When can we add modifiers like ‘very’, ‘extremely’, and ‘a little bit’ to adjectives? It depends on whether the adjective is non-gradable or gradable.
(1) Non-gradable Adjectives
Do not use modifiers with non-gradable adjectives.
An adjective is non-gradable if it:
(a) is binary (0 or 1). For example, dead and man-made are binary. You cannot be a little bit dead, nor can a car be very man-made. You’re either dead, or you’re not. The car was either man-made, or it wasn’t. There is no in between.
(b) contains ‘very’ within its meaning, e.g. Freezing means very cold; Delighted means very happy; Exhausted means very tired. If you use ‘very’ before these words, it is equivalent to saying, “I’m very very happy,” which is unnecessary repetition. Likewise, “She’s a little bit very cold” doesn’t make sense.
- The game was very excellent. The game was excellent.
I am quite married.I am married. My dog is very starving.My dog is starving. or My dog is very hungry. Busan was a little bit boiling.Busan was boiling. or Busan was very hot.
(2) Gradable Adjectives
All other adjectives are gradable and can be modified.
- She is sad. or She is really sad. or She is not very sad.
- John is tall. or John is unbelievably tall. or John is pretty tall.
This guide will help you remember: