The degree modifiers are adverbs that normally modify gradable words and answer the question "How?" "How far?" or "How much?"
- Adverb of Emphasis
- Verbal Hedge
Examples and Observations:
- "Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable."
(Henry Ward Beecher, Notes from Plymouth Pulpit, 1859)
- "When a man asks himself what is meant by action he proves that he isn't a man of action. Action is a lack of balance. In order to act you must be somewhat insane. A reasonably sensible man is satisfied with thinking."
(Georges Clemenceau, 1928)
- "Adverbs of degree describe the extent of a characteristic. They can be used to emphasize that a characteristic is either greater or less than some typical level:
- It's insulated slightly with polystyrene behind. (CONV)
- They thoroughly deserved a draw last night. (NEWS)
"Degree adverbs which decrease the effect of the modified item are called diminishers or downtoners. As with intensifiers, these adverbs indicate degrees on a scale and are used with gradable adjectives. They include less, slightly, somewhat, rather, and quite (in the sense of 'to some extent.') . . . Downtoners are related to hedges (like kind of). That is, they indicate that the modified item is not being used precisely. . . .
"Other degree adverbs that lessen the impact of the modified item are almost, nearly, pretty, and far from."
(Douglas Biber, Susan Conrad, and Geoffrey Leech, Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Pearson, 2002)
- "[An] example of words that don't fit neatly into one category or another is degree words. Degree words are traditionally classified as adverbs, but actually behave differently syntactically, always modifiting adverbs or adjectives and expressing a degree: very, rather, so, too. This is a relatively fixed class and new members do not enter it frequently."
(Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck, Linguistics for Everyone. Wadsworth, 2010)