big - large - great

big - large - great
Big, large, and great are used to talk about size. They can all be used in front of count nouns, but only great can be used in front of uncount nouns.
describing objects
Big, large, and great can all be used to describe objects. Big is the word you usually use in conversation. Large is more formal. Great is used in stories to indicate that something is very impressive because of its size.

`Where?' —-`Over there, by that big tree.'

A leopard frequently retreats to a large tree when it has made a kill.

A great tree had fallen across one corner.

describing amounts
You use large or great to describe amounts.

She made a very large amount of money.

...drugs taken in large quantities.

Young people consume great quantities of chips.

You do not use `big' to describe amounts.
describing feelings
When you are describing feelings or reactions, you usually use great.

I was full of great expectations.

To my great astonishment she started to tell me about how she had first seen him.

When `surprise' is a count noun, you can use either big or great in front of it.

The fact that the Government's policy does not make sense should not come as a big surprise.

It comes as a great surprise to me that the Department is about to issue a document concerning archaeology.

You do not use `large' to describe feelings or reactions.
talking about qualities
When you are talking about qualities, you use great.

...little girls who may or may not turn into adults of great beauty.

The book brought back those early days of the war with great clarity.

You do not use `big' or `large' to talk about qualities.
describing problems
When you are describing a problem or danger, you use big or great.

The biggest problem at the moment is unemployment.

The greater the threat, the less tolerance there can be.

You do not usually use `large' to describe a problem or danger.
indicating importance
Great is also used to say that a person or place is important or famous. of the greatest engineers of this century.

...the great cities of the Rhineland.

used with other adjectives
In conversation, you can use great and big together, or you can use either great or big with another adjective of size. You do this to emphasize the size of something. When you use great and big together, you always put great first.

...a great big gaping hole.

...somewhere out there in the big wide world. enormous great grin.

You do not use adjectives of size together like this in formal writing.
For a list of adjectives which are used to describe how large or small something is, see entry at ↑ small - large.
You can say that someone is in great pain, but you do not usually use big, large, or great to describe an illness. Instead you use adjectives such as bad, terrible, or severe.

The child has a bad cold with fever.

Neither of us had any sign of the terrible headaches that some people get.

The child is then likely to develop a severe anaemia.


Useful english dictionary. 2012.

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