Unfortunately, some natives have the same problem, resulting in absurd sentences like
I was literally stampeded to death!
when what they actually mean is
I was almost/virtually stampeded to death!
The correct use of 'literally' is to indicate that an expression normally understood with a figurative/metaphorical sense is instead being used with its original (i.e. literal) meaning. Take, for example, the expression 'to be buried in one's work', generally taken to mean 'completely absorbed by one's work and unable to think about anything else'. Now just suppose that a set of shelves containing a professor's own research papers were to collapse on top of him and cover him completely, we might say that he was 'literally buried in his work'!
Clearly, this adverb is to be used with great caution and is likely to be inapplicable in the vast majority of cases where it is actually used.
- For Teachers