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I know you can say " happy as can be," but can you us any adjective before "as can be"?

Can I say " I was as American as can be"? or " He was as excited as can be"?

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    Yes, you most certainly can. It works with almost anything. – WS2 Nov 7 '15 at 20:47
  • @WS2 - I'm sure someone will come up with some examples where it doesn't work, but you are correct that it can be fairly broadly applied. – Hot Licks Nov 7 '15 at 20:53
  • At this point, I think I'm as nonexistent as I can be. – deadrat Nov 7 '15 at 21:28
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Many adjectives can precede "as can be". Some are used far more frequently than others, including "happy".

Here's a list of the top 20 adjectives that typically come before the expression:

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(Courtesy of CORPUS OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN ENGLISH)

  • No problem, @Curiousstudent – A.P. Nov 7 '15 at 22:48
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You can only use the construction with classifying, absolute and extreme adjectives if you're being tongue-in-cheek or whimsical.

*/?'The bridge is as wooden as can be.'

*/?'The weapon is as nuclear as can be.'

*/?'The event is as annual as can be.'

*/?'He was as dead as could be.'

*/?'It is as microscopic as can be.'

But often non-gradable adjectives are treated as gradable with secondary senses:

as American / alive / full as can be.

  • I've certainly heard As dead as can be! – WS2 Nov 7 '15 at 23:51

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