ATTENTION PEOPLE!  I believe I have made a new grammatical discovery, which was hiding under our collective noses all this time.  And it’s a big one, too: A new category of word!  I call it: the meta-adjective.  As an example, let’s take “very” (which, incidentally, is the only one I can think of at the moment, but I”m sure there’s more.)  You say “He was very tall,” you say, “He is very smart,” but you never say just “He was very.”  (Doing so is liable to get people asking you “He was very WHAT?”)  And it’s not an adverb either: You say, “She ran very quickly,” or “She ran very slowly,” but again, you never just say “She ran very.”  (“She ran very WHAT?”)  So, the only conclusion I can make is that it belongs to a never-before-written-about category known as the meta-adjective– words that modify adjectives.  Contribute any other meta-adjectives you can think of in the comments, and perhaps I’ll share with you the money from the Nobel Prize in Grammar.  Oh, wait, there is no Nobel Prize in Grammar.  Well, maybe I can at least hope for the Ig Nobel Prize.

–Zerbie

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One response »

  1. Zerbieh!

    I’ve found the word for your grammatical discovery. It’s called a gradable adverb (or a submodifier)!

    Some other examples include: a little, dreadfully, extremely, fairly, hugely, immensely, intensely, rather, reasonably, slightly, unusually, so, and completely.

    A “gradable adjective,” or a “qualitative adjective,” is a word that describes something that can vary in amount (hot, tall, silly) and a non-gradable adjective can’t vary (freezing, wooden) or already imply an amount (“terrifying” is very scared, for example).

    The gradable adverb goes with the gradable adjective to specify the amount to which that descriptive word applies. But like you said, the gradable adverbs don’t really work alone.

    “It was rather” (“Rather WHAT?”)

    It’s a great insight that you realized this subtle part of language. I don’t think many people consciously notice this.

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