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

tremendously exciting

highly entertaining

truly original

refreshingly different

superbly written

fantastically acted

deeply moving

side-splittingly funny

incredibly complex

completely unpredictable

vanishingly rare

particularly memorable

unbearably/heartbreakingly sad

totally (un)convincing