Understanding the Distinction between Gradable and Non-gradable Adjectives

When it comes to describing the world around us, adjectives play a vital role in conveying meaning. Adjectives come in various types, each with its unique characteristics and functions. Two such types are gradable adjectives and non-gradable adjectives.

Gradable Adjectives: Comparison and Intensity

Gradable adjectives are perhaps the most common type of adjectives we encounter in everyday language. As their name suggests, these adjectives describe qualities that can vary in intensity or degree. This variability is usually expressed through comparative and superlative forms, allowing us to compare and contrast different levels of a particular attribute.

Consider the adjective “short.” This adjective is gradable because we can easily compare the heights of different individuals. We say someone is “shorter” than another or the “shortest” in a group. This comparison can help us understand the relative height differences more accurately.

Other examples of gradable adjectives include “hot,” “smart,” “cheap,” and “hungry.” These adjectives can have different degrees of comparison.

Non-gradable Adjectives: Absolute and Unchanging

In contrast, non-gradable adjectives, also known as absolute adjectives or extreme adjectives, describe qualities that are considered to be either present or absent without degrees of comparison. These adjectives express attributes that are extreme and do not allow variations or gradations.

Think about the adjective “perfect.” When something is perfect, it is flawless and without faults. There are no degrees of perfection – something is either perfect or not. Similarly, “unique” is non-gradable because it signifies singularity – an item is either unique or it isn’t. These adjectives are absolute in their nature, allowing us to describe qualities that don’t have different levels or degrees.

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