Problems with Adjectives


Spot the adjective errors in the following sentences:

  1. Ben Carson’s policy pronouncements are quite unique for their complete lack of content.
  2. Trump supporters had a fun time at the cross burning.
  3. Sarah Palin’s head appears to be emptier than most heads.
  4. So far, Jeb Bush’s attacks on Trump have been less fatal than similar attacks of other candidates have been for them.
  5. Of the two leading Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders the most obvious alternative for disaffected Trump supporters.
  6. Ted Cruz is the most perfect example of an American jihadist I have ever seen.
  7. Sarah Palin’s daughter looked rather pregnant at her wedding.
  8. If the Republican Party establishment has anything to say, Trump’s nomination won’t be entirely irrevocable.
  9. Stephen Harper had the most spotless record of doing nothing on climate change.
  10. Breaking up the banks is an extremely essential step in avoiding another economic crisis.


  1. Quite unique is considered an error, especially by those who think language should work differently from the way it actually works. “Unique” is an absolute adjective that doesn’t have degrees. Something can’t be more unique than something else; “rather unique” implies degrees of uniqueness. In fact, unique has come to mean something like “remarkable,” and many English speakers hear no error in “rather unique” or “very unique.” Still, in formal writing it is best to avoid modifying “unique.”
  2. The error here is “fun time.” Although fun as an adjective meaning “amusing” is common in colloquial English, it is still widely considered an error.
  3. Sarah Palin’s head can’t be emptier than anybody else’s. Empty is one of those absolute adjectives that don’t have degrees.
  4. Because fatal means “resulting in the death,” nothing can be more or less fatal than something else.
  5. When comparing only two persons or things, the comparative adjective is used: Bernie Sanders the more obvious alternative.
  6. Perfect is an absolute adjective, although somebody should have told the writers of the U.S. Constitution, who wrote, “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility…”
  7. “Pregnant” is obviously an absolute adjective, but pregnant women have told me that it is certainly possible to look or feel more or less pregnant. This is clearly a case of language purism clashing with the reality that language usage reflects.
  8. “Irrevocable” is an absolute adjective. “Entirely irrevocable” implies “partially irrevocable.” Neither makes sense.
  9. Most spotless? Less spotless? Stephen Harper had a spotless record.
  10.  Essential means “absolutely necessary.” Extremely absolutely necessary? “Essential” by itself says it all.

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