Gradable and Ungradable Adjectives
Modifying gradable adjectives
Most adjectives are "gradable" because they describe qualities we can think of in terms of a scale, and therefore can be weaker or stronger.
1. Gradable adjectives - important, slow, valuable, vigorous etc can be made stronger using extremely, incredibly, most, pretty (informal), rather, really, terribly, very, dead (informal):
It's pretty obvious that he's not interested.
The talk was most interesting.
I thought he was rather nice.
The concert was dead good!
2. Gradable adjectives can be made weaker using a (little) bit, fairly, quite (fairly), relatively, slightly, somewhat:
He's quite rich, but not a millionaire.
We were somewhat disappointed with the service.
The hotel was relatively/fairly cheap.
Modifying ungradable adjectives
Ungradable adjectives - brilliant, correct, disastrous, exhausted, furious, identical, perfect, unique etc indicate extreme or absolute qualities.
1. The extreme/absolute quality can be stressed using absolutely, completely, quite (completely), really, totally, utterly:
They were absolutely furious.
This vase is quite unique.
2. We can say that something is very nearly in an absolute state using almost, nearly, practically, virtually:
The tank is almost empty.
The two vases are virtually identical.
Gradable and ungradable
Some adjectives can be gradable or ungradable, depending on the context:
The beach was fairly empty. (gradable = There were not many people)
The beach was absolutely empty. (ungradable = There were no people)
We use quite before a/an = moderately
Elsa is quite a dominant woman.
We use quite between a/an and adjective = completely
It is a quite remarkable story.
Adverb + adjective collocations
bitterly cold, disappointed, opposed
completely different, incomprehensible, new, sure
deeply ashamed, attached, divided, unhappy
entirely beneficial, different, satisfactory, unexpected
heavily armed, dependent, polluted
highly contagious, critical, intelligent, likely, sensitive
painfully aware, obvious, sensitive, slow
perfectly balanced, normal, safe, serious
seriously damaged, hurt, rich, wealthy
totally harmless, inadequate, unbelievable
utterly different, disastrous, impossible, useless
widely available, held, publicised, used
Some useful adverb + ungradable adjective collocations for writing part of English exams