How Adverbs Take the Role of Intensifiers

Intensifiers express the semantic role of degree (e.g., very or extremely).

Adverbs Opens in new window almost always function as intensifiers, describing the quality of action by conveying a greater or lesser emphasis on the action, showing how strong or weak the intensity of the action may be.

Intensifiers are grouped into three categories:

  • The Emphasizers (those that convey emphasis on actions);
  • The Amplifiers (those that amplify degree of action) and;
  • The Downtoners (those that play down degree of action).

1.   Emphasizers

The Emphasizers are made up of words such as “really,” “simply,” “certainly,” “obviously,” “literally”, as well as “for sure”.

These words add up to make the action of verbs stronger.

Examples include:
  • I really admire the author of this great book.
  • There is no lunch break, we would literally starve.
  • Andy simply likes reading.
  • I’ll certainly go home tonight.
  • If he keeps studying hard, he will make the bar for sure.
  • She obviously stayed back.

2.   Amplifiers

The Amplifiers include amplifying words such as “absolutely,” “completely,” “totally,” “undoubtedly,” “so well,” “so,” “well,” “heartily,”etc.

These words add up in the sentence to strengthen or intensify the meaning of the verb.

Examples include:
  • Her improvement in mathematics is absolutely amazing.
  • We won because we practiced so well.
  • Her performance completely eclipsed those of her contemporaries.
  • She heartily wished everyone a happy new year.
  • Undoubtedly, they knew each other in the past.
  • His quotation included everything totally.
  • I so much desire to make my papers.

3.   Downtoners

The Downtoners include “sort of,” “to some extent,” “mildly,” “almost,” “not so much,” “kind of,” “all but,” “merely,” “simply,” etc.

These words and a number of others takes a downplaying role to lessen the degree of action expressed by the verb.

Examples include
  • I was merely helping him.
  • Andy sort of gambled again.
  • He almost made it this time around.
  • The machine all but developed fault.
  • She kind of caught him gambling.
  • He has improved to some extent.
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