Tricky points of English ...
Explaining the everyday words and grammar points in English that can cause most confusion
Adverbs of degree in English
Meanings and usage
Adverbs of degree
Adverbs of degree or of intensity are used to modify the intensity of qualifying adjectives. and sometimes of other adverbs.
The main adverbs of degree are: enough, extremely, fairly, highly, pretty, quite, rather, slightly, so, (all) that, too, very. Several more adverbs, such as incredibly or positively, can be used as adverbs of degree, though they imply more than just degree.
Generally speaking, adverbs of degree come before the adjective they qualify, but this is not always the case.
We need to distinguish between adjectives that are used attributively (i.e. before the noun) and those used predicatively, which normally means after the verb be. Compare the way good is used in these examples:
Attributive and predicative adjectivesAttributive use: a good book. or good children or three good reasons
Predicative use: This book is good, Those children are not very good. His three reasons seemed good.
How adverbs of degree are used in English
- Very, extremely, fairly, slightly and adverbs of degree formed from adjectives are always placed before the adjective they qualify, whether the adjectives are in attributive or predicative positions. Examples 1 - 6
- Enough as an adverb of degree comes, exceptionally, after the word it qualifies, whether the adjective is attributive or predicative. Examples 7.
- Rather and quite: when qualifying an attributive adjective, quite and rather can either be used in the normal position before the adjective, or can come between the adjective and the noun. i.e. we can choose between a rather good book and rather a good book, or quite a nice guy and a quite nice guy. With rather, the choice is generally open, with quite it is more usual to say quite a than a quite. Examples 8 & 9.
- So is used normally when it modifies a predicative adjective. So is not used with attributive adjectives, but such is used in its place, and like rather, such comes before the article, i.e. such a good book. Examples 10.
- That, and sometimes this, (that and this as adverbs of degree meaning to such a degree) and too are used differently depending on whether they qualify an attributive adjective or a predicative adjective. With predicative adjectives they are used normally, before the adjective. They are not often used with attributive adjectives, but this usage is not impossible. Yet when they are used in this way the adjective must be followed by a (an) before a singular count noun Examples 11 - 12.
Examples : adverbs of degree qualifying attributive adjectives, and qualifying predicative adjectives.
- Very This is a very useful page about grammar - This page is very useful.
- Extremely This is an extremely useful page about grammar ! This page is extremely useful.
- Fairly - I had a fairly good day today. My day was fairly good.
- Highly - It was a highly complicated situation to be in.. The situation was highly complicated.
- Pretty - There's a pretty obvious answer to the question. The answer is pretty obvious.
- Slightly - I'd like a slightly cheaper alternative, please! This alternative is slightly cheaper.
- Enough - That's a good enough answer! That answer is good enough.
- Quite - That's quite a good answer! That answer is quite good.
- Rather - That's a rather good / rather a good answer! That answer is rather good.
- So / such - This is such a good answer. That answer is so good.
- (All) that - That simple a solution is amazing. The solution was not (all) that simple.
- Too - I don't think he's having too good a time ! This is just too good.
For more information, check out pages on enough, so, and such
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