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Absolute qualitative adjectives

BobKwiziq community member

Absolute qualitative adjectives

I recently saw a rule that confuses me regarding qualitative adjectives. It says absolute qualities should not be modified by additional adjectives if they are comparative or superlative.


One example was "delicieux", it is an absolute quality and one should not say "c'est tres delicieux". To me, this makes no sense. If true, many people break the rule. Plus, I don't consider "tres" a comparative or superlative. Some of the other examples given were "éternel, parfait & admirable". I did a lot of searching and can find no other references, but I may be missing a magic keyword. I would ignore it except that the source is usually good and it was in the context of "very common French errors"


The rule does seem to make sense with some adjectives, from an English perspective. One would not say something is "very eternal", it's either eternal or it's not. I don't see delicious the same way.


Am I misunderstanding this? Can someone clarify? 

Asked 5 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Bob, 

I can confirm that you wouldn't say -

C'est très délicieux /formidable/incroyable/sublime etc.

but something like

C'est vraiment /absolument délicieux etc.

to emphasize the fact that it is really délicious, wonderful, incredible, sublime ...

Below is the Larousse entry on how to use the adverb 'très' -

https://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/tr%C3%A8s/79444

N.B. the adverb 'trop' is used for emphasis (in particular by young people) to mean very, very but can sound shocking to old ears!

C'est trop bien!= It's so cool!

Hope this helps!

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Bob,

Which lesson or question are you querying?

If you are unable to provide this information then your query looks like homework or something of that nature which we do not help with.

Jim

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Bob,

Could you quote your source and we can look at it ?

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Personally, I wouldn't say "very delicious" either, precisely because it's an absolute quality. On the other hand "really delicious", "absolutely delicious" or "quite delicious" (but only in the sense of "absolutely", not "somewhat") I do find acceptable. It seems OK to use these as intensifiers because they don't actually imply degrees of deliciousness.

BobKwiziq community member

Thanks Alan,

In the mean time, I found another video from a different channel that said virtually the same thing and both channels have always seemed very credible. If no one  recognizes the rule right away, I guess the rule is pretty obscure, which would fit with my lack of search results.

I see your point about intensifiers, but English is different. I would probably say the same thing, but absolute is absolute.

I can accept the rule. One accepts a lot of odd rules in French ;-) That said, not only can I not find much about it, but I would like to find a list of words that are considered "absolute". As I said, I don't feel that "delicious" is absolute, but maybe that's just me. Using Reverso Context, and keywords "très délicieux", I quickly found dozens of examples that agree with me.  Is "tasty" (savoreux) absolute? If not, how does that differ from "délicieux"? Degree I guess.

It seems very subjective and it is language dependent. For example, in Thai, "alloy mak mak" (very very delicious) is a standard compliment after a meal.

Until I come across more conclusive information, I guess I'll avoid the practice or take my cue from the native speakers.

UPDATE: I did find another link that somewhat clarifies things, but it focused on the use of "très" itself and, as you suggested, "délicieux" can be modified by such words as "absolument" and "vraiment", although if "délicieux" is an absolute, that seems redundant, rather than emphatic. This was unclear in both lessons, even after re-watching.

http://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/très

So it appears that the rule is specifically regarding adverbs of intensity/quantity and they can't be applied to superlatives. I'm still not 100% clear on whether there is something specific about "tres" or if it is representative of all adverbs of quantity. It seems to be the latter.

That still doesn't define a superlative clearly, but I found a rule of thumb that if you can create an equivalent using an adjective combined with "très", it's a superlative.

Again, fuzzy IMO, so I'm going to say: words that are hyperbolic. e.g. super, génial,  indispensable, vital, magnifique, superbe, formidable, merveilleux, grandiose, fabuleux, vachement etc.






Absolute qualitative adjectives

I recently saw a rule that confuses me regarding qualitative adjectives. It says absolute qualities should not be modified by additional adjectives if they are comparative or superlative.


One example was "delicieux", it is an absolute quality and one should not say "c'est tres delicieux". To me, this makes no sense. If true, many people break the rule. Plus, I don't consider "tres" a comparative or superlative. Some of the other examples given were "éternel, parfait & admirable". I did a lot of searching and can find no other references, but I may be missing a magic keyword. I would ignore it except that the source is usually good and it was in the context of "very common French errors"


The rule does seem to make sense with some adjectives, from an English perspective. One would not say something is "very eternal", it's either eternal or it's not. I don't see delicious the same way.


Am I misunderstanding this? Can someone clarify? 

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