – hideous
important – vital, essential, critical, crucial
confident – sure
crazy – insane
cute – adorable
difficult – impossible
impressive – speactacular, fascinating, remarkable, magnificent
nice – wonderful, gorgeous
quiet – silent
silly – ridiculous
scared – terrified
scary – terrifying
strange – bizarre
valuable – priceless

Special Rules for Extreme Adjectives

No comparatives or superlatives

With regular adjectives, we can use comparatives and superlatives to compare two or more things:

  • My house is big.
  • My neighbor’s house is bigger than mine. (comparative)
  • My parents’ house is the biggest house on the street. (superlative)

With extreme adjectives, we don’t use comparatives and superlatives: My parents’ house is enormous.

Use different adverbs with extreme adjectives.

With regular adjectives, we can use these adverbs:

  • a little, a bit, slightly, fairly, rather
  • very, extremely, immensely, intensely, hugely


  • I’m rather hungry. / I’m very hungry.
  • This room is a bit dirty. / This room is extremely dirty.
  • We’re a little tired. / We’re immensely tired.

With extreme adjectives, we CANNOT use these adverbs: I’m rather starving. / I’m extremely starving.

There are other adverbs we can use to give additional emphasis to the extreme adjective:

  • absolutely
  • completely
  • utterly


  • I’m absolutely furious.
  • We’re completely exhausted.
  • The movie was utterly terrifying.

The words pretty and really can be used with both regular and extreme adjectives:

  • This room is pretty dirty. (regular)
  • This room is pretty filthy. (extreme)
  • The party is really crowded. (regular)
  • The party is really packed. (extreme)

Absolute Adjectives

Another type of extreme adjective is called an “absolute” adjective.  These are words that are either “yes or no.” For example, dead – you can’t be “a little bit dead” or “very dead” – either YES, you are dead, or NO, you’re not dead.

Here’s a list of absolute adjectives and their opposites (this list is not complete; it only shows some examples):

Absolute Adjective – Opposite

complete – incomplete
equal – unequal
essential – non-essential; extraneous
dead – alive
fatal – not fatal
first – last / final
full – empty
ideal – not ideal
impossible – possible
infinite – finite
married – single /divorced / separated / widowed
perfect – imperfect
pregnant – not pregnant
unique – not unique
universal – not universal
unknown – known
true – flase

Things to remember

  • Non-gradable adjectives aren’t used in comparatives/superlatives.
  • Non-gradable adjectives do not go with adverbs of degree.
  • Non-gradable adjectives do go with intensifiers such as absolutely, completely, exceptionally, particularly, really, quite, totally, and utterly.
  • Gradable adjectives we can use the following adverbsa little (bit), a bit, pretty, slightly, fairly, somewhat, rather, quite, so, really, very, extremely, immensely, intensely, hugely.
  • Both gradable and non-gradable adjectives can be used with pretty and really: That dog is pretty ugly. That dog is pretty hideous.
  • Absolute adjectives can be quantified by the addition of almost, nearly, or virtually.

Have practice in using extreme and gradable adjectives.

Exercise 1. Complete the sentences with a suitable adjective: 

starving, boiling, hot, enormous, fascinating, tiny, brilliant, exhausted, furious, essential, terrible, gorgeous, astonished, packed, filthy, freezing

  1. When will lunch be ready? We ‘re ______________.
  2. Can you close the window? I’m ____________.
  3. My cousins live in an ____________ house. It has got eight bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living rooms _____________.
  4. Susan looks _____________ in her new dress.
  5. We went to the cinema yesterday evening and we watched a____________ film.
  6. My parents will be ___________ if we are late again.
  7. The floor was covered in _________ bits of paper.
  8. Wash your hands before dinner. They are _________.
  9. Paul’s been working all day. He looks __________.
  10. The food in the hotel was ___________. We didn’t have any meal while we stayed there.
  11. Einstein was a ____________ scientist.
  12. Open the windows, please. I’m ____________.
  13. Computer are nowadays an ___________ part of our lives.
  14. We were _____________ at the extraordinary beauty of the pictures.

Exercise 2. Extreme and gradable adjectives. Choose the correct option.

  1. These shoes are a bit / absolutely small.
  2. The pasta was completely / very tasty.
  3. The dessert was absolutely / very delicious.
  4. It is not completely / very perfect, but it’s good enough.
  5. I’m completely / very late. I’m sorry.
  6. We were absolutely / very exhausted when we arrived home.
  7. My battery is totally / very dead.
  8. The book is absolutely / very amazing!

Exercise 3. Extreme and gradable adjectives. Choose the correct option.

1. I am _____ happy to see you.

A. virtually
B. a little
C. very

2. The cat was _____ dead when the vet arrived.

A. extremely
B. fairly
C. completely

3. To make tea, the water should be _____ boiling.

A. slightly
B.  –
C. very

4. Well done! Your homework is _____ excellent.

A. very
B.  –
C. almost

5. Don’t see that film! It’s _____ awful!

A. absolutely
B. nearly
C. extremely

6. Hundreds of _____ terrified people ran for their lives.

A. completely
B. extremely
C. fairly

7. I am reading a _____ good book.

A. nearly
B. completely
C.  –

8. Are you sure? – Yes, I’m _____ certain.
A. nearly
B. quite
C. intensely

9. It’s _____ cold outside. In fact, it’s nearly freezing.

A. quite
B. really
C. fairly

10. The country is in a _____ ridiculous situation. I laugh so much!

A.  –
B. very
C. reasonably

 Exercise 4. Very or absolutely with extreme and gradable adjectives. Choose the correct variant. 
  1. I am __________ sure that it’s right.
  2. This cake is __________ tasty.
  3. My parents are __________ pleased with my grades.
  4. I was __________ amazed when I saw it.
  5. I was __________ disappointed when I heard the news.
  6. It’s __________ hot today.
  7. These paintings are __________ priceless.
  8. That was a __________ crazy thing to do.
  9. This cake is __________ delicious.
  10. The kittens are __________ adorable.
  11. This flat is __________ perfect.
  12. You need to be __________ silent.
  13. These paintings are __________ valuable.
  14. The kittens are __________ cute.
  15. He is __________ furious about it.
  16. She is __________ amazing at singing.
  17. It’s an __________ stunning view.
  18. It’s __________ essential that you listen carefully.
  19. Her grades are __________ outstanding.
  20. I’m __________  tired.
  21. I’m __________ scared of spiders.
  22. The bride looked __________ magnificent.
  23. We had an __________ fantastic holiday.
  24. We had a __________ pleasant walk in the park.
  25. His speech was __________ remarkable.
  26. I am __________ confident that it’s right.
  27. The service was __________ awful.
  28. The entertainment was __________ marvellous.
  29. I was __________ surprised when I heard about it.
  30. You need to be __________ quiet.

Exercise 5. Extreme and gradable adjectives: insert a non-gradable adjective.

  1. She is absolutely am__________ at singing. (good)
  2. Your hair looks absolutely go__________. (nice)
  3. This cake is absolutely de__________. (tasty)
  4. I think bugs are absolutely fa__________ (interesting)
  5. You need to be absolutely si___________ (quiet)
  6. I am absolutely te__________ of spiders. (scared)
  7. The film was absolutely te__________. (bad)
  8. The food was absolutely di__________ (unpleasant)
  9. My parents are absolutely de__________ with my grades. (pleased)
  10. The service was absolutely aw__________. (bad)
  11. He is absolutley fu__________ about it. (angry)
  12. I think he’s absolutely hi__________. (funny)
  13. His nose is absolutely en__________. (big)
  14. The kids were absolutely fi__________. (dirty)
  15. I am absolutely ex__________. (tired)
  16. These paintings are absolutely pr__________. (valuable)
  17. I’m absolutely st__________. (hungry)
  18. It’s absolutley fr__________ today. (cold)
  19. It’s absolutely bo________ today. (hot)
  20. They have an absolutely hu_________ kitchen. (big)
  21. This is an absolutely ri__________ idea. (silly)
  22. The test was absolutely im__________ (difficult)
  23. His contribution was absolutely vi__________. (important)
  24. This flat is absolutely pe__________. (good)
  25. You look absolutely fab__________. (good)
  26. This book is absolutely br__________. (good)

Exercise 6. Fill in the gaps with very or absolutely with extreme and gradable adjectives (very + gradable adjective – absolutely + non-gradable)

  1. My teacher was ________________ angry when she saw the mess.
    A. very B. absolutely
  2. My birthday cake was __________________ enormous.
    A. very B. absolutely
  3. We didn’t go inside, it was ________________ crowded.
    A. very B. absolutely
  4. My boots were _____________ filthy after a walk in the mountains.
    A. very B. absolutely
  5. In winter, it is __________________ freezing in Scotland.
    A. very B. absolutely
  6. I don’t like going to the gym. It is always ____________ hot.
    A. very B. absolutely
  7. Only 3 days into my diet and I am ______________ starving.
    A. very B. absolutely
  8. My student is ___________ funny.
    A. very B. absolutely
  9. That new film at the cinema is ________________ terrifying.
    A. very B. absolutely
  10. Your progress is ________________ fantastic. Well done!
    A. very B. absolutely