Intensifiers and Mitigators

Intensifiers and mitigators are two kinds of adverbs of degree. We use them to make words and expressions stronger or weaker.

"Intensifiers and Mitigators" in English Grammar

What Are Intensifiers and Mitigators?

Intensifiers and mitigators are adverbs of degree that modify the meaning of verbs, adverbs or adjectives in a sentence. They are used to either emphasize or downplay the degree or intensity of something.

Intensifiers and Mitigators: Placement

Intensifiers and mitigators are usually positioned after the auxiliary verbs 'to be' and 'to have,' or before other verbs or the words they modify. Pay attention to the examples:

She was so gorgeous.

After the verb 'to be'

I'm rather excited.

Categorization

Based on their scaling effect on adjective intensity, we can categorize adverbs of degree into different categories. Take a look at the table below:

Intensifiers extremely
absolutely
completely
highly
very
awfully
perfectly
Moderators quite
pretty
fairly
somewhat
Mitigators slightly
almost
a little

Intensifiers

Intensifiers are adverbs that make the meaning of another word (usually an adjective) stronger. Some of the most common intensifiers are:

  • very
  • really
  • extremely
  • amazingly
  • so

Take a look at some examples:

I'm very impressed.

This is a really nice place.

She found it extremely difficult to get a job.

using the adverb 'enough' to modify an adjective

Tip!

  1. Do not use intensifiers with non-gradable adjectives.
  2. Avoid using intensifiers in writing.

Moderators

Some adverbs are neither an intensifier nor a mitigator. They act as a moderator and are relative based on the speaker's opinion. Such as:

  • quite
  • pretty
  • fairly
  • this
  • that
  • somewhat

Warning

'Enough' is a special kind of moderator that comes after the adverbs and adjectives.

This house isn't big enough for us.

We didn't leave early enough.

'That' as a Moderator

We can use 'that' as a moderator. We put it in front of adjectives or adverbs to modify their meaning.

Placement

We use "that + adjectives/adverbs" usually in negative sentences. For example:

+'Have you met Mary. She's the nicest person.' - 'She's not that nice'.

It means the second person doesn't think she is as nice as they are saying.

My lunch wasn't that good.

Tip!

'That' in this usage has an additional stress in spoken language.

'This' as a Moderator

'This' can act as a moderator that modifies an adjective or another adverb. It is often used in negative spoken statements.

Placement

We use "this + adjective/adverb/much" usually in negatives and questions.

We've come this far, we can't give up.

I have not felt this good since I was a little child.

In spoken English, 'this' can also be used with a hand gesture to show how big or small something is or how much of something there is.

The strange animal was about this high and this wide.

Difference between This and That as Adverbs

'This' and 'that' both can be used as moderators. The difference between them is that 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 adjectives, verbs or adverbs less strong. Some of the most common mitigators are:

  • slightly
  • almost
  • a bit
  • a little

Take a look at some examples:

It's a bit obvious what's going on here.

He seemed slightly embarrassed.

Review

Intensifiers and mitigators are words that are used before another term to make them stronger or weaker respectively. Remember intensifiers and mitigators usually come before the words, unless there is an exception like the intensifier: 'enough'.

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