I was wondering if an adjective 'terrible' is either gradable or non-gradable. Is it correct to say:

It's really terrible.

Thank you in advance for an answer.

  • What do you mean by gradable?
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 20:44
  • @Lambie apparently this: englishclub.com/grammar/adjectives-gradability.htm
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 22:06
  • @Andrew Gosh, that used to be called comparative/superlative. Terrible, more terrible, the most terrible.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 23:01
  • @Andrew Yes, I see. Usually referred to as comparatives and superlatives. "|It's terrible| is unchangeable. But |it's a terrible movie| is not: a terrible movie, a more terrible movie than some other one. The most terrible movie we've ever seen. So......nix.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 23:07
  • @Lambie I think it's more whether something can be partially terrible, or a little bit terrible, or extremely terrible. As if there are grades of "terribleness". Double-plus ungood!
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 23:16

1 Answer 1


The word terrible is generally considered to be non-gradable. The phrase "very terrible" sounds awkward and "slightly terrible" only makes sense as an ironic or humorously self-contradictory phrase.

However, the sentence "It's really terrible" does sound perfectly natural to me, but that's because I don't interpret the word really as an intensifier in this situation, but as a synonym of actually or genuinely. So the sentence is correct, but has the meaning, "Actually, it's terrible."

  • I agree. "Terrible" should not be gradable -- but in practice, it's frequently graded. "Yeah the movie wasn't too terrible"
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 23:00
  • 1
    It's really terrible. [the movie] It's really more terrible than that other one. It's the most terrible of all.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 23:11

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