What Is an Adverb of Degree?

Lee Johnson

An adverb of degree is a word which describes the intensity with which an action is completed or the degree of an adjective or another adverb. An example would be the word “completely” in the sentence “he completely denied the accusations.” This can be taken to mean that the person in question not only denied the accusations, he said that they weren’t true in the slightest sense. Other common adverbs of degree include extremely, barely, hardly, quite, and scarcely. These are different from adverbs of manner because they state how much something was done, not the way in which it was done.

"Completely" is an adverb of degree in the sentence, "They completely denied the gossip that was spread about them."
"Completely" is an adverb of degree in the sentence, "They completely denied the gossip that was spread about them."

Verbs can be modified using an adverb of degree, which is the simplest way to understand their use. The sentence, “He lifted Jack off the ground,” states that Jack was picked up by the person in question. The addition of such an adverb, like “barely,” changes the sentence to, “He barely lifted Jack off the ground,” which alters the meaning by stating how much Jack was lifted off the ground. In this circumstance, the person in question only just managed to get Jack off the ground. Using a different adverb of degree changes the meaning again, “He easily lifted Jack off the ground.”

Adjectives are another part of speech which can be modified by an adverb of degree. This modifies the descriptive word in the same way as it does a verb. For example, the sentence, “He is talkative,” can be altered to “He is unusually talkative,” to indicate that the person in question is more talkative than a normal person or more talkative than he ordinarily is. This type of adverb can also be used to show that a description isn’t particularly suitable, such as “he is hardly lazy.” This means that the person in question isn’t really very lazy at all.

Other adverbs can also be altered using an adverb of degree. This can change a sentence such as, “She thinks quickly,” into “She thinks extraordinarily quickly.” The first version of this sentence says that the woman in question is a quick thinker, but the second states that she is an unusually or especially quick thinker. Again, using a word such as “fairly” in place of “extraordinarily” would alter the meaning of the sentence. This would indicate that she thinks at a reasonable speed, not a particularly fast one.

The difference between an adverb of manner and an adverb of degree can be confusing. An adverb of manner describes the way in which something was done, rather than the level to which it was done. The sentence “he finished his work” can be altered by either an adverb of manner or an adverb of degree. “He joyfully finished his work” adds an adverb of manner, meaning that he completed his work in a happy, positive fashion. “He completely finished his work” tells the listener or reader to what degree he finished his work, not the way in which it was finished.

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