2

I was wondering. What is the maximum number of adverbs that can be used to modify an adjective or verb?

For example. Can I say:

You look way so much better today

Or

You look very so much better today

2
  • 2
    Well, there's a film called Truly, madly, deeply (implying in love)! But your examples are not idiomatic English - it would be much better to limit it to very much or so much. Jun 9, 2023 at 10:34
  • 3
    I think the reason that example sounds non-idiomatic is just one of those implicit native speaker rules that require certain orders, "so very much better" sounds fine to my ears.
    – Ben Murphy
    Jun 9, 2023 at 11:23

2 Answers 2

5

There's no imposed limit on the number of adverbs you can use in the same way that there is no limit on the number of adjectives you can use.

  • A beautiful, big, red flower.
  • He suddenly ran, quickly and quietly.

There is of course a natural limit on both. For example, you couldn't use two adjectives or adverbs that mean the same thing, because that would be a redundancy, which just sounds ridiculous (eg "a big enormous huge plane"). Likewise, you couldn't use contradictory adjectives for the same reason (eg "a big little average man"). And, given that there are only so many types of adverb (time, frequency, manner etc) and adjective (size, colour etc) there are only so many things you could say about one thing.

While there are some adverbs of intensity that are idiomatically used together as an adverb phrase (eg "so very much"), your example of "way so much better" sounds wrong, as 'way better' and 'so much better' mean the same thing.

3
  • 4
    "very so much" doesn't work, but "so very much" is actually pretty common in informal usage.
    – Yorik
    Jun 9, 2023 at 15:57
  • 2
    And likewise, "a big huge enormous plane" is workable in certain usages (though it sounds childish, like a book for small children). Not only is there an order, but there's an order for even very similar words. I think in these cases it's increasing order of intensity-"huge" is bigger than "big, and "enormous" is bigger than both. Likewise, "so" and "very" are acting as intensifiers (intuitively on much?), with "very" being more intense than "so", so it needs to be "so very much" rather than "very so much". Jun 9, 2023 at 17:46
  • @Yorik agreed. The reason 'so way better' is wrong is because 'way' is actually a quantifier that is misused as an intensifier - eg you can say "way more", but you can't say "very more". It's accepted that you can say "way better" but when you mix the types of adverb, it makes no sense.
    – Astralbee
    Jun 10, 2023 at 12:20
0

It also matters whether the adverbs are before or after the verb, not for grammar, perhaps, but for idiomatic use.

@KateBunting cited "Truly, madly, deeply". To me, it is much more natural to say:

I love you truly, madly, deeply.

than

I truly, madly, deeply love you.

But be careful with adverbs in general. They are often overused. When Elizabeth Barrett Browning asked "How do I love thee?" she wrote a whole sonnet in answer, with only two adverbs

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .