How to Use Intensifiers

Have you ever wondered how you could describe and share your opinions more clearly? A great way to do so is by using intensifiers!

What are Intensifiers?

Intensifiers are one important tool in your vocabulary toolbox that should not be overlooked!

That movie was great.
That movie was really great!

Marcus is late.
Marcus is super late!

Intensifiers are modifiers in a sentence that add more emotion to the word they are modifying. They give emphasis and extra strength to your sentence. Intensifiers are effective at getting your point across in a clear way.

How Do I Use Intensifiers?

Intensifiers can be adverbs, adjectives, or adverbial phrases. We’ve learned that they strengthen the meaning of other expressions and show emphasis. Therefore, you would use them in instances where you’d like to emphasize an emotion in a phrase or a sentence.

Here are some more examples:

  • Today’s lesson was interesting.
    Today’s lesson was incredibly interesting!
  • That handbag is expensive.
    That handbag is very expensive.
  • Today was a cold day.
    Today was such a cold day.

What Are Some Other Popular Intensifiers in the U.S.?

One intensifier that is REALLY overused is: literally. If you watch videos on social media, you have probably heard this word. This is one good example of why knowing the correct meaning of a word is so important! Be sure to keep your dictionary handy, look up these intensifiers, and learn how to use them correctly in a sentence.

Here are some of the most common intensifiers in American English. They are used a lot in casual speech.

  • absolutely
    I have absolutely no desire to own a pet.
  • at all
    I don’t like artichokes at all.
  • completely
    Don’t worry about it, it’s completely okay.
  • extremely
    This garage is extremely messy.
  • really
    This book is really boring.
  • super
    This coffee is super hot.
  • very
    That’s a very pretty necklace.
  • totally
    He was totally embarrassed because he forgot his keys.
  • too
    It was too windy to go outside.
  • so
    He is so kind to me.

Some other intensifiers used in everyday American English are:

  • amazingly
    That sunset is amazingly beautiful.
  • especially
    You are being especially kind to me today.
  • extraordinarily
    That is an extraordinarily wonderful thing to do!
  • incredibly
    Margaret’s pizza is incredibly delicious!
  • outrageously
    Jim Carrey is an outrageously funny actor.
  • phenomenally
    That is a phenomenally tall building.
  • rather
    The speech was rather important.
  • remarkably
    This glue is remarkably strong.
  • terribly
    I’m terribly sorry to be late.
  • unusually
    It’s unusually hot for April.
  • utterly
    He felt utterly miserable while he was sick.

A Little Grammar Note

Notice that many of these intensifiers have the ending -ly. This is a word ending that means “like.” It can turn an adjective into an adverb. Adverbs are words that modify verbs, but they also modify other adjectives. For example,

That pizza is incredible.
That pizza is incredibly delicious!

In the first sentence, incredible is an adjective that modifies the noun pizza.
In the second sentence, incredibly is called an adverb, because it modifies the adjective delicious, which tells us what kind of pizza it was.

Many Intensifiers Mean the Same Thing

Many times, you can choose an intensifier that you like to use, and it will work in many different sentences. Let’s use a sentence from the list and change the intensifier.

That glue is remarkably strong.
That glue is incredibly strong.
That glue is amazingly strong.
That glue is unusually strong.
That glue is extremely strong.
That glue is very strong.
That glue is so strong.
That glue is really strong.

All these sentences tell you the same thing – that your glue is stronger than any other glue you have tried. The words might have somewhat different meanings, but as intensifiers, they all mean basically the same thing.

Some intensifiers, however, do have different meanings. Some work best in positive sentences, and some work best in negative sentences.

That sunset is amazingly beautiful.
That sunset isn’t beautiful at all.

With practice, you will become familiar with the different intensifiers.

Using Intensifiers in Writing

Most of the time, you should only use intensifiers when you are speaking. If you are writing formally, for business or in academic writing, it can be considered a lazy way to write. It’s better to choose a strong adjective when you are writing. For example:

That pie is really good.

This is pretty casual and not a good sentence for formal writing. Instead, choose a strong adjective and don’t use an intensifier.

That pie is delicious.

Delicious is a strong adjective that means really good. Here’s another example:

The meeting was very long.
The meeting was unending.

If you are writing, it’s better to use the strong adjective unending, without an intensifier. Intensifiers add emotion to your speaking, and it isn’t really necessary to add emotion to most formal writing.

Why Should I Use Intensifiers?

You can express yourself more clearly with intensifiers, and your speech will also sound more natural. Intensifiers are an important way to show emotion. They can also help you sound more fluent, even if you don’t feel like you are fluent at all! But be careful – intensifiers should not be used too much! Use a few of your favorite intensifiers here and there, just not in every sentence! Watch how your fluency totally blossoms!

Check out Gabby’s take on intensifiers, below!

For more videos: Go Natural English YT 

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Picture of Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

About the Author
Gabby Wallace is the Founder of Go Natural English, where you can quickly improve your confidence speaking English through advanced fluency practice. Even if you don't have much time, this is the best place for improving your English skills. Millions of global intermediate - advanced English students are learning with Gabby's inspiring, clear, and energetic English lessons. Gabby has a Masters Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Boston University and 20+ years experience helping students become fluent through her online courses and membership program.

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