I saw a sentence on OED:

‘It made his innards ache and his heart squeeze tightly with pain to feel the only woman he loved refuse him that deeply.’

It appears to me "that deeply" can only modify the nearest verb, "refuse". But can you refuse someone "deeply"? What does it mean to refuse someone deeply?

  • Please give the word being defined in the OED where that sentence appears. In context, "deeply" seems to modify "loved," but the sentence overall seems quite awkward. I'd like to see its provenance before attempting a detailed answer. Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 4:53
  • @JeffMorrow en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/innards first example sentence
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 5:04
  • Yes it is OK. She refused really strongly. She didn't just refuse, she really refused. But I think this would have been better written as "refuse him so deeply".
    – user3169
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 6:57
  • That is not the OED, which current version is available only by subscription. What you're quoting is often abbreviated ODO (Oxford online dictionary). Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


I am a native speaker of American English and have never heard "refuse" be modified by "deeply." I looked up "refuse deeply" in Google ngram , and there were NO references to it at all. The OED Sentence cited is not on the topic of "refuse" or "deeply." Not one comment has cited another example of "deeply" modifying "refuse." Based on that, I think it fair to say that "refuse deeply" is certainly not idiomatic in American English and probably not idiomatic in written British English.

It is not true that everything published in English is perfectly grammatical. The sentence cited may well have come from a "romance novel," a type of popular fiction not generally esteemed as an ideal of English prose. To "love deeply" is a common idiom as evidenced by ngram. The placement of "deeply" appears to be one of those minor grammatical failures that native speakers manage to ignore without conscious thought. A reading that makes sense is "... pain to be refused by a woman whom he loved so deeply." Possibly the author is another person deluded into thinking that passive constructions should always be avoided in good writing.

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