Types of antonyms (with examples)

Did you know there are different types of antonyms? In this article I’ll quickly go over the different types of antonyms and give you some examples of each type.

Complementary and binary pairs

Complementary pairs, also called binary pairs, are antonyms that have no gray area between then. For example, take the binary pair dead and alive. These are a complementary pair because there is no space between dead and alive.

Unless you talking figuratively, such as “You scared me half to death,” there is no area between dead and alive.

Examples of complementary and binary pairs

Here are some examples of complementary and binary pairs:

  • dead / alive
  • legal / illegal
  • pregnant / not pregnant

Gradable antonyms

Gradable antonyms are antonyms that have space between them. Take the two antonyms hot and cold. There are a multitude of other adjectives that you place between hot and cold. You could use the following: warm, tepid, freezing, etc…

Examples of gradable antonyms

Here are some examples of gradable antonyms

  • hot / cold
  • good / bad
  • wet / dry
  • boring / interesting
  • light / dark


Reverse antonyms are two words that have a reverse relationship. Take the words buy and sell. These words are related and have a reverse relationship. If one person buys something, another person sells something.

Examples of reverse antonyms

Here are some examples of reverse antonyms:

  • buy / sell
  • push / pull
  • night / day
  • borrow / lend


These are the main types of antonyms. Note that sometimes in literary work, these antonyms can be used differently. For example, in my above sentence “You scared me half to death,” there is no area between alive and dead. That is, there is no halfway point. However, this is a common expression and you often see gradable pairs used in this manner.

What to sound more like a native English speaker?

What to read next:

If you like reading about grammar, you can read about branching, a topic you might have never heard of before. Go and read my article about branching.

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