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Only One State, e.g., Unique

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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Please notice that some adjectives have only one state, the positive state. Put another way, some adjectives cannot display the degrees shown by the comparative and the superlative states or through further modification by adverbs like very, largely, quite, and others.

People often fail to recognize, for example, that unique is just that, unique. There are no degrees of uniqueness. Either something is unique, or it’s not. There’s no “in between.” Thus, it makes no sense at all to say,

This was a very unique movie.

Other adjectives not capable of being broken down into degrees include absolute, complete, equal, excellent, impossible, perfect, possible, supreme, total, utter, and others. But rules were made to be broken, so you’ll often hear, This task was absolutely impossible.

As with all rules, we find exceptions. It would be correct to use a present participle as an adjective and say in the superlative, Dean Smith is the winningest coach of all time. The same would not hold true for the comparative form. The expression more winning coach works fine; but winninger coach doesn’t cut it.

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