Adverbs of Degree

Adverbs of degree are mostly used before adjectives, adverbs, and verbs to intensify the term after them.

intermediate
"Adverbs of Degree" in the English Grammar

What Are Adverbs of Degree?

Adverbs of degree show the intensity or degree of something. They answer the questions 'how much' or 'to what extent.' These adverbs usually modify other verbs, adjectives, or adverbs and make them stronger or weaker.

Adverbs of Degree: Placement

Adverbs of degree are usually placed:

  • before the main verb

The game is almost finished. (modifying the verb)

  • before the adjective or adverb

He ran quite slowly. (modifying the adverb)

She is very thin. (modifying the adjective)

Adverbs of Degree: Types

Intensifiers and mitigators are three kinds of adverbs of degree:

  1. Intensifiers
  2. Moderators
  3. Mitigators

Intensifiers

Intensifiers are adverbs that make the meaning of another word stronger.

Intensifiers: Common Examples

using 'very' as an adverb of degree

Here are some examples that strengthen the adjectives or adverbs:

  • very
  • extremely
  • totally
  • too
  • so

I ate quite quickly.

I could scarcely hear her.

Intensifiers: Types

Intensifiers are further categorized into two groups:

  1. Intensifier + gradable adjective (those that can have measurable levels of degree or intensity)
  2. Intensifier + ungradable adjective (describe an extreme or absolute state)

Gradable adjectives show a point on a scale. For example, cheap and expensive are adjectives on the scale of 'how much something costs.' Ungradable adjectives represent the two extreme limits of that scale, like priceless.
Look at some examples:

Intensifier + gradable adjective Intensifier + ungradable adjective
very hot absolutely boiling
extremely excited completely priceless
really sad absolutely tiny
very thirsty totally starving

That new jacket looks absolutely expensive.

We can make gradable adjectives stronger with very, but not with the adverb absolutely.

That new jacket looks very expensive.

Moderators

Moderators are relative based on the speaker's opinion. In other words, they are neither an intensifier nor a mitigator. For example:

  • quite
  • pretty
  • fairly
  • this
  • that

This and That as Moderators

'This' and 'that' both can be used as intensifiers, but, when we use 'this' we are usually talking about a current or recent situation.

I need a box this big.

He didn't expect to wait this long.

However, when we use 'that' we are talking about a past situation. It can also mean we had some expectations in mind, but that expectation was not met.

I know you like her, but she's not that nice.

I just had lunch at McCarran's. It wasn't that good.

Mitigators

Mitigators are the opposite of intensifiers. We use mitigators to make words and expressions weaker and make the emphasis on these words and expressions not as strong.
The position of the adverb is before the adjective or adverb.

Mitigators: Common Examples

Here are some examples that weaken the adjectives or adverbs:

  • rather
  • quite
  • pretty
  • a bit
  • fairly
  • slightly
  • somewhat

I'm fairly certain it will rain tomorrow.

That last question was rather difficult.

Special Case: Using 'Enough'

'Enough' as an adverb of degree goes after the adjective or adverb that it is modifying, not before it as other adverbs do.
It is used in positive and negative sentences.

Is your tea hot enough to drink?

You didn't work hard enough.

Tip!

'Enough' can also be used as a determiner. In that case, it will be placed before the noun it modifies.
It is used with plural countable nouns and with uncountable nouns.

We have enough money.

There aren't enough plates for all the guests.

'Very' vs. 'Too'

'Very' just emphasizes the meaning of an adjective, adverb, or phrase, while 'too' expresses that there is a problem and the adjectives or adverbs are more than is acceptable or possible.

Maria is very young.

Maria is too young to get married.

This box is very heavy.

This box is too heavy for me to lift.

Review

Adverbs of degree are used to express how much or how intensified something is. They are placed:

  • before the main verb
  • before the adjective or adverb
  • before or after the modal verb
  • after the auxiliary verbs 'have' and 'be'

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