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Can a native American or British English speaker tell me how the word "really" is to be understood in the following context:

Person A: I have something to show you. It's about how I decorated my new house.

Person B: No thanks! I don't really have any interest at all in seeing it, so I don't have to see it.

My current understanding of "really" in this context is that it is used to show that you are being polite with what you are saying, even though it might emotionally hurt or show a disrespect as a response in some way. Am I any correct in this understanding?

  • Are you asking about "I don't really have any interest"? It'd be better just to write the relevant sentence in the question, instead of asking people to watch a silly anime video. (Especially since they're just reading subtitles anyway.) – Nate Eldredge May 4 at 4:08
  • @NateEldredge C'mon on now!! Of course I'm only talking about it in that sentence, cuz I see no other " really " that has been used during the context that I had provided. I totally agree with u that it'd be much better if I just wrote it down, but the the thing is, I really couldn't help but doing it that way, cuz I was lazy enough Af. And I'm really really sorry about me doing it that way, I still hope u can help here tho. – Houssam Bouazizi May 4 at 4:23
  • You can edit your post to add it. – Nate Eldredge May 4 at 4:58
  • @NateEldredge Okay. – Houssam Bouazizi May 4 at 5:31
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    Side note: It's probably better not to use "What's up?" (or your even more informal "Wat up?") in any kind of formal writing, as it's very informal and prevents you from being taken seriously. It's fine with friends and people you know well, but not so great with strangers. It may be the reason why your question was downvoted. Also it's better to use the complete, correct spelling of words such as "you" and "you're", rather than "textese" versions. – Andrew May 6 at 21:56
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@Andrew's answer is correct, however just adding my perspective.

While 'really' is indeed an intensifier, I do believe it is often used as a way to soften the impact of a statement. Ironically, the effect is almost to 'de-intensify' a statement which might be considered to be giving bad news.

To add emphasis:

I really don't want to go to the party.

To remove emphasis:

I don't really want to go to the party.

I know I would say the second sentence if I wanted to avoid a very bald statement such as

I don't want to go to the party.

By adding "I don't really" the sense is softened, perhaps by adding a degree of uncertainty. Other adverbs act in a similar way - "particularly" and "especially" spring to mind. "I don't really want to go to the party [but I will if it makes you happy/but I could perhaps be persuaded to change my mind]."

In essence, what we are saying when we use these adverbs after one of the verbs is:

"I don't want to go to party with any great enthusiasm".

Logically, we are saying "We do want to go to the party, but only a tiny amount". Thus, it softens the let-down for the person who hears the sentence because we are kind of avoiding saying we don't want to go at all.

  • Tanks a lot!! I'll keep your personal view in my mind. – Houssam Bouazizi May 7 at 1:28
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Well, for starters there's really nothing polite about Person B's response. "I don't have any interest at all," and, "I don't really have to see it," are both fairly brusque, and likely to hurt Person A's feelings. This is not specific to English -- in any language, when you don't want to do something, but are too polite to say so, you have to make up some kind of nice-sounding excuse:

Oh, I'm so sorry, I really would love to see your house decorations, but unfortunately my cat just gouged out my eyes after I was late feeding her, and I'm afraid I can't see anything at the moment.

Of course this is silly, but it's still far more polite than saying, "That sounds boring". A less silly example of a common excuse, in any language, would be:

I can't. I'm really busy right now.

To get back to your question: "really" adds emphasis. It helps support that what you are saying is true, and that you're not lying to avoid hurting their feelings (even if that is exactly what you are doing). But you can't just add "really" to a sentence to make it polite. The sentence has to already be polite -- something you should probably practice, if you want to avoid future offense.

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