In the last week I asked here on ELL two questions:

  1. How can these two types of adjectives be distinguished terminologically?

  2. Why can “low” become “lower” and “lowest”, while “up” can't?

The answer for the first question is "inflectionally gradable for comparison and analytically gradable for comparison".

The answer for the second question as I understood by reading all the answers there, is that the word "up" is not an adjective and therefore it should not be gradable. But when I see Cambridge dictionary we can see that there is an adjective which is called "up". In addition in the same dictionary the word "upper" is marked as adjective. (and the word "lower" is marked there as a opposite. unlike the most of the answers in the second post). So it confuses me because I'm not sure if the word "up" is gradable or no.

Then my question is: Are there adjectives that are non gradable at all?

2 Answers 2


Sure. For example wooden in wooden spoon.

You can't (at least ordinarily) have a woodener or woodenest spoon.

We can say He divorced her but not He's divorceder.

  • He the most divorced person I have ever met.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 29, 2018 at 9:12
  • The same study did find, however, that the annual incomes of divorced women were greater than the incomes of women who were still married, a finding at least partly attributable to the fact that more divorced than married women are employed full time.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 29, 2018 at 9:17
  • The adjective divorced has two syllables and it doesn't end in "y", therefore it would not take the -er suffix of monosyllables such as "tall" or disyllables such as "happy".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 29, 2018 at 9:21
  • 2
    ① In He divorced her, the word divorced is a verb and not an adjective. ② In more divorced than married women are employed full time, the adjective divorced is not gradable. Rather, the number of divorced women is being compared to the number of married women. Try a very test instead: *very divorced is unacceptable unless you can come up with a context permitting a novel interpretation of divorced with a semantic dimension along which the meaning can be graded; He is the most divorced person I have ever met would presumably require such a context.
    – user230
    Apr 30, 2018 at 7:35
  • @snailboat My comment was to show how the to make the comparative and the superlative adjective "divorced": more divorced--->most divorced. The offered version divorceder is ungrammatical (you're right to point out that divorced in "he divorced" is a verb). One is either divorced or not, one is either pregnant or not, but native speakers do say "very pregnant". So I wouldn't be surprised if someone who had been divorced more than five times was described as being "very divorced". If nothing else, "more/most divorced" is grammatical (perhaps not idiomatic, but that's a separate issue).
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 5, 2018 at 7:24

I think your question is basically asking about comparative and superlative adjectives.

low, lower, lowest


down, downer, downest

does not.
In the same way

high, higher, highest

exists, but

up, upper, uppest

does not.

Perhaps this might help you: Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

  • Actually, "upper" does exist. Upper crust, upper class, upper income, etc. Apr 30, 2018 at 18:48
  • I was using the three-tuple, uppest does not exist.
    – Peter
    Apr 30, 2018 at 22:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .