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Two doctors talk about myths about the brain, and they try to correct it. First they say the myth, and then they talk about it. One of such myth is:

"You can't prevent a stroke."

A: Noooo, that is not true.

B: That is very not true, actually.

The second sentence shows us a different usage of "very". It is used with a meaning "at all", meaning "That is not true at all."

However if we place the "very" in regular usage "That is not very true, actually", it would mean "It is true to some extent", which would be different.

So I wonder if this usage is common amongst native speakers? If yes, then we should be careful where to place the "very" in such negative sentences, should not we?

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  • You are mistaken. I can only imagine That is not very true, actually as a natural utterance if it's refuting someone else having just said That is very true. Where it would be perverse to interpret the refutation as implying It's not very true; it's only a little bit true. By "normal" standards, the refutation of very X is not X at all, not slightly X. Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 10:41
  • @FumbleFingers FWIW, I can understand "That is not very true" to mean "That's not completely accurate" or "That's mostly inaccurate".
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 21:58

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Yes, you need to be careful about the placement of very.

The first form is not idiomatic, though it sometimes occurs in jokes or muddled speech. We generally don't use intensifiers like "very" in front of not. The idiomatic way to say "very not true" is "very untrue" or "very false".

The effect of using this non-idiomatic order of words is hard to describe. It is childish, it seems like the speaker isn't able to use the proper adjective. Or that the speaker is so shocked by a claim that they are having difficulty putting words together. I've found this example:

No, Trump's email servers are very not secure.

The effect is to make the author seemed stunned by the claim that the servers are secure.

However "not very" has the different meaning mentioned in the question.

Word order is generally significant, and changing the word order can change the meaning.

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    I agree it can often seem "childish" to place emphatic very before negating not. But increasingly over recent decades we use so in exactly this way in informal contexts; That is so not true! Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 10:47

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