Intensifying Adjectives

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.

Once you have studied these expressions, try the intensifying adjectives quiz to test your knowledge.

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


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 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 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

A collocation is a word pair, in this case adjective and 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.

Once you have studied these expressions, try the intensifying adjectives quiz to test your knowledge.

Deep deep depression
deep devotion
a deep feeling

deep pockets
deep sleep
in deep thought
in deep trouble


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 criticism
strong denial
a strong feeling
a strong opinion (about something)

a strong sense (of)
a strong smell
a strong taste