Intensive word form Redirected from Intensive

In grammar, an intensive word form is one which denotes stronger, more forceful, or more concentrated action relative to the root on which the intensive is built. Intensives are usually lexical formations, but there may be a regular process for forming intensives from a root. Intensive formations, for example, existed in Proto-Indo-European, and in many of the Semitic languages.

Grammatical categories

Intensives generally function as adverbs before the word or phrase that they modify. For example, bloody well, as in "I will bloody well do it," is a commonly used intensive adverb in Great Britain.[1]

Intensives also can function as postpositive adjectives. An example in American English today is "the heck", e.g. "What the heck is going on here?" All intensives are expletives that can be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence albeit with less intensity. Many modern-day intensives are generally considered vulgar or otherwise inappropriate in polite conversation, such as "the hell" or "the fuck". In the mid-19th century, "in tarnation" was common. Polite alternatives include on earth or in heaven's name.

Examples of intensifiers across languages

In American English, the usage of "this/that" has become common in intensive form.[2] The usage of "this/that" as intensifiers can be compared to the intensifier "so", since they all belong in the booster category of intensifiers, that is, intensifiers used to describe a high claim of intensity. [2] An example sentence of this would be, "I shouldn't be this tired." which carries similar intensity as the sentence, "I am so tired.".

Hebrew uses intensifiers to show distinction between the pi`el (intensive) and hiph`il (causative) binyans.[3]

Latin had verbal prefixes e- and per- that could be more or less freely added onto any verb and variously added such meanings as "To put a great deal of effort into doing something".[4][5] For example, "ructa" (burp) compared to "eructa" (belch). When the same prefixes, especially per, were added to adjectives, the resulting meaning was very X or extremely X.

Intensive form in media

The use of intensive word form has been studied in regards to how it is used in popular television shows, movies, music, and online.

In British English, the word "well" can be used as an adjective intensifier when used to describe a noun, such as in the sentence, "It's well good." [6] The study done by James Stratton showed that intensive word form used in media closely resembles the usage in conversational British English. To study this, Stratton analyzed the variety of intensifiers used in the British sitcom The Inbetweeners. The study found that "well" was the sixth most used intensifier of the twenty-two listed. [6]

Studies have also been conducted to examine the use of intensifiers in internet culture. The 2010 study conducted by Sali A. Tagliamonte focused on how youth participants used language in email, instant messaging, and in text messages. The study found that the word "so" is used frequently in online messaging as an intensifier, but at the time had not been integrated as heavily into everyday verbal communication.[7] The study also found that, "Different intensifiers are variably associated with nonstandard and colloquial varieties of the language, which makes this an ideal linguistic site for the investigation of variation."[7] which can explain the differences in intensifier usage based on demographic.


  1. ^ Montagu, M. F. Ashley (1943-05-01). "Bloody". Psychiatry. 6 (2): 175–190. doi:10.1080/00332747.1943.11022448. ISSN 0033-2747.
  2. ^ a b Calle-Martín, Javier (2019-04-03). "No Cat Could be That Hungry! This/That as Intensifiers in American English". Australian Journal of Linguistics. 39 (2): 151–173. doi:10.1080/07268602.2019.1566886. ISSN 0726-8602.
  3. ^ Bolozky, Shmuel (1982). "Strategies of Modern Hebrew Verb Formation". hdl:1811/58646. ISSN 0193-7162. Cite journal requires |journal=
  4. ^ "§59. A Summary of Latin Prefixes – Greek and Latin Roots: Part I – Latin". pressbooks.bccampus.ca. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  5. ^ "Greek and Latin Prefixes". catalog.hardydiagnostics.com. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  6. ^ a b Stratton, James (2018-11-17). "The Use of the Adjective Intensifier well in British English: A Case Study of The Inbetweeners". English Studies. 99 (8): 793–816. doi:10.1080/0013838X.2018.1519150. ISSN 0013-838X.
  7. ^ a b Tagliamonte, Sali A.; In collaboration with Dylan Uscher, Lawrence Kwok, and students from HUM199Y 2009 and 2010 (2010). "So sick or so cool? The language of youth on the internet". Language in Society. 45 (1): 1–32. doi:10.1017/S0047404515000780. ISSN 0047-4045.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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