An adjective is a word that modifies or describes a noun. Adjectives can describe size, colour, mood, shape, opinion and other physical and emotional qualities. The adjectives can be further categorised as gradable and non-gradable. Gradable adjectives refer to words that can be further modified with adverbs to indicate degree or intensity of meaning; whereas non-gradable adjectives refer to words that are definitive in meaning. It is useful to teach gradable adjectives in order to help students improve their writing and to use adjectives properly.
- Skill level:
Show students examples of adjectives and how they are used in sentences. Having students identify adjectives in sentences will help them to better understand sentence structure. For example, in the sentence, "Amy poured a glass of cold water," the adjective is "cold."
Explain how adverbs can be used to enhance description. An adverb is a word that can modify or describe nouns, verbs and other adverbs. For example, in the sentence, "Amy poured a glass of very cold water," "very" is the adverb.
Provide examples of gradable adjectives. Tell the students that gradable adjectives are adjectives that convey different degrees of meaning with the use of a gradable adverb. For example, "Cold water is warmer than very cold water." A different meaning is conveyed even though the adjective is the same. Other examples of gradable adjectives are good, short, high and deep.
Explain how gradable adjectives can be identified based on whether or not they have superlative forms. Gradable adjectives do have superlative forms. A superlative form of a word is a word that can convey a different degree of meaning by using different forms of the same word, or by using the adverbs "more" and "most." For example, "smallest" is the superlative of the adjective "small." "Most wonderful" is a superlative form of the adjective "wonderful."
Provide examples of non-gradable adjectives. Non-gradable adjectives cannot be used with gradable adverbs to provide a different meaning. For example, "dead" is a non-gradable adjective. If an animal is dead, it cannot be "very dead" or "slightly dead." An animal can only be -- and simply be -- dead or alive: there is no in between. Other examples of non-gradable adjectives are frigid, terrible and biological.
Explain the distinction between a gradable adverb and a non-gradable adverb. Gradable adverbs are used with gradable adjectives, while non-gradable adverbs are used with non-gradable adjectives. Gradable adverbs enhance meaning, such as very and slightly. Non-gradable adverbs do not enhance meaning. Examples of non-gradable adverbs consist of completely, totally and almost.
Read a short story with the students, and help them to find examples of gradable and non-gradable adjectives. Differentiating between both types of adjectives will enable them to better understand how to use gradable adjectives.
Have the students write ten sentences in which they use gradable adjectives with gradable adverbs. Check the sentences to make sure that students used only gradable adjectives and answer any questions that they may have.
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