study

Adverbs of Degree: Full List with Examples & Exercises

Adverbs of degree help us to express ‘how much’ (or to what extent) we do something. They can either intensify the meaning (I am extremely hungry) or make it weaker (I’m fairly certain I locked the door). Common adverbs of degree include: very, slightly, quite, totally, fairly, absolutely and extremely.

Click here to download this post via our mobile website!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

In this study guide, we will walk you through a range of adverbs of degree with examples of how to use each of them in a sentence. Don’t forget to check out the exercises at the end to test your understanding! You can also download this guide as a free pdf to use offline.

What you will learn:

 

What are adverbs of degree?

We use adverbs of degree to qualify what we are talking about. We might tell our friend that we are happy, but we may want to explain the degree (or level) of our happiness: I’m really happy, I’m quite happy or I’m not very happy. Adverbs of degree can be split into two groups: adverbs that intensify the degree of something vs. adverbs that weaken the degree of something.

Adverbs that increase, or intensify, the meaning include words such as: very, totally, completely, and absolutely. For example: I’m totally convinced Sam will quit his job.

Adverbs that decrease or weaken the degree of meaning include words such as: fairly, quite, slightly, and a bit. For example: I’m fairly certain it will rain tomorrow.


 

How do we use them?

An adverb of degree can modify an adjective, another adverb or a verb. Have a look at the following examples:

  • She is very tall. (Modifies the adjective)
  • He walked quite slowly. (Modifies the adverb)
  • I really like that film. (Modifies the verb)

 

Adverbs of degree can modify adjectives or adverbs:

Subject + main verb + adverb of degree + adjective
e.g. Jane is very happy.

Subject + main verb + adverb of degree + adverb
e.g. Tom walks extremely quickly.

Adverbs of degree can also modify verbs:

Subject + adverb of degree + main verb
e.g. The boys thoroughly enjoyed their trip to the theatre.

 

With modal verbs, the adverb of degree can appear before the modal verb or before the main verb, depending on the meaning.

For example:

Subject + adverb of degree + modal + main verb
e.g. You really should look where you are going!

Subject + modal + adverb of degree + main verb
e.g. You should really look at the instructions first.

With auxiliary verbs (e.g. have and is/are), the adverb usually goes before the main verb. For example:

Subject + auxiliary verb + adverb of degree + past participle
e.g. I have really enjoyed studying at this school.

Subject + auxiliary verb + adverb of degree + past participle
e.g. I have totally forgotten to bring my phone.

As we’ve mentioned above, we can separate adverbs of degree into two main types: adverbs that intensify the meaning or make it stronger (e.g. very), and adverbs that weaken the meaning, also called ‘downtoners’, (e.g. slightly).

1. Weakening the meaning

There are times in English when we want to specifically describe our use of an adjective or adverb. For instance, we may wish to express that we are quite nervous or a bit cold. This is more exact than just saying I’m nervous or I’m cold. The adverbs in this category are all used in the same way. The position of the adverb is before the adjective or adverb.

The following adverbs all weaken the adjective or adverb and all appear before the adverb or adjective in the sentence: a bit, fairly, pretty, quite, rather, slightly, and somewhat.

In conversational English, we often use the word ‘pretty’ as an adverb, which has a similar meaning to ‘fairly’. It does not relate to appearance/beauty. For example: I’m pretty good at football just means I’m quite good at football…or as a Brit might say: I’m not bad at football (warning: this can sometimes mean ‘very good at’!).

2. Intensifying the meaning (gradable adjectives)

There are many adverbs that intensify, or make the meaning stronger. For grammatical reasons, we need to separate these adverbs into two groups. Our choice of adverb depends on whether the adjective (which the adverb is intensifying) is gradable or ungradable.

For example, ‘hot’ is a gradable adjective, but ‘boiling’ is ungradable. So, we can say: It is very hot AND It is absolutely boiling, but NOT It is very boiling. The table below gives further examples of gradable and ungradable adjectives and the intensifiers used with them.

Intensifier + gradable adjectiveIntensifier + ungradable adjective
Very coldAbsolutely freezing
Extremely tiredCompletely exhausted
Really happyAbsolutely ecstatic
Very hungryTotally starving

 

The adverbs in this group are always positioned in front of the adjective (which they intensify).

For example: He is extremely intelligent.

The following adverbs are intensifiers that can be used with ungradable adjectives: awfully, extremely, highly, perfectly, remarkably and terribly. These adverbs can also be used to modify an adverb.

For example: She climbed the mountain extremely quickly.

  1. Intensifying the meaning (ungradable adjectives)

Adverbs that intensify an ungradable adjective appear in the same position as other adverbs in this group. They nearly always go before the adjective. Note that this group of adverbs do not modify other adverbs.

Example: John was totally exhausted.

The following adverbs are intensifiers that can be used with ungradable adjectives: absolutely, completely, entirely, totally and utterly.

How strongly adverbs of degree modify adverbs and adjectives
MildMediumStrongAbsolute
++++++++++
a little
a bit
slightly
fairly
pretty
quite
rather
somewhat
remarkably
awfully
extremely
highly
terribly
a lot
really
incredibly
particularly
deeply
enormously
greatly
incredibly
lots
most
remarkably
strongly
very
totally
utterly
completely
absolutely
entirely
perfectly
thoroughly

 

  1. Adverbs that behave differently

There are a few adverbs of degree that do not neatly fit into the three groups above. The following examples show the position and use of these adverbs.

  • A lot has a similar meaning to ‘very much’. It is used to modify verbs.

For example: I like playing badminton a lot.

  • Too can be used as an intensifier, but it has a negative meaning. It means ‘more than is acceptable or needed’.

For example: That costs too much.

  • Enough is positioned after an adjective or adverb, not before it. It means ‘to the degree that is necessary’.

For example: Are you warm enough?

We can change the meaning of some adverbs by using ‘not’. For example: I am not very happy about the new rules or Sorry, I’m not quite ready. However, not cannot be used with all the adverbs of degree! The adverbs that are most often used with not are: entirely, quite, terribly, totally, very, and particularly.

  1. Collocations

An additional issue with choosing which adverb to use is that some adverbs collocate better with some adjectives than others. In other words, some adverbs and adjectives are used frequently together in English and others just don’t ‘sound right’. Common adverbs usually collocate well. For example very collocates with most adjectives: very tall, very hungry, very beautiful. Other adverbs do not collocate with every adjective or adverb. For example, it is possible to be ‘highly intelligent’, but not ‘highly clever’!

The following are examples of common collocations with adverbs of degree:

highly intelligent       perfectly well      pretty good      remarkably well        terribly difficult

totally brilliant            utterly awful               absolutely amazing       perfectly simple
 

36 Adverbs of degree: A-Z list with examples

A (little) bit (informal)
    He arrived a little bit late.
I’m a bit worried about Tom.

A little
    I feel a little tired.
He looked a little confused.

A lot
    I go out with my friends a lot.
I eat pasta quite a lot.

Absolutely
    I absolutely love chocolate cake.
I’m not absolutely sure what time she left.

Almost
    We have almost arrived at the station.
I can almost imagine what it is like there.

Awfully
    There is an awfully big cut on his leg.
The nurse was awfully kind to me.

Adverbs that sound negative, such as terribly and awfully, can be used with positive or negative adjectives. For example, something can be ‘awfully funny’ or ‘awfully sad’.

Completely
    I completely understand why you are worried.
That is a completely different situation.

Deeply
    I am deeply grateful to everyone who helped me at that time.
He became deeply involved in politics.

Enough
    Is that jacket big enough?

    Did she run quickly enough to win the race?
Do you think you worked hard enough to pass the exam?
 

Enormously
    The film was enormously successful.
I enormously appreciate your help with that.

Entirely
    That is an entirely different situation.
I’m not entirely sure what you mean!

Extremely
    That is an extremely difficult question.
She did extremely well in the exam.

Fairly
    I’m fairly sure I saw Sarah next to the Post Office.
I play the piano fairly well.

Greatly
    I greatly appreciate your help.
She is greatly admired for her work on nuclear physics.

Highly
    He is a highly skilled engineer.
It is highly likely that Sue will get the job.

Other examples of collocations with highly include: highly intelligent, highly amusing, highly beneficial, highly paid, and highly educated. Native speakers use collocations all the time. If you want your English to sound natural, you should make an effort to use them too!

Incredibly
    That exam was incredibly difficult.
    He walks incredibly slowly!

Loads/Lots (informal)
    I see my friends loads at the weekend.
    I missed you lots when you went away!

Most (very formal)
    You are most kind.
    That was most generous of him.

Note: this is not the same meaning of ‘most’ as with the superlative – the most beautiful, etc. Here ‘most’ means ‘very’. This usage is quite “posh” or old-fashioned nowadays.

Not at all
    I’m not at all happy about that!
    It is not at all clear how to answer the question.

Particularly
    That was a particularly good film.
    I thought she sang particularly well.

Perfectly
    I can read the road sign perfectly.
I understand perfectly well why he left his job.

Other examples of collocations with perfectly include: perfectly clear, perfectly fine, perfectly safe, and ‘to be perfectly honest’ (meaning ‘to tell the truth’).

Practically
    I think I can score 100% in the Maths exam. That is practically impossible!
She practically lives at our house.

Pretty
    I’m pretty sure she will pass the exam.
I thought it was a pretty good film. 

Quite
    It was quite difficult to choose the right present for Sonia.
Tim is quite tall.

The adverb quite has two different meanings. With gradable adjectives and adverbs, it has a similar meaning to ‘fairly’, for example: I am quite shy. It is also possible to use quite with ungradable adjectives, but the meaning is then similar to ‘totally’, for example: I am quite certain that I paid that bill.

Rather
    I thought her first novel was rather good.
He seemed rather quiet when I saw him last week.

Remarkably
    He played remarkably well in the final.
There were remarkably few applications for the job.

Slightly
    I will earn slightly more money in my new job.
How do you feel about the interview? I am slightly nervous actually!

Somewhat
    I was somewhat surprised that Joe got the promotion.
It was somewhat late when the show started.

Strongly
    I strongly believe animals should not be exploited.
He was strongly opposed to the new law on driving speeds.

Terribly
    I did terribly in the speaking exam.
What happened to Chris was terribly sad.

Thoroughly
     I thoroughly enjoyed the film.
I thoroughly approve of loans for students.

Too has a negative meaning. It means ‘more than is acceptable or possible’. So you can ‘eat too much’, but you probably wouldn’t ‘love John too much. It is more likely that you would ‘love John very much’!

Too
    It was too hot for me in that room!
That box is too high up to reach.

Totally
    I feel too tired to come out tonight. That’s OK, I totally understand.
    Paul’s behaviour was totally unreasonable.

Utterly
    I was utterly devastated when Grandma died.
That party was utterly fantastic!

Very
    Martina is very tall.
    They walked very quickly.

Don’t use very to intensify a verb. Instead you should use the adverb really. For example, you can’t say: I very enjoyed it, but you can say: I really enjoyed it. Exception to the rule = I very much enjoyed. This means the same as ‘really’, but is more formal.

Virtually
    Running a marathon every day for a week! That is virtually impossible!
    Tim and Tom are not quite the same height, but they are virtually identical.
 

Adverbs of Frequency: Exercises

Exercise 1

Underline the adverb of degree in each sentence below:

  1. That exam was long, boring and incredibly difficult.
  2. I’m pretty sure I did it properly.
  3. Occasionally she cooks us an absolutely fantastic meal.
  4. Do you think this dress is formal enough?
  5. I thought Peter was stupid, but actually he is highly intelligent.
Exercise 2

Answer these questions about adverbs of degree:
1. Adverbs of degree can modify:

  1. nouns
  2. nouns and verbs
  3. adjectives and adverbs
  4. adjectives, adverbs and verbs

2. The adverb ‘absolutely’ can be used with:

  1. gradable adjectives
  2. verbs
  3. nouns
  4. ungradable adjectives

3. Adverbs of degree most often occur:

  1. before a noun
  2. before an adjective or adverb
  3. after an adjective or adverb
  4. after a verb

4. Put these 4 adverbs in order of degree, beginning with the weakest and ending with the strongest:

terribly               totally              pretty               slightly

5. Which of the following adverbs of degree can be preceded by ‘not’:<
‘not _____________’

slightly              somewhat        almost             particularly

Exercise 3

Choose the best adverb to complete each sentence:

  1. I thought that film was _______________ good.
    a. totally. b. enough c. pretty
  2. I can see ______________ with these new glasses.
    a. perfectly b. totally c. fairly
  3. I _______________ like dancing in the rain.
    a. very b. pretty c. really
  4. I thought that book was _________ interesting.
    a. slightly b. utterly c. very
  5. Sorry, but I think you are ______________ wrong!
    a. rather b. totally c. extremely
Exercise 4

1. In which sentence can you correctly add the word ‘not’?

  1. She is rather happy.
  2. She is fairly happy.
  3. She is extremely happy.
  4. She is very happy.

2. Which of these adverbs goes after the adjective?
a. enough b. pretty c. too

Match the following adverbs and adjectives to form the best collocation:
3. absolutely        a. funny
4. highly               b. different
5. terribly             c. brilliant
6. somewhat       d. educated

————————————————————————————————————–

Answers:

Exercise 1

  1. That exam was long, boring and incredibly difficult.
  1. I’m pretty sure I did it properly.
  2. Occasionally she cooks us an absolutely fantastic meal.
  3. Do you think this dress is formal enough?
  4. I thought Peter was stupid, but actually he is highly
Exercise 2

  1. d
  2. d
  3. b
  4. slightly pretty               terribly            totally
  5. particularly
Exercise 3

  1. pretty
  2. perfectly
  3. really
  4. very
  5. totally
Exercise 4

  1. She is not very happy.
  2. (e.g. I am not warm enough.)
  3. absolutely brilliant
  4. highly educated
  5. terribly funny
  6. somewhat different
Click here to download this post via our mobile website!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

Judith Pett — ESL Tutor
Judith P.
— ESL Tutor
Find this post useful? Share it with friends!
Read more
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. Learn More. GOT IT!