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"You'll be teased something dreadful," said Myrtle happily.

I think the sentence means You'll be teased dreadfully. However, I don't quite understand the grammar of the sentence. I've seen "tease sb about sth.". Is it also ok to say "tease sb. sth."? What's the correct way to understand that sentence?

-- From Harry Potter.

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"Tease sb. sth." doesn't work. Actually, "tease" really has nothing to do with what you're seeing here.

What you're seeing in your quote is a very specific, informal sense of "something" where "something" is an adverb which must be followed by an adjective. It is mostly used with only a handful of (essentially synonymous in this context) adjectives: terrible, awful, fierce, good.

As you said, the expression "something adj" essentially treats the adjective as an adverb. You can't however, just substitute in the adverb directly in all cases. For example, it may need to be moved:

I’m hungry something terrible. [= "I'm terribly hungry."]
Amanda, Bibliomaniac (blog), Mar. 21, 2003

The reason why "something adj" is used instead of the adverb is because it adds emphasis. In this context, it might also be used because it sounds a little dated (Myrtle is old, after all.)

Also, there's a superficially similar form that doesn't have the same meaning:

I shook something fast. [= I shook something quickly.]

Compare with "I begun to shake something terrible". There's no magic formula to decide which meaning is intended, so you have to decide which meaning makes the most sense pragmatically. (It's also relevant to note that according to my Google searches, "something" is rarely used as an adverb.)


See also the examples numbered 18 in this tangentially related PDF.

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It's British slang, and doesn't really make grammatical sense outside of that context. Off the top of my head you can use it with awful as well (something awful).

It turns the adjective into an adverb, so it's the same as saying, "You'll be teased dreadfully".

It's rather old British slang, so I'd avoid using it unless you've picked up all the other nuances of a dialect that uses it.

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  • Interesting to know it. Is it common in English that "something +adjective" = adverb? E.g. He has done it gracefully. VS He has done it something graceful. – dan Nov 5 '18 at 6:28
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    No, it doesn't work in the general case. As far as I can remember, it only applies to dreadful and awful, but maybe someone can come up with another example. – Omegastick Nov 5 '18 at 6:37
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    Actually, I think in American English they use something fierce sometimes. That means to a great extent or very. – Omegastick Nov 5 '18 at 6:39
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    It's (maybe dialectal or archaic but not weird) Swedish too - "Du ska bli retad något otroligt" = "You shall be teased something incredible". I picked words to be as similar (Germanic) as possible in these two sentences. – Prof. Falken Nov 5 '18 at 12:47

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