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I have a question about using pairs of adjectives in everyday English speech.

Italian uses pairs of adjectives to emphasize a quality and some idiomatic and colloquial expressions are commonly accepted:

  • stanco morto, literally "dead tired"

  • ubriaco fradicio, literally "soaking drunk"

  • pieno zeppo, literally "full packed"

Are the above expressions idiomatic English? If not, what are the equivalent English expressions for extremely great tiredness, extreme drunkenness, and extremely great fullness (such as after eating a lot)?

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"Dead tired", "stinking drunk", &"stuffed" & "stuffed to the gills" are all English idioms. –  user264 Apr 26 '13 at 13:43
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I'd write the sentence this way: I have a question about using pairs of adjectives in everyday English speech. If you use the "regarding use of pairs of adjectives" structure, I would definitely use the definite article: "regarding the use of pairs of adjectives". –  user264 Apr 26 '13 at 13:52
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It seems to me that when used in this way, the first adjective in the pair becomes an adverb, as it's describing or further qualifying the second adjective. Not super relevant; just a thought. –  KenB Apr 26 '13 at 16:25
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@Bill Franke: Agreed about including the article. We're well in the majority on this one. In Google Books, "question regarding use of", 1920 hits - question regarding the use of, 30,200 hits. –  FumbleFingers Apr 26 '13 at 19:36
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@ Carlo: I'm not going to post an answer, but I'll just point out that blind drunk is four times more common in Google Books than stinking drunk, and dead drunk is four times more common than blind drunk. –  FumbleFingers Apr 26 '13 at 20:13

1 Answer 1

"Dead tired" is a common idiom in English. "Soaking drunk" is not so common but is widely understood. We don't say "full packed", we say "packed full".

I find it amusing that you picked three Italian idioms that all translate nicely to English idioms. I suspect that is just luck and not a sign that you can do that in general.

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You're certainly right that soaking drunk is "not so common"!. Of 41 instances in Google Books there, most of them seem to be references to the fact that it's a literal translation of an Italian expression! By way of comparison, GB claims to have over 10,000 instances of stinking drunk, and 40,000 of blind drunk. –  FumbleFingers Apr 26 '13 at 18:17

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