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The white car is _________ more expensive than the green

(Options: very, pretty, fairly, slightly).

The answer given is slightly. Could you explain why this option is given as the correct one and others are not?

More expensive is an adjective. And I think very, pretty, fairly and slightly are adverbs. So to describe this adjective, can we also use the adverbs very and pretty, instead of slightly?

As I entered this in a grammar correction tool it indicated I should use much as a quantifier after pretty. i.e.

The white car is pretty much more expensive...

Is this is correct?

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  • Never trust grammar checkers. None of them are very good.
    – stangdon
    Jun 30 at 13:55
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    We can say much more and slightly more, but we can't say very more, pretty more or fairly more. We can say very much more, but pretty much more sounds odd. Jun 30 at 13:57
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    slightly, somewhat, much, a bit are all valid before more [expensive, whatever]. But very, pretty, fairly can't be used in conjunction with more in a comparative context - a thing can be fairly big, but it can't be fairly bigger [than something else]. Note that in such contexts, slightly modifies more, not expensive. Jun 30 at 13:59
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    ...but in very expensive, the "intensifier" very directly modifies the main adjective expensive - it can't be used to modify the "comparative" more (but it can be used in the sequence very much more expensive, where very modifies much, which itself modifies more). Jun 30 at 14:08
  • Remember, ELL folks -- however you use a grammar checker in your own language is just how you should use it in English. English is just another language and so English grammar checkers suck just as much as the ones in your native language. Jun 30 at 17:01
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First, adverbs of degree before another adverb will modify that adverb only, not the whole phrase that the adverb is a part of. So, while "more expensive" is an adjective phrase, all of the possible answer words only modify the comparative adverb "more".

Second, although all the answer words are adverbs, different types of adverbs have different rules about what they can modify. Slightly can modify the comparative adverb "more", while very, pretty, and fairly cannot.

So, "slightly" correctly modifies "more", while the other words make for bad grammar. Other adverbs that have similar functions and rules to "slightly" include "a lot", "much", "somewhat", and "no", among others.

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