Intensifiers or synonyms to “very”


To give stronger meaning to an expression you use a word called an intensifier — like “very”. To make your speech and writing more varied you should know synonyms to very as it tends to be used too much. Learn this once and you will never have to embarrass yourself with repeating it three times in the same sentence!


Quite is a universal replacement for very. It collocates with virtually any adverb and adjective. There is a catch though — the meaning of this word is different in American and British English. Quite in British English means “somewhat, to some extent” while American English quite means “very”.
Examples: These biscuits are quite tasty — you should give them a try. We were quite thrilled to hear the teacher’s speech

Really and extremely

Extremely is the strongest of all intensifiers. It is also somewhat formal, so it is more often to be found in letters and texts rather than speech.
Examples: It was extremely careless of you to leave the door opened. She is usually extremely rude to everyone

Really is quite strong too. It is fairly informal, occurring in everyday speech. If you use it, then you mean that something was considerably more intensive than usually, you put great emphasis on it.
Examples: He is really good at singing (He is a much better singer than many others). They stayed at this really expensive hotel (The hotel was considerably more expensive than other places)

Fairly, somewhat

These “intensifiers” actually serve the opposite function – they weaken the word that follows. They show that the quality is present but limited.
Examples: He is fairly good at football (He isn’t too good, probably below average). He is somewhat famous in this part of the country (He is famous, but not so much)

Absolutely, totally

Both are nice alternatives to very. The difference is that they are used with words that have “extreme” meaning — words that already mean the highest degree of something: He is a very smart boy. But: She is absolutely brilliant. Word brilliant is “extreme” so you cannot say very brilliant.
More examples: It was absolutely ridiculous of John to bring that up. They had spent the night in an absolutely gorgeous place


Knowing these alternatives to “very” is nice indeed, however don’t feel obliged to use all of them in the same text. Above all, do not use them with every adjectives as some students tend to — this deprecates the value of the intensifier as you put it everywhere. Every intensifier has to be used for a reason. This applies both to your writing and your spoken language.

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