Intensifying Adjectives

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When describing physical objects, you can use a wide variety of adjectives such as large, big, tiny, minuscule, small, etc. However, when describing nouns that are not physical (e.g. joy, anger, wealth) you need to pay careful attention to the choice of intensifying adjectives. This feature provides a guide to the use of the most common intensifying adjectives for non-physical nouns.

Absolute / Complete / Total / Utter

Absolute, complete, total and utter are used to express strong feelings, extreme situations, and other events - especially negative experiences.

  • absolute agony
  • complete astonishment
  • total bliss
  • (an) utter catastrophe
  • absolute despair
  • total ecstasy
  • utter fury
  • a complete idiot
  • utter loathing
  • total madness

Big

Big tends to describe a happening or a type of person. It is not usually used with uncountable nouns.

Happenings

  • a big decision
  • a big disappointment
  • a big improvement
  • a big mistake
  • a big surprise

Types of Persons

  • a big eater
  • a big dreamer
  • a big drinker
  • a big spender
  • a big talker

Great

Great usually describes nouns which express feelings or qualities.

  • great admiration
  • great anger
  • in great detail
  • (a) great disappointment
  • great enjoyment
  • great excitement
  • a great failure
  • great fun
  • great happiness
  • great joy
  • at great length
  • a great number (of)
  • great power
  • great pride
  • a great quantity (of)
  • great sensitivity
  • great skill
  • great strength
  • great understanding
  • great wealth

Large

Large is often used with nouns concerning numbers and measurements. It is not usually used with uncountable nouns.

  • a large amount
  • a large number (of)
  • a large population
  • a large proportion
  • a large quantity
  • a large scale

Common Adjective Collocations

A collocation is a word pair, in this case an adjective and a noun, that always goes together.

There are no specific rules for these collocations, however, it is important to learn some of the standard collocations. Here is a guide to collocations with deep, heavy, high (low) and strong.

Deep 

  • deep depression
  • deep devotion
  • a deep feeling
  • deep pockets
  • deep sleep
  • in deep thought
  • in deep trouble

Heavy

  • a heavy drinker
  • heavy rain
  • a heavy sleeper
  • a heavy smoker
  • heavy snow
  • heavy traffic

High - Low

Notice that a number of nouns (but not all) which take 'high' also take 'low'.

  • high - or low - cost
  • high - or low - density
  • high - or low - energy
  • high - or low - esteem
  • a high - or low - expectation (of)
  • a high - or low - level (of)
  • a high - or low - opinion (of someone or something)
  • high - or low - pressure
  • a - or low - high price
  • high quality
  • high speed

Strong

  • strong criticism
  • strong denial
  • a strong feeling
  • a strong opinion (about something)
  • a strong sense (of)
  • a strong smell
  • a strong taste
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Intensifying Adjectives." ThoughtCo, Apr. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/intensifying-adjectives-in-english-grammar-1211138. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, April 4). Intensifying Adjectives. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/intensifying-adjectives-in-english-grammar-1211138 Beare, Kenneth. "Intensifying Adjectives." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/intensifying-adjectives-in-english-grammar-1211138 (accessed November 21, 2017).