In the previous quiz we learnt that the antonym of a word is a word that has the opposite meaning. We also learnt that there are three broad types of antonyms – graded, complementary and relational.
The word 'fat' and its antonym 'skinny' come under the category of graded antonyms. Such words have grades such as 'fatter' or 'less skinny'. If someone is not skinny he may still be not fat.
The characteristic of graded antonyms is that they lie on a continuous spectrum. It means that the two opposite words need not have the same weight as one another. These words are called gradable antonyms because they do not possess an either-or association but rather a more-less association.
When we say a mouse is BIGGER than another mouse it means we are using the word BIGGER in the context of mice only. When we say a SMALL cat we realise that a SMALL cat is definitely bigger than a BIG mouse. Therefore, graded antonyms do not offer an absolute scale. They refer only to the object they describe.
Another interesting characteristic of graded antonyms is the use of one of the words as a reference point. For instance, TALL is the graded antonym of SHORT. When we try to describe a building we tend to ask ‘how tall is the building’ and not ‘how short is the building.’ Here, TALL is the reference point for the pair of graded antonyms and we use the reference point for determining the degree.
Yet another characteristic of graded antonyms is the possibility of adding an adverb to the adjective to modify it and make it more meaningful. For instance, 'VERY bright' or 'MILDLY hot' describe the intensity of their adjectives.
Many graded antonyms grace the English language. They include dull/interesting; light/heavy; old/young and slow/fast. Play the quiz that follows and learn more about graded antonyms.