Adverbs of Degree - Intensifiers

What are Intensifiers?

Intensifiers are mostly adverbs, but occasionally noun phrases and prepositional phrases, used to show an increase or decrease in intensity of  verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. The relatively high or low intensity modifiers applied on a predicate or part of a predicate express the speaker's attitude (or feelings) towards the subject.

What are the Types of Intensifiers?

These two types provide a rough guide on the common applications and the varying effects of intensifiers in a sentence.

1. Amplifiers

These intensifiers scale upwards from an assumed norm. There are two subgroups: (a)maximizers (eg: absolutely, perfectly, completely) denote the upper extreme of the scale, and (b)boosters (eg: bitterly, severely, by far) denote a high degree, a high point on the scale.

  • He was utterly oblivious of everything outside his aim. (maximizer)
  • He devoted himself entirely to books. (maximizer)
  • Every newspaper in the city bitterly opposed his election. (booster)
  • Bob is the type of guy who thinks a great deal and says little. (booster)

2. Downtoner

Downtoners scale downwards and generally have lowering effect on the force of the verb, adjective and adverb or predication. There are four groups of downtoners: (a) Approximators (eg:almost) (b) Compromisers (eg:kind of) (c) Diminishers (eg: merely) and (d) Minimizers (eg: scarcely).

  • All his first attempts were nearly drowned by the hisses, jeers, and scoffs of his audience. (approximator)
  • My sister was quite alone when she met her end. (compromiser)
  • A great book should leave you with many experiences and slightly exhausted. (diminisher)
  • Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough. (minimizer)

 

Reference:

  • A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik (Longman Group Ltd., 1985)
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