Gradable and ungradable adjectives
Episode 3: Adjectives and music vocabulary
This week on Learn English with Everest I chatted to Rob about Irish music, going to live gigs, music festivals and lots more. So, in this episode you’ll learn lots of vocabulary to talk about music. The grammar point is connected with adjectives, specifically gradable and ungradable adjectives. Why do we say “very big”, but not “very huge”? “Absolutely amazing”, but not “very amazing”. Have a listen and find out!
There were lots of musicians mentioned this week:
Rob went to an Anderson Paak gig in the Olympia.
I recommended ReDiviDeR
Anna Mieke and Laura Quirke (Lemoncello) are two great musicians who draw on traditional Irish music. And they are also teachers in Everest school! Rob also mentioned Planxty as a traditional Irish group.
Rob plays with another great Irish musician, Robert John Ardiff
Music for the podcast was provided by yet another great Irish act, Nouveaunoise
Grammar: Gradable and ungradable adjectives
There are two types of adjectives: gradable / ungradable
Think of temperature: hot / cold
The temperature can be: a little bit hot, quite hot, very hot (and then “boiling” at the top of the scale)
A little bit cold, quite cold, very cold (and then “freezing” at the bottom of the scale)
Gradable adjectives can be graded, they can move up and down the scale
They can be graded with grading adverbs, such as:
a little bit / slightly / quite / very / really
So we can have a little bit hot, really nice, very big
At the top, or bottom, you have an ungradable adjective:
Good -> Amazing, wonderful
Bad -> Terrible
These words can’t be graded:
a little bit huge; very amazing
Ungradable adjectives are also often absolutes: dead, pregnant, alive
He’s a little bit dead; she’s very alive; she’s slightly pregnant
They can’t be graded.
They can be used with non-grading (emphasising) adverbs to give them an emphasis (words like absolutely / utterly / completely)
But they don’t move them up/down the scale
So, something is quite good or very good, that’s very different. Quite good is 5 out of 10, very good is 8 out of 10
But if you say something was amazing or absolutely amazing, it’s more or less the same. Amazing is 10 out of 10, absolutely amazing is 10 out of 10 but you want to really tell listener that it was definitely 10 out of 10
Some utterly amazing music from some of our teachers in Everest:
You can listen to the other Learn English with Everest Podcasts here