Appeal for help - from anyone who speaks another language!

Hi guys,

I’m writing a paper at the minute for a course I’m studying on comparative linguistics.

The paper is about gradeable and ungradeable adjectives.

In brief,in English we have extreme adjectives which (normally) are not graded using ‘intensifiers’ (like ‘very’) or down toners (like ‘slightly’). For example:

  • furious is an extreme adjective (extreme of angry). So we would not normally say ‘I’m very furious’ or ‘I’m slightly furious’ [although we might do for effect.

More on this here - … n-gradable

What I’m looking for are features of differences in other languages that will make ungradeable adjectives difficult to learn for native speakers of that language.

For example, are there any false cognates that would cause a problem for learners in other languages,i.e. a words that sound the same as extreme adjectives like ''exhausted", “freezing”, “boiling” etc that, in that language, can be modified with the same intensifiers which are used for non-extreme adjectives?

Or, are there any languages which simply don’t have systems of gradeable or ungradeable adjectives at all (excluding East Asian languages, of which I already have several examples of).

Any questions here, please ask me.

One more note - given the importance of accuracy in the paper, it’s really important that examples are 100% accurate. Therefore, I really need input from native speakers or very advanced learners here if possible. It doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed: I will have to research it thoroughly later anyway, but just looking for hints of where to start looking.

An example from a rudimentary draft I’ve already formulated, just to help show what I’m after:

Edit - I kept changing things untill I realized that I couldn’t really help here. Sufice it to say that the difficulty in this area from Spanish to English is the much reduced pool of words and variations in general, though structurally they are much the same.

I speak French and Italian but idk if I’ve fully understood the question…

In both you can modify an adjective by adding a suffix, and I think this can be done with the “extreme” adjectives too.

Hi Polly,

Thanks for trying to help, it’s honestly appreciated. By ‘modify’ I meant ‘intensify’ or ‘dowtone’. But just ignore all the grammar stuff and think of it like this:

In the other languages you speak:

How do you make a normal adjective sound stronger? (In English we use ‘very’ or a similar “intensifying” word, e.g. hot → very hot / extremely hot /really hot etc)

How do you make an adjective that is already ‘extreme’ (e.g. ‘boiling’ in English) even stronger (In English - absolutely boiling)? If you add words, are they the same words that you add when you modify a ‘normal’ adjective?

Can you make an adjective that is already extreme weaker in any way? (In English, we can’t, for example, normally say ‘it’s slightly boiling’)?

In French you would add an intensifier like “très”.
In Italian you would add an intensifer like “molto” or you would put the “-issimo/a” suffix on the word.

In French you would add “complètement” or something similar to the adjective (like the absolutely in English).
In Italian you either strengthen a “normal” adjective like “tired” (stanco/a) using the same suffix as before, or you would do what both French and English with an “extreme” adjective. However, there is a tendency to prefer the use of an adjective on its own that denotes a stronger meaning, rather than using an intensifier. Using one is not incorrect, it just might indicate a lack of fluency.

For both it seems that the words you use as modifiers are not the same as they are for “normal” adjectives.

I’m sure you can’t in French but I need to think about it a bit more for Italian.

hey brevel gimme a specific list of vocab youd like and ill translate the ones im sure of or ask my turkish native friends. sorry im too lazy to apply brain to op. absolutes was all i got plus their modifiers.

Thanks Polly, that was pretty helpful.

Tab: if you’ve still time, following phrases would really help:

warm / slightly hot


very hot

extremely hot


absolutely boiling



really delicious

Try this Turkish.

Warm = Ilik
Hot = Sicak
Very hot = Cok sicak
Extremely hot = Asiri sicak
Boiling = Kayniyor
Absolutely boiling = Kesinlikle Kayniyor
Tasty = Tadi guzel
Delicious = Lezzetli
Really delicious = Cok Lezzetli

C in Turkish is pronounced ch. They have a little dot beneath the c to give it this sound but most keyboards aren’t equipped with it. And the s in asiri is pronounced sh. Again, s in some Turkish words has a dot beneath it giving it the sh sound.

Hi Fent,

Thanks a lot. Another question: do the following phrases sound natural or unnatural?

Kesinlikle Sicak

Asiri Sicak

Asiri Lezzetli

I can think of Spanish.
Contento is an adjective. It means happy. In English you can increase it by saying “very happy” or even happiest. In Spanish we take these to their upmost in the later sense like “contentisimo”.

Dutch is (surprise surprise) very similar to English. There are a couple of common mistakes I’ve noticed Dutch speakers of English make, but they’re mostly due to confusion about the translation of the words (whether you translate it to a gradeable or ungradeable word). For example, “nice” is hard to translate, as it means so many different things, so you might hear someone saying “the holiday was completely nice”. It’s not something you tend to hear from competent speakers, and it’s more a case of them picking the wrong adjective than a structural linguistic difficulty.

What’s tricky in British English (and Indian, maybe Australian, more so than US or Canadian) is that we use “quite” to mean either “somewhat” or “extremely”. This sandwich is quite nice… and the view from the top of the Grand Canyon is quite breathtaking. It can be… quite confusing.

To digress slightly… while most reasonably educated Dutch people speak very good English and many are fluent, I still get a lot of requests to translate subtleties like that, or to check that what they read is what the sender meant to communicate. Culturally, the Dutch are a lot more literal and less prone to understatement.

Hey Brev,

Sorry, haven’t been around as often as I should have been. And thanks to Fent for doing the honours in my stead. See the translations in the quoted section.

note if c and ç (ch), and ş (sh) and s, and ı (uh) and i look the same to you in this post, then you need a set of turkish fonts loaded.

Apparently none of them are natural.

Thanks Fent. That makes it a bit more interesting. I’ve managed to find a local Turkish speaker so I will try to find out more!

Indeed. Quite + standard adjective is a ‘down toner’ (makes it not as strong). Quite + ungradeable adjective is an intensifier. The can be true of ‘rather’, although that’s a bit more outdated now.

Thanks for the info on dutch speakers too. Appreciated.

Yes we use the word “quite” in Australia a lot.

“Quite” is “oldukça” in Turkish. You can check out the others in my post above with your Turkish native :laughing: , say ‘merhaba’ to him or her from me.