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Very, pretty, so, really | Intensifiers in English

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Many native English speakers like to tell stories, share their feelings and, in general, talk!

So when we tell stories in everyday, casual speech, we like to express details, which the English language easily allows for with the words:

  • “pretty”
  • “so”
  • “really”; and
  • “very”

to describe the extent of something or the amount of something.

Example

I could say:

  • “The glass is full.”

Or I could be much more specific and say:

  • “The glass is very full.”
  • “The glass is so full. (Why did you pour so much water?!)”
  • “The glass is really full. (Be careful carrying it.)”
  • “The glass is pretty full. (But there’s room for more.)”

Here are some examples of how we use these terms in everyday, casual English.

Listen and Repeat

for pronunciation practice.

“Pretty”

Meaning: “pretty” ([PRI diy]) is also a term to say that someone or something is good-looking. However, here, we use it as a term to say “somewhat” or “so-so“.

  • “It’s pretty good chocolate, but I’ve tasted better.”
  • “He’s pretty smart. I think he’ll catch on fast.”
  • “I’m pretty sure I’m going to take the job, but I’ll make my final decision tomorrow.” (Notice how “going to” –> “gonna”)
  • “That’s pretty much the idea I was trying to get across.”

“So”

Meaning: the extent of something. “So” is similar to “very”, but a bit more casual.

Listen and Repeat

(Also check out the lesson on Using the Words “such” and “so” in English).

  • “I am so tired! I need to go to bed!” (Notice the stress and rhythm of my speech).
  • “She’s so excited! She can’t wait!”
  • “I’m so looking forward to finishing school. I’m exhausted from studying.”
  • “We’re so full. We can’t eat another bite!”

“Really”

Meaning: truly. But it’s also used in a similar way as “very”, but more casual.

Listen and Repeat

  • “You really don’t know me well enough to say that.”
  • “You seem really tired. Are you ok?”
  • “I really, really love chocolate. I can’t go a day without it!” (Practice the difference between “can” vs. “can’t”)
  • “I had such a good time, and I am really going to miss you!”

Very

Note: Unlike pretty, so and really, very is also commonly used in formal and academic English. It can sound a bit more serious and mature than pretty, so and really.

Listen and Repeat

  • “That’s a very nice coat you’re wearing. Where did you get it from?” (Notice in “did you” how [d]+[y]–>”dg”)
  • “I’m very proud of you, sweetie. You did a wonderful job.”
  • “I am very confused. Can you explain that again, Professor?”
  • “It’s very cold outside. Take your winter coat!”

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5 comments

  1. It’s (pretty) nice lesson,
    It’s (so) helpful,
    You are (really) good teacher,
    I like your website (very) much. 

  2. What is the difference between a little, a bit , a little a bit, a bit of and just little a bit?

  3. Thank you so much

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