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Page 307 of Cobuild English Usage reads

You use very much in front of adjuncts, not 'very': She does things very much her own way.

Sometimes it's used in front of noun groups to emphasize someone or something has all the qualities you would expect a particular kind to have.

He was very much a seaman.

Isn't very much modifying the verbs in these examples instead?

Secondly, would both uses be grammatical without very, using only much ?

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In the first example, “in her own way” is an adverbial phrase (also called an “adjunct”) that modifies the verb. The “very much” modifies the adjunct by intensifying it.

So I do not think you can say that “very much” modifies the verb.

She does things very much

is not idiomatic.

I think it is more descriptive to say that “very much in her own way” as a whole modifies the verb, but that “very much” considered in isolation modifies the adjunct “in her own way.”

In the second example, the “very much” is modifying the noun phrase “a seaman” in a special idiomatic sense explained in what you have quoted. It means

He was an excellent seaman, who possessed every nautical skill.

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  • Would both uses be grammatical without very? using only much ?
    – GJC
    Aug 30 '21 at 16:59
  • No. Although both “much” and “very” can be used as independent words, what you quoted is trying to explain that the entire phrase “very much” sometimes is required. Aug 30 '21 at 17:05

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