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      • Native Language:
      • Czech
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      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jun 2007
    • Posts: 180
    #1

    Very great

    I understand we use intensifiers like very, extremely with "gradable adjectives", as in extremely hard.

    I also recognise intensifiers we use with "non-gradable adjectives" such as completely, totally, or absolutely, as in absolutely fantastic.

    My question as:

    Is there a situation when we can use the phrase "very great"? If so, in what meaning? Personally, I would never use it as great = very big/good, yet I would bet my underwear I ve already seen some instances of this.

    Will someone open my eyes and dispel another cloud of ignorance off my mind?

    Thanks for your efforts, anyone.

    Waawe


    • Join Date: Nov 2009
    • Posts: 6
    #2

    Re: Very great

    I'm not an ESL teacher, but I'm a native speaker.

    There are only a few cases in which I would consider "very great" as sounding correct.


    • He was a very great man. (sounds fine to me)


    • There are a very great number of people/issues. (sounds awkward to me)

    A quick Google search reveals that "very great" is used occasionally in the titles of both recent and old books/articles:


    • The Life we have is very great
    • A Very Great Profession: The Woman's Novel

    "Very great" also appears frequently in different translations of Bible verses. I think it may have had common usage some time ago. You're right, though. It's probably best not to use it.

    On the other hand, "really great" (which should mean the same as "very great") sounds fine to me in many contexts.


    • He's a really great guy.
    • That was a really great book.
    • They're doing some really great things.

  1. BobK's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
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      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 16,038
    #3

    Re: Very great

    Quote Originally Posted by Waawe View Post
    I understand we use intensifiers like very, extremely with "gradable adjectives", as in extremely hard.

    I also recognise intensifiers we use with "non-gradable adjectives" such as completely, totally, or absolutely, as in absolutely fantastic.

    My question as:

    Is there a situation when we can use the phrase "very great"? If so, in what meaning? Personally, I would never use it as great = very big/good, yet I would bet my underwear I ve already seen some instances of this.

    Will someone open my eyes and dispel another cloud of ignorance off my mind?

    Thanks for your efforts, anyone.

    Waawe
    You're right about using different intensifiers with gradable/non-gradable adjectives - in almost all cases. The word 'quite' can go with either, and changes its meaning accordingly:

    quite interesting/stimulating/amusing ... = 'fairly, to some extent, up to a point'

    quite impossible/inedible/stuck ... = 'absolutely' (I'm not sure this sort of 'quite' is current in Am Eng, but it's common over here.)

    As to 'very great', american's usage note is fine.

    b

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