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Imagine someone helps a beggar and you see their action / behavior and like it and want to give a compliment to them. OR someone says you some bad words in a situation and you instead give him a smile and ask him to keep calm without saying even a single bad word. I would be thankful if someone could tell me if in AE it is possible to say:

  • His / her behavior was really admirable.

I'm asking this question because many dictionaries confirm that it is possible, but as far as I know in AE people use this adjective to describe a very serious situation like self-devotion or something like that. E.g. a pilot who saves 300 passengers lives by doing something very risky. If my taking is right, then I would be thankful if you could let me know how an AE native speaker would say the same thing in natural language?

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There is nothing wrong in your understanding of

admirable
His / her behavior was really admirable.

Anything that can or should be admired can be called admirable.
It is how a native might phrase it.

Another adjective which could be used in the same context is

exemplary
The courage the firefighters showed in fighting the fire was exemplary.

when an action should be held up as an example or model for people's behavior.

  • Thank you very much Peter, but I did not follow you well! Did you mean using admirable / exemplary in such contexts like mine would not be considered as an exaggeration? – A-friend Oct 23 '16 at 12:29
  • Meanwhile, I would be thankful if you could let me know the opposite of these two adjectives if these two are acceptable in this sense. E.g. when someone's behavior is not admirable / exemplary in a situation. The only adjective I found was "distasteful". Could you please give me some more information in this respect too? :) – A-friend Oct 23 '16 at 12:31
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    Despicable (deserving hatred and contempt) and abhorrent (inspiring disgust and loathing; repugnant) are two that come to mind. – Peter Oct 23 '16 at 18:41
  • Peter, what about "distasteful"? – A-friend Oct 24 '16 at 8:22
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    I would say that something that is "distasteful" is not necessarily "admirable", but your question seems to ask about the reaction to something and not the quality (distasteful) of the something. Something which is distasteful may be exemplary or admirable in its distastefulness (this can often happen in the art world). – Peter Oct 24 '16 at 8:51

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