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Gradable and non-gradable adjectival participles

Posted by TheFallen on March 17, 2003

In Reply to: Gradable and non-gradable posted by HCD on March 17, 2003

: : : : I'd like to know how to discover when a adjective or adverb is gradable or non-gradable, without having to know a large list by heart. Can anybody help me?
: : : : Thanks.

: : : I don't understand the question. Do you mean gradable as in degrees -- "pretty, prettier, prettiest"? Or non-gradable meaning an absolute --"unique"? Something is unique or it's not.

: : Here's what I found:

: : "Adjectives can be divided into gradable and non-gradable (or classifying) adjectives. Gradable adjectives can be compared (happy-happier-happiest, good-better-best, beautiful-more beautiful-most beautiful) and modified with the intensifying word very. Non-gradable adjectives do not have comparative or superlative forms nor are they intensified: a financial plan, an electric train, semantic criteria."

: : Another good site is:
: :
: :

: Look! For an English native the gradability can possibly be considered easy, but not for other origin peoples, for instance the Latins's origin.
: To realize how difficult it is, take a glance at the site about gradable and ungradable adjecitves modifiers on the site:
: Thanks, HCD

Your question doesn't actually seem to be about adjectives in general. I took a look at that site, and the crucial point they're making is about present and past participles when used adjectivally - are they gradable or not? The conclusion seems to be that participles originating from an intransitive verb root are non-gradable, as are transitive-based participles where there's an implied causal agent.

I'm not sure whether I buy into all that or not, but it's probably a good rule of thumb. There are of course exceptions, as there are to so many grammatical rules - it is correct English to describe someone as "having a rather sunken face".