Published 13th April 2016


Exhausted. Boiling. Starving.

These are just three examples of extreme adjectives. We are all familiar with adjectives and the fact that they are used to describe nouns, but extreme adjectives are a very useful tool for our learners to be able to be more descriptive in their language use.

Consider the following conversation:

“How was your weekend?”

“It was good.”

And compare it to:

“How was your weekend?”

“It was awesome/amazing/incredible!”

Which conversation would you rather have?

So you can see that utilising extreme adjectives can make our language more interesting, engaging and even more informative.

So what do our students need to know about extreme adjectives?

Basically, there is only one rule learners need to know:

When we use base adjectives we can grade them with adverbs such as a little, quite, rather, very, extremely and incredibly, but we cannot do this with extreme adjectives. Extreme adjectives can only be graded with adverbs like absolutely, completely and totally. It makes sense that these extreme adjectives can only use extreme adverbs. The adverbs pretty and really can be used with both base and extreme adjectives.

Other than that, once our students are aware of the different extreme adjectives, they should be able to use them effectively. It is up to you to make sure your students are exposed to them and learn their meanings and common usages.

Here are a few of the most commonly used extreme adjectives:

Angry – furious

Bad – awful/terrible

Big – enormous

Cold – freezing

Dirty – filthy

Funny – hilarious

Hot – boiling

Small – tiny

Old – ancient

Good – wonderful/amazing/excellent

There are numerous activities that can be done to learn extreme adjectives. A modified version of the card game Snap can be played with players shouting Snap if there is a match between a base adjective and an extreme adjective. Similar games can be played as Memory Game or Bingo.

Finally, one of the best ways you can consolidate vocabulary use is to use the language yourself. When talking to your students, whether it is in a formal lesson or an informal chat, try to use the vocabulary learnt in class so that your students will be exposed to it more. In other words, be a model for the language. In this way they will incorporate this vocabulary into their own language.