The adjectives 'very' and 'own' mean precisely as stated or being exactly the same and not any other. I understand a subtle difference between my bike and my own bike in below mentioned instance -

Case #1: I parked a bike. A policeman asked me the papers of the vehicle. The papers belonged to the owner (my cousin) whose bike I had borrowed for that day. But then for the policeman, it is my bike. Even I would say "Yes, I'm sorry that I parked my bike here in a No Parking zone."
Case #2: I had to reach there as early as possible. Had it been my own bike, I would have gone at the speed of 100 kmph but I am very responsible and cautious while riding my cousin's bike. You know, it's very costly.

Now the question:

In above mentioned case, it's vehicle and hence the use of my and my own seems quite acceptable. But then when we use the same for our organs, why use own at all? We own them since our birth!

Yeah! Trust me. I saw her with him with my very eyes!
Don't you believe me? I did it with my own hands.

  • 2
    Maulik, I'd just like to say that you've been posting some very interesting questions (especially this one!) and I appreciate your contribution to ELL :) Keep it up! I wish I were able to answer this question for you; the answer is floating around somewhere in my head, but not in any way I know how to explain.
    – WendiKidd
    Nov 21, 2013 at 20:56
  • @WendiKidd Thank you, sir. Being a non-native speaker (it's so sad!), I'm very enthusiastic learning the language. I find here the bunch of gurus, the real gurus like you and thus feel heavenly. :)
    – Maulik V
    Nov 22, 2013 at 4:27
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    @MaulikV For future reference, most people named Wendi are not sirs :-)
    – user230
    Nov 23, 2013 at 1:53
  • I'm not sure I entirely agree with the premise of the question. Case #2 could be written "Had it been my bike, I ...". Similarly your other sentence could be "I saw her with my very own eyes". "(I did it) by my own hands" on the other hand (no pun intended) is a fixed idiom, meaning "(I did it) myself"
    – Matt
    Nov 23, 2013 at 2:35
  • @Matt. No. Had it been my bike... wouldn't have worked there. Because I want to convey that had it been my own thing I wouldn't have care speeding it on a rough road as my own bike is old. My cousin's bike is costly and I should take utter care that nothing happens to it. In other words, I won't use others' things roughly.
    – Maulik V
    Nov 24, 2013 at 2:14

1 Answer 1


If you had taken up woodwork as a hobby and made your first object, lets say a wooden jewellery box, and someone asked you:

That looks beautiful. Did you make it?

You would proudly assert:

Yes, I did actually. I made that box with my (very) own hands.

Note, you could (idiomatically) insert very in the phrase without changing the meaning. The fact you place the adjective, own between the possessive adjective, my, and the noun, hands, means you are emphasizing the ownership of the hands that crafted the object. If you had replied:

I made that box with my hands.

Your listener would understand that you were the carpenter or maker of this object but it would sound odd, because you can't make an object with someone else's hands. You would never say: "Yes, I made it with his hands". It sounds not only gruesome (!) but obviously illogical. More typical expressions would be:

  • Yes, it's handmade
  • Yes, I made it by hand

The above expressions tell your listener that the object is crafted by hand, that very little machinery was involved in the process or if that were not the case, that you handled the machinery or mechanical tools yourself.

A more unusual way to express the same idea would be to say:

  • I made it with these very hands

I would place the stress on "very" and probably hold my hands, palm upwards, to show the various cuts, nicks, scars and calluses that might be present as evidence that I am an experienced carpenter.

The Google Ngram seems to be heavily in favour of "by hand" but please do look at the different links below the chart to see how each expression can be used.

EDIT: Very when it is used as an adjective

There is a very famous and beautiful song sung by Nat King Cole entitled

The Very Thought Of You

The first two lines are

The very thought of you and I forget to do
The little ordinary things that everyone ought to do

In these lines, "very" means mere, simple, and plain. Just the simple thought of his loved one is enough to make him forget about the dull and insignificant moments of his daily routine. The meaning is slightly different from that quoted by the OP, "precisely as stated or being exactly the same and not any other"

However, returning to the OP's sentence,

Yeah! Trust me. I saw her with him with my very eyes

in this example very carries another different meaning. The Chambers Dictionary gives the definition for "very" used this way

adj. used for emphasis, [...] precise, actual (this very minute, her very words)

Thus the speaker is emphasizing that he saw the woman with a man, presumably not her real partner, with his actual eyes (in other words he didn't hear the news from anyone else) and therefore, to take his word for it.

  • This clarifies a bit, especially the proud part. Yes, we do use very own or my own at least as a lofty response if not in utter proud.
    – Maulik V
    Nov 22, 2013 at 11:24
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    Nice post. This is the first time I notice that "very" has negative connotation. It is quite easy to imagine a suspect finally cracks after hours of intense interrogation. "Tell us! How did you kill her?" Then he cried out, "I killed her with these very hands." Nov 22, 2013 at 11:29
  • That's a very good example! @DamkerngT.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 22, 2013 at 11:30
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    @snailboat and WendiKidd: Thank you for the concerns. I probably should added '..."very" has negative connotation in this kind of context', for the sake of other learners. But then again, I wouldn't believe that any beginners will think "very" has negative meaning in sentences like Thank you very much, or intermediate learners will mistaken "very" as a bad quality in Two thousand years ago, they built the city on this very ground (where the speaking is standing upon). I don't know if my idea on negative connotation is linguistically correct. But I can recall someone got blamed, Nov 23, 2013 at 2:16
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    @snailboat: If you read my last comment once again, you will see that I have no problem with other constructs but my very sth.. What I meant was that given the choices between my very and my own, it appeared (at least to me at that time) that I was unable to think of the use of my very in a good way. (I also tried my very eyes, but then I came up in the context that one girl trying to tell her friend that her friend's boyfriend is cheating on her.) Now your firefighter example is interesting since it counters my earlier intuition quite well. Thank you. Nov 23, 2013 at 2:37

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