Please note the wording bellow.

It seems completely relatively great but actually its final impact is not that great.


Relatively speaking, It completely seems great but actually its final impact is not that great.

Do they sound natural?

  • 1
    I won't mix fire+water! Completely+relatively! – Maulik V Apr 2 '14 at 9:42
  • @MaulikV Thanks :) Is the second one fine? – user3214 Apr 2 '14 at 9:43
  • 1
    could have better words but of course, quite okay than the first one! There are many superfluous words in the sentence (for example completely great...) – Maulik V Apr 2 '14 at 9:43
  • 1
    relativity not relativeness. – Kaz Apr 2 '14 at 18:17

Completely can be used as a modifier, but it's not a very good modifier for the word great. NOAD has a good example sentence:

The fire completely destroyed the building.

Moreover, I think utterly may sound more natural in some contexts:

That was utterly stupid of you to go throw eggs at our neighbor's house!

Here's a good test to use: Only use completely when you could also use a little. In other words:

I was a little skeptical... vs. I was completely skeptical...

Those are okay, but it's hard to imagine contexts where we'd say:

It was a little great.


It was completely great.

In several contexts, I think using "complete" as an adjective might be a better way to go; for example, although both are grammatical:

That operation was a complete disaster.

sounds better than:

That operation was completely disasterous.

As for your sentence, I'm having trouble squeezing the word completely in there; I'd suggest:

It seems great on the surface, but the actual impact isn't so great.

As for how to work completely into that context:

I was completely fooled at first – I thought this was the best thing ever! But then I realized this wasn't really so great.

(We can use completely fooled because we can also be a little fooled.)

  • 4
    In the case of "great", I object to "completely great" not on grounds of whether or not you can say "a little great", but because greatness is an open-ended concept. I suppose plenty of people believe that God is "completely great", but short of that there is no standard of absolute greatness. There is a standard of absolute having-been-destroyed. – Steve Jessop Apr 2 '14 at 21:09

"Completely" and "relatively" do not go together. If it is "relatively great", then it's not "completely great", and vice versa. "Relatively" in such a context means "only in comparison to others". Like if I say, "He was a relatively honest man", I mean that he wasn't very honest, but compared to other men, he was okay. That is, other men aren't very honest either, so he was average or maybe a little above average. "Completely" means almost the opposite, that something is true to an extreme. Like if I say, "He was a completely honest man", I mean that he was 100% honest, that he was as honest as one could possibly imagine. So you can't be "completely relatively" something. That doesn't make sense.

As others note, "completely" doesn't really go with "great". Neither does "relatively". "Great" implies an extreme, so to say "relatively great" is something of a contradiction. You could say "relatively good" to express the idea that something is good, but only when compared against other things that aren't all that good either. "Completely great" is redundant. I guess you could use it as an intensifier, but it just isn't something that fluent speakers often say.

I think what you are trying to say is something more like: "It seems good, but its final impact will not be that great." Or if you're trying to say that it seems to be very very good but really isn't, maybe "It seems great, but its final impact will not be so good." I wouldn't use "great" twice in the sentence on the general principle of avoiding using non-trivial words repeatedly.

  • @TylerJamesYoung Thank you I've been googling for awhile now to find out how we can use "finally" there, you saved me :) and also thank you Jay for your detailed answer it was really informative. – user3214 Apr 2 '14 at 18:36
  • 1
    @GATA You're welcome! Related to this question, I made a barista laugh yesterday by ordering an "extra medium" coffee. – Tyler James Young Apr 2 '14 at 18:51
  • 1
    Like I read somewhere, in a discussion of Aristotle's theory that "virtue lies in moderation", that "Aristotle took moderation to an extreme". – Jay Apr 2 '14 at 20:04
  • Oh, I finally realized the mistake @TylerJamesYoung was pointing out. Yes, I meant "it's final impact", not "it's finally impact". Typo. One should be very careful about typos on a language site. Sorry. – Jay Apr 3 '14 at 13:40

I don't think that " completely" fits the sentence.

I'd suggest:

"It seems great, but it's final impact is not what we expected, on a relative base"


I hope that I understood what you mean to say.

I'd make it simple to understand without superfluous words.

It seems (relatively) perfect but it's final impact is not that (or does not seem to be) great.


In your first sentence:

It seems completely relatively great but actually its final impact is not that great.

I cannot clearly see which word "completely" is intended to modify. I doesn't seem possible that it modifies "great" because then "completely" and "relatively" are almost contradictory modifiers.

From your second sentence it would appear that you want it to modify "seems". You can modify a verb with a following adverb, as in "I run quickly", but I suspect it's archaic to do that other than at the end of a clause, and it's very confusing to do it immediately before another adverb that applies to something else.

It's also possible that "completely" is intended to modify "relatively", which is the other side of that confusion.

So I'm afraid the sentence come across as confused/ambiguous. And therefore wrong even if you can justify its grammatical construction one way or another. It doesn't sound natural to me.

If you want to emphasise the relativity (as you ask in your title) I think to be clear you must say more. You could say:

Speaking completely relatively, it seems great.

However you run into anther issue there: when you should say "completely" vs. when you should say "entirely". As a native English speaker I unfortunately don't know that rule for that, I just have an instinct that "entirely" would be better.

Getting away from the word "completely":

Applying relative standards, it seems great.


It seems great, but only relatively.


"completely" does not pair with "relatively", because completeness carries the idea of an absolute measure.

Something is complete relative to an incomplete version of itself, not relative to something else.

It would never make sense to say, "relative to your slow progress, my tasks are all complete".

"Relatively speaking" is usually a rhetorical hedge device. A good test is to ask the question, "relatively to what?" If there is no clear answer, then it is just an empty phrase. For instance, it contributes nothing in the following example:

A: Relatively speaking, orange juice is sweet.

B: Relatively? What do you mean?

A: I mean, compared to, say beer.

B: Well, no kidding! Water is sweet compared to beer, "relatively speaking".

Even if "completely" and "relatively" are used as rhetorical words without a precise meaning, they are still not compatible.

This is because "relatively" is a downtoner, whereas "completely" is an intensifier: they are essentially opposites.

Also, the word "great" (in our particular usage) is an intensified form of "good". When speaker calls something "great", it means that it exceeds the speaker's expectations.

Because it is an intensified word, it is not compatible with "relatively": "relatively great" makes no sense and is not used by native speakers, except maybe as a joke.

When a speaker uses "relatively good", it usually means "good, and better than some reference standard such as an average, but leaving plenty of of room for improvement; acceptable, but not necessarily meeting my highest expectations".

The food in this cafeteria is relatively good (but it's hardly gourmet cooking).

"completely great" is funny sounding, because "great" expresses something which has no attainable limit, whereas completeness requires a limit. That is to say, it is not possible for something to be so great that it cannot be greater; yet that is what "completely great" asserts. The word for something which cannot be further improved is "perfect"; someone who uses "completely great" seems like someone who lacks the vocabulary to use "perfect", or "couldn't be better".

Which is not to say that "completely" can only be applied to objectively measurable situations. For instance, you can be "completely astonished" by something, which means that you feel you cannot be astonished any more than you are. Although astonishment is subjective, it is perceived to have a limit.

"Completely" is also not applicable to situations that are either true or false. For instance, "she is completely pregnant" can only be said as a joke. The situation has to have a gradation of possibilities with a limit. If that limit is perceived by a speaker as being attained, then the situation is "completely" that way.

Someone can be "completely wrong": but not with regard to a simple yes/no proposition or elementary fact:

A: It's Tuesday today, right?

B: * You're completely wrong; it is Wednesday.

A cannot be completely wrong because it is either Tuesday today or it isn't; there is no way to be "half wrong" about that. Correct example:

Your hypothesis about how the accident took place is completely wrong. [Not one single one of the multiple claims in your hypothesis is correct.]

  • Although "you're completely wrong; it is Wednesday" might serve as a hyperbole to indicate that the speaker isn't just wrong, but wrong about something that anyone would be expected to know. Basically, "if you don't know that then I fear for your whole approach to being right". As with any ironic mode, once you're using hyperbole normal rules of correct usage can bend. – Steve Jessop Apr 2 '14 at 21:13
  • @SteveJassop Yes; there would have to be some broader situation where other dependent ideas are contingent on that speaker not knowing what day it is. – Kaz Apr 2 '14 at 21:15
  • @Kaz: I don't think there has to be. If there isn't then it just intensifies the criticism beyond saying, "you're wrong; it is Wednesday". – Steve Jessop Apr 2 '14 at 21:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy