Intensifying adverbs

In English there are a lot of other ways of saying very and very much. For example, we can use such words such as highly, bitterly, utterly, deeply. These alternatives collocate strongly with specific words, and other combinations often sound unnatural.


Collocations: (un)likely, unusual, successful, competitive, profitable, effective, controversial, recommended

Highly is used with some probability words (likely, unusual). With the exception of highly controversial it usually combines with very positive words. Extremely can also be used with all the opposite adjectives except recommended.

E.g. It is highly unlikely that I’ll finish my work on time.
Her highly unusual behaviour began to worry her parents.

Absolutely, utterly

Collocations: ridiculous, stupid, impossible, wrong, convinced, devastated, alone, appalled, miserable

Absolutely and (slightly more formal) utterly combine with adjectives with extreme meanings where we can’t use very. Often, but not always, these words have negative connotations.

E.g. It was an absolutely stupid comment to make.
The whole area was utterly devastated after the earthquake.


Collocations: disappointing/disappointed, resent, criticise, regret, complain, cry, weep

Carries a feeling of deep sadness; used slightly more in writing than in conversation

E.g. I was bitterly disappointed when I failed the exam.


Collocations: ashamed, concerned, shocked, committed, moved, affected, hurt (of feelings), regret, care, religious, unhappy

Collocates mainly with words associated with feelings; used slightly more in writing than in conversation

E.g. She was always deeply committed to her students.


Collocations: cheap, expensive, easy, low, high, long, short, small, large, early

Suggests something extreme, which seems unbelievable or unreasonable

E.g. The restaurant was ridiculously expensive. I don’t think we will go there again.


Collocations: oppose, influence, believe, deny, recommend, support, condemn, suggest, feel, argue, object

Collocates with verbs, particularly verbs that relate to having an opinion

E.g. I would strongly recommend that you learn a foreign language.

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