Why is it OK to say This house is very big but not This house is very enormous?
Well, there are two types of adjectives – gradable and non-gradable.
Gradable adjectives refer to qualities that have different degrees. For example, big, cold, tasty, tall, boring and pretty are all gradable adjectives because something can be a bit / rather / slightly / extremely big etc.
Non-gradable adjectives describe qualities of extreme or absolute nature. As enormous already means ‘very big’, why would you use another very to emphasise it?
Now, with gradable adjectives we use grading adverbs such as a bit, slightly, hugely, extremely and very.
I’m a bit tired.
This film is hugely popular.
It’s extremely cold in Antarctica.
She’s very angry.
With non-gradable adjectives we use non-grading adverbs such as absolutely, completely, perfectly, simply, almost and mainly.
I’m completely exhausted.
His plan is simply unthinkable.
It’s absolutely freezing today!
She was absolutely furious.
Now, there’s one particular phrase which is perfectly grammatical but annoys me a lot when I hear people say it. It’s very beautiful. The problem here is, I guess, a simultaneous use of two extremely overused words. With so many synonyms and near-synonyms available, it’s really easy to add variety to your speech. Please pick and choose!
Bad punctuation can be as destructive as bombs! In his book The Queen’s English and How to use it Bernard C. Lamb tells a story as amusing as it is sad about how one missing comma can have devastating consequences.
Back in 1984 a station in East Lothian, Scotland, was wrongly demolished because a comma was missing from the British Rail planning document. The list of items to preserve should have read: ‘Retain Drem Station, bridge…’ Unfortunately for the station building, the comma after ‘Station’ was missing, the station was pulled down and had to be rebuilt. The bridge survived.
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Alan Alexander Milne (1882 – 1956) was an English author, known in all corners of the world thanks to his books about a teddy bear called Winnie-the-Pooh. He also wrote poetry. I chose his verse The Three Foxes to share with you today because it reminds me of a curious linguistic anecdote.
Have you ever questioned the purpose of the silent H in ‘ghost’? It’s absolutely useless, but there’s a great story behind it.
It goes back to William Caxton, an English merchant and
diplomat, who lived in the 15th century. While in Germany, he became familiar
with Gutenberg’s latest invention – the printing press, – and liked the idea so
much that he set up one of his own in Flanders.