Uncomparable adjectives

Uncomparable adjectives describe absolute states or conditions. Modifiers like more and less do not apply to them, and they don’t have comparative and superlative forms. Here are some of the most common uncomparable adjectives:

  • absolute
  • adequate
  • chief
  • complete
  • devoid
  • entire
  • false
  • fatal
  • favorite
  • final
  • fundamental
  • ideal
  • impossible
  • inevitable
  • infinite
  • irrevocable
  • main
  • manifest
  • meaningless
  • only
  • paramount
  • perfect
  • perpetual
  • possible
  • preferable
  • pregnant
  • primary
  • principal
  • singular
  • stationary
  • sufficient
  • unanimous
  • unavoidable
  • unbroken
  • uniform
  • unique
  • universal
  • void
  • whole
  • worthless

These uncomparable adjectives can’t take the -er and –est forms that comparable adjectives take. But while it’s logically questionable to apply intensifying modifiers such as very, quite, and most to uncomparable adjectives, writers do it quite frequently—for example:

The look and feel of the room is quite unique. [Summit Daily News]

The major problem with these types of frauds is that they are largely impossible to prosecute. [Hanna Herald]

Of all the physical and artistic exercises in the world, dance is the most universal.  [Homer News]

That’s not to say the Warriors’ evening was totally devoid of life. [San Jose Mercury News]

The illogic of these constructions is obvious; a room can’t be merely somewhat unique, prosecuting frauds can’t be partially impossible, one art form can’t be less universal than another, and an evening can’t be only partially devoid of life. Still, sometimes these phrases just feel right, so such constructions will always be part of the language.

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