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. Also called an emphasizer and an emphasizing adverb.

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

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

Examples and Observations

  • 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.'"
    (Lawrence Sanders, The First Deadly Sin. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1973)
  • "I hadn't the slightest hesitation in saying: 'For sure! Tell the man--absolutely! Absolutely! Of course!'"
    (Joey Tallon in Call Me the Breeze, a novel by Patrick McCabe, 2003)
  • "In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn't really, absolutely know what whites looked like."
    (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House, 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."
    (H.L. Mencken, "The Penalty of Death"
  • "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."
    (Grace Paley, "Mother." Later the Same Day. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 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."
    (Francis Thompson, qtd. by Arthur Quiller-Couch in "Murder Your Darlings")
  • "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 fist fight, and the rows of store-lights on each side were pitiless, watching you."
    (Alfred Kazin, A Walker in the City. Harcourt Brace, 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."
    (William Hazlitt, "On Going a Journey"


  • "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.'" (Edward P. J. Corbett and Rosa A. Eberly, The Elements of Reasoning. Allyn and Bacon, 2000)