Despite the ______ progress in recent years, all the questions have still not been answered satisfactorily.

1) immense 2) surprising

This was in a test so only one of the answers given is acceptable. Which one is correct? Also, the question wasn't part of a passage.

Can progress be 'immense'? It sounds a bit weird to me. On the other hand, 'surprising progress' sounds pretty normal...

  • If you can argue for huge progress, this Ngram suggests that immense progress is at least as acceptable.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 3, 2017 at 11:39
  • @Lawrence so immense progress IS correct...does this make surprising' the wrong answer?
    – Ithilel
    Jun 3, 2017 at 12:03
  • 1
    Is there anything in the context to indicate what progress was expected, and why the actual progress was therefore surprising? Immense on the other hand fits right in with the semantics of the sentence: despite tells us there is an antithesis between the two parts of the sentence. If the progress would have been "normal" or "little", we would probably not suspect the questions to be answered, so there would not be any antithesis.
    – oerkelens
    Jun 3, 2017 at 13:05
  • @oerkelens so, "surprising" doesn't indicate the extent of the progress, but rather the quality of it being unexpected? (There was no context. This was all the question gave me.)
    – Ithilel
    Jun 3, 2017 at 13:15
  • 1
    This is a terrible test question. Either word could be grammatically correct. "Immense" is more typically used with size, but use with progress wouldn't violate any rules. "Surprising" could make sense in the right context. The last half of the sentence could go with either word in the right context. I don't see any reason why one of the words would clearly and universally be wrong, and the sentence provides no context to assess which word would be situationally better.
    – fixer1234
    Jun 3, 2017 at 19:48

1 Answer 1


I agree with the above. Immense is quantitative; there was a great deal of progress. Surprising is judgmental and I use it to mean unexpected. The sentence can be negative, too. There was a surprising lack of progress.

  • This kind of input would be better as a comment, which requires a little more rep. The site is a knowledge base, so answer posts are intended to be authoritative, with more support included in the post than just opinion or personal practice. You could well be correct, but the intent is that answer posts should be more definitive. Can you expand the answer to include a little research?
    – fixer1234
    Jun 5, 2017 at 3:20
  • @fixer1234 it's ok, I got my answer anyway. Both this answer and all those comments are right. I'm completely convinced now. I just wanted someone to answer so I could accept it and close the topic. I didn't know how else to do that
    – Ithilel
    Jun 5, 2017 at 9:12
  • @Ithilel - It's not necessary that every question have an accepted answer, or any answer at all. Just so you know. // What the heck is this test, anyway? Jun 6, 2017 at 2:39
  • @aparente001 thanks for letting me know. And about the test, I don't even know XD
    – Ithilel
    Jun 6, 2017 at 12:09
  • @Ithilel - I don't get it. If you got the question from a test, surely you can explain how you came by the test? Did a teacher give you a random xerox copy, or something? Jun 6, 2017 at 15:46

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