Grammar. 23.11.2015
Grammar Teacher

Adjective modifiers (intensifiers)

Автор: Grammar Teacher

Do you want to make your speech more intense and brighter? Does it bother you why you can’t say very awful? Don’t stop reading this article and you will clear it out! 

Adjective modifiers, also called intensifiers, are words which are placed before adjectives to give additional detail and emphasis to them. They are mostly used in oral speech to make it more vivid and emotional. There are such well-known intensifiers as: very, really, absolutely, totally, etc.

In this article we are going to not just make a list of such intensifiers, but also find out when to use them and how to use them.
Let’s start with a list of the most commonly used modifiers.

too hot
completely hot
remarkably hot
unusually hot
incredibly hot
extremely hot
really hot
very hot
quite/rather/fairly warm
a little warm
a bit warm
not very warm

 

So, examples show us, that intensifiers (modifiers), put before the adjectives hot and cold, give them another shade, make them more intense or less intense. 

Pay attention, that in the examples above, positive adjectives (the first, original form of adjective) are used. The question is: Can modifiers be used with comparative forms of adjectives? – Yes, they can. You can apply some modifiers to intensify comparative adjectives too. These modifiers are:

a bit/a little taller
E.g. Giraffe 1 is a bit/a little taller than giraffe 2.

much/far/a lot older
E.g. She is much older than the baby.

 

I’m sure you remember the function of comparative adjectives (to compare 2 and more things/people, etc.). But what if the difference is huge or tiny? Such modifiers can help us to show the degree of difference between these 2 objects.


Nevertheless, not all modifiers can be used with all adjectives. In English there are some adjectives (non-gradable/ strong/ extreme), which cannot be modified with these words because they already have an extreme meaning. The examples of such adjectives are following:

Doesn’t it sound strange – very disgusting or very awful? – Sure it does. Because adjectives disgusting and awful already contain in their meaning modifier ‘very’ (disgusting – very unpleasant, awful – very bad).

Still, there are some modifiers, which can be attached to extreme (strong) adjectives. With strong adjectives, we normally use intensifiers like: 

For example:
The film was absolutely awful.
He was an exceptionally brilliant child.
The food smelled really disgusting.

 

As I have already mentioned at the beginning of my article, modifiers (intensifiers) are commonly used in oral, informal, semi-formal speech to make it brighter. Certain adjectives have their own 'special' intensifiers which are often used with them. You can meet such combinations really often while watching some films, listening to songs and talking to native speakers. Here are some common ones: 

  • I've just bought a brand new car. 
  • The sea near Rhodes is crystal clear
  • He's won three lottery prizes this year. He's dead lucky
  • I agree entirely. You are dead right
  • I was in bed and fast asleep by nine. 
  • I was sound asleep and I didn't hear anything. 
  • These office walls are paper thin. You can hear everything said in the next office. 
  • There's no moon. It's pitch black out there. 
  • Be careful with that knife- it's razor sharp.
  • It's impossible to dig this soil. It's rock hard.  

To sum up, if you want to sound less robotic and more emotional and natural, don’t forget to use intensifiers (modifiers).  But don’t overuse them! Because, better a little fire to warm us, than a big one to burn us.


P.S. Is this topic dead easy for you? Is everything crystal clear? To make it even more understandable, you can use these links to clear it out and practice with help of exercise:

 

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