the difference between horrible and horrific?
can describe something as horrible (or deadful or
awful) when you do not like it at all:
hotel was horrible - just awful. The walls were
all painted a horrible colour and I've never had such dreadful
would describe something as horrific when it is really upsetting
or frightening to think about it or speak about it:
to survive in the desert for eight days with very little water
and practically no shelter from the sun was horrific.
was a horrific motorway accident: twelve people died, a
further twenty four suffered horrendous burns.
can mean horrifying, describing something you feel dismay
or disgust about, but it can also be used in a less extreme way,
meaning unpleasant or shocking.
traffic this morning was horrendous. It took me seventy-five
minutes to travel eleven miles.
was a horrifying picture: the dead and the wounded had
all been left by the roadside.
that all of these adjectives with their various endings -ible,
-ic, -ous, -ing, are derived from the noun
horror which also crops up in the compound noun horror
films on television are usually screened late at night.
- terrifying - terrific
a similar way, terrible and terrifying, which have
similar shades of meaning to horrible and horrifying,
are both derived from the noun terror from which we get the
nouns terrorist and terrorism:
the world of terrorists and terrorism is easier
said than done.
careful however with the adjective terrific which does not
have the same meaning as horrific. Whereas horrific means
very bad, terrific means very good.
food was terrible. Nobody at the camp had any idea about
how to cook.
in the team was terrific. I had never seen them play so
well together before.
a prison cell with a convicted murderer was a terrifying prospect.
adverbs are used even more frequently than the adjectives terrible
and horrible. They often mean little more than very.
how they are used in these examples:
was terribly important not to make any mistakes on the
certificate as it was going to be framed.
terribly sorry. That was very clumsy of me to barge into
you like that. Are you all right?
was terribly upset when I heard that James had gone to
Mexico without telling me.
know that something is terribly / horribly wrong. They
should be back by now.
were horribly / terribly expensive, so I could only afford
one, I'm afraid.
going to be horribly / terribly late if we stop to buy
flowers on the way.
are some more adjectives which are used informally and which mean
very good and very bad. Note that they all have very common adjectival
you think of any others meaning very good or very bad, like superb
or dire, which do not have these common adjectival suffixes?
If you can, write to our Message
Board and put them into sample sentences, e.g.
performance was dire. Most of the audience walked out long
before it was over.
dancers were superb. They had obviously spent a long time
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