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Intensifiers and adverbs of degree

Words like 'very' and 'slightly' are examples of intensifiers and adverbs of degree. Here's how they work! 

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Hey, grammarians, so we've already talked about the idea of the comparative modifiers, right, so you know the difference between saying something is cute and then saying that something is cuter than that thing, and then looking at, like, I don't know, let's say we're looking at a puppy or a mushroom, a little mushroom with a smiley face and you'd say, "Oh, that's the world's cutest mushroom." Right, that's the comparative, we've already covered that. I would like to talk about something I think is a really interesting topic. "What's that," you say? A really interesting topic. Now, what's that really doing there in this little phrase? A really interesting topic. Well, it's modifying interesting. We recognize that this is an adverb, right? Really is modifying interesting, which is an adjective. Interesting, in turn, is modifying topic. But, the question is, what does really mean? What is it's function? And the answer is that it's a type of word we call an intensifier. So the function of really is to just double down on the idea of interesting. So it's not just an interesting topic, it's a really interesting topic. You could also say it's a very interesting topic. Or even, an extremely interesting topic. And that kind of gets us into this other category which is called adverbs of degree. So an intensifier, let me just step back a little bit, an intensifier is a type of adverb that modifies an adjective or another adverb in a way that doubles down on the modified thing's meaning. So it's not just an interesting topic, it's a really interesting topic, so it's like extra special, extra interesting. It makes, it intensifies, it really accentuates or makes clear the fact that you're trying to drive home the interesting-ness of this topic. But frankly talking about how interesting a topic is is a pretty good shortcut for boring, so in order to talk about adverbs of degree I'm going to talk instead about the Incredibly Deadly Viper, which is a creature from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, so the Incredibly Deadly Viper. There it is, there's your terrifying, horned viper, yonder. And what the word incredibly is doing here is, it is serving as an intensifier, right. But it is also what we like to call an adverb of degree because it's saying the extent to which this viper is so very deadly. However, if this viper had a cousin that was the somewhat deadly viper, maybe we can blunt its teeth somewhat, maybe it's got square teeth. That's the somewhat deadly viper. We can see that somewhat, this word here is changing the meaning of the phrase. It's not just the deadly viper, it's the somewhat deadly viper. It's import has been blunted slightly as have its teeth. And you could also say, what if he didn't have any teeth at all, this ostensibly deadly viper? What if he just had little gums? Well then he's the barely deadly viper, instead. And these words like incredibly and somewhat and barely, these are adverbs of degree, so they illustrate the degree to which the viper is deadly dangerous. So that's basically what intensifiers and adverbs of degree do. So, whenever you think of an intensifier just think of the word very, and when you're trying to figure out what an adverb of degree is, well that kind of answers the question, how much? So if you want to double down on the meaning of something you use an intensifier like very or extremely, and if you want to express a degree of something you could say, let's say we're talking about a cup of tea or something and you want to express how warm it is. You could say it's too hot. You could say it's slightly hot. You could say somewhat, or almost hot. There are a lot of different adverbs of degree. But that's basically the distinction. An intensifier is powerful but it has a very narrow usage. And adverbs of degree, you can use for a wide range of uses to express a variety of different meanings. That's intensifiers and adverbs of degree. You can learn anything. David out.