Adverb of Emphasis Intensifier

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

adverbs of emphasis
Adverbs of emphasis in Working Stiff, a novel by Rachel Caine (Penguin, 2011).

In English grammar, adverb of emphasis is a traditional term for an intensifier used to give added force or a greater degree of certainty to another word in a sentence or to the sentence as a whole. Adverbs of emphasis are also called emphasizers and emphasizing adverbs.

Common adverbs of emphasis include absolutelycertainly, clearly, definitely, naturally, obviously, positively, really, simply, and undoubtedly.

In The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar, Bas Aarts et al. point out that "[o]nly some grammatical models subdivide adverbs with this level of semantic detail," (Aarts 2014).

Examples of Adverbs of Emphasis

Adverbs of emphasis have their place in just about every part of language and communication. The following examples show a diverse range of applications.

  • I was flat broke and the rent was due. Clearly, I needed to find a job.
  • "'He's tapping my phone,' he said to Celia indignantly. 'I definitely heard it. Definitely,'" (Sanders 1980).
  • "I hadn't the slightest hesitation in saying: 'For sure! Tell the man--absolutely! Absolutely! Of course!'" (McCabe 2003).
  • "In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn't really, absolutely know what whites looked like," (Angelou 1969).
  • "Deterrence, obviously, is one of the aims of punishment, but it is surely not the only one. On the contrary, there are at least half a dozen, and some are probably quite as important," (Mencken 1926).
  • "At the door of the kitchen she said, 'You never finish your lunch. You run around senselessly. What will become of you?' Then she died. Naturally for the rest of my life I longed to see her, not only in doorways, in a great number of places—in the dining room with my aunts, at the window looking up and down the block, in the country garden among zinnias and marigolds, in the living room with my father," (Paley 1985).
  • "Theoretically, of course, one ought always to try for the best word. But practically, the habit of excessive care in word-selection frequently results in loss of spontaneity," (Thompson 2017).
  • "Everything beginning at Blake Avenue would always wear for me some delightful strangeness and mildness, simply because it was not of my block, the block, where the clang of your head sounded against the pavement when you fell in a fistfight, and the rows of store-lights on each side were pitiless, watching you," (Kazin 1951).
  • "There is undoubtedly a sensation in traveling into foreign parts that is to be had nowhere else; but it is more pleasing at the time than lasting," (Hazlitt 1885).

Adverbs of Emphasis in Discourse

Adverbs of emphasis should be used with caution. Sometimes using them of emphasis during an argument or speech exposes logical fallacies. "You can spot ​discourses that beg the question by looking for such words as obviously, of course, and really. Any defense lawyer would immediately leap up and say, 'Objection!' if the prosecution were to say to the jury, 'Obviously, she is guilty,'" (Corbett and Eberly 2000).

Sources

  • Aarts, Bas, et al. The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House, 1969.
  • Corbett, Edward P. J., and Rosa A. Eberly. The Elements of Reasoning. 2nd ed., Allyn and Bacon, 2000.
  • Hazlitt, William. "On Going a Journey." Table Talk: Essays on Men and Manners. G. Bell & Sons, 1885.
  • Kazin, Alfred. A Walker in the City. Harcourt Brace, 1951.
  • McCabe, Pat. Call Me the Breeze. Faber, 2003.
  • Mencken, H.L. "The Penalty of Death." Prejudices: Fifth Series. Knopf, 1926.
  • Paley, Grace. "Mother." Later the Same Day. Penguin Books, 1985.
  • Sanders, Lawrence. The First Deadly Sin. Berkley Books, 1980.
  • Thompson, Francis. Shelley: An Essay. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017.