4

This is about the use of even as an adverb. I only found this. The question is whether you can express surprise by using something like a comma followed by the adverb. Here's a typical interaction, possibly about something like ice cream:

Clerk - This is what you get for 5 EUR.

Customer - Ok, I'll have one, thank you.

Clerk - Here you go. Wait, let me see what you have... I'll even give you more.

vs.

I'll give you more, even.

[ I'll even give you even more? ]

Can you have a comma construct like with the second example and carry the meaning of surprise even though the word is not before the verb proper? Is there any difference between the two and is that even idiomatic English? If you want to express both the surprise and the intensity, will you even go as far as to use even twice?

2

I think Collins misses the mark by calling "even" an expression of surprise. "Even" is sort of an all-purpose intensifier, and is actually pretty hard to nail down. The OED's definition I think gets pretty close (but its length is an indicator of how fuzzy the word is):

  1. Intimating that the sentence expresses an extreme case of a more general proposition implied (= French même). Prefixed (in later use often parenthetically postfixed) to the particular word, phrase, or clause, on which the extreme character of the statement or supposition depends.

Merriam-Webster says "even" can be "used to stress something that is surprising or unlikely"; it doesn't necessarily have to be surprising, but if it is so, even intensifies that. Also relevant, "used as an intensive to stress an extreme or highly unlikely condition or instance: so simple even a child can do it".

With that said, I think indicating "extremeness" is the operative function of "even"; if there is surprise, it isn't indicated by even, so much as stressed by even.

I think all the sentences you listed are grammatical; however, I don't think any of them necessarily indicate surprise. I'll take the last sentence:

I'll even give you even more[.]

which I do think is workable. The first "even" is an adverb modifying "give". This "even" is emphasizing that what is being given is an "extreme case"; the speaker does not regularly "give more" but is in this case. The second "even", also an adverb, modifies the adjective "more" (as in "more ice cream"). This usage is covered by 9e:

Emphasizing a comparative; ‘still’, ‘yet’.

So, the sentence would be equivalent to saying

I'll even give you yet more.

As for the even at the end of the sentence:

I'll give you more, even.

In this case, I'm pretty sure that the even is simply the even that modifies "give". In other words, this is semantically identical to "I'll even give you more." Moving the adverb to the end of the sentence, however, typically intensifies it. "I'll eventually go home." v/s "I'll go home, eventually." As such, that construction has intensified the intensifier, if you will.

I'll give you more. < I'll even give you more. < I'll give you more, even.

So the second "even" intensifies "more" and can be used with or without the even that intensifies "give". Theoretically, then, "I'll give you even more, even" would work, but it sounds clumsy at best. I suspect that has to do with the intervening adverb in general more than the two evens ("I'll give you still more, even" doesn't sound much better to me). Regardless, I don't think any of these constructions affect the extent to which surprise is indicated, as such. I think that they do affect the intensity, and if surprise follows, then it is affected as well.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you! This "has intensified the intensifier" was most excellent! But does having even at the end make it more informal at the same time re: cambridge in the other answer - can the comma make a difference? You're right, surprise doesn't cut it. Imho it's maybe more something vertical as opposed to intensity being horizontal so to speak. I notice the OED refers to French - most likely sth. like III A. etc; I had hoped this would be easier! Do you think I'll give you even more(,) at that matches that "intensifier"? Thanks again! – user16335 Feb 10 '15 at 6:20
  • 1
    @Amphiteóth You're most welcome! The shifting of the adverb is where the rules aren't as clear to me; that's the part of my answer I'd be least surprised for someone to correct. That said, I don't have a solid feeling for its effect on formality. My feeling (only a feeling) is that, yes, the adverb at the end (as in my "eventually" example) is less formal, or at least more conversational. OTOH, "even" at the end, per se, feels more old-fashioned, if not exactly formal. I don't have a feeling for whether the comma matters. – Matthew W Feb 10 '15 at 7:15
  • 1
    @Amphiteóth I don't think "at that" is an exact match, although it is similar. Going back to the OED, "at that (orig. U.S., colloq. or slang): estimated at that rate, at that standard, even in that capacity, in respect of that; too; ‘into the bargain’: ‘a cant phrase..used to define more nearly or intensify something already said’ (Bartlett)." From that definition, it does sound like a direct replacement. There is a nuance between the two that I'm not able to describe, and honestly that I may be imagining. Certainly they would both work, and if there is a difference it would be slight. – Matthew W Feb 10 '15 at 7:24
0

According to the Cambridge Dictionary,

We sometimes put even at the end of a clause or sentence in informal speaking.
I can’t remember him at all. I’ve forgotten what he looks like even. (more informal, used in speaking)

I'm not sure if we can use a comma to set it apart from the rest of the sentence. Maybe we could, if we imagine our hero making a pause before "even" and we want our sentence to be true to his prosody.

Maybe using the comma would be even betten than not using it. This way, the word "even" will be separated from "more", and the sentence will sound less like sentences in which "even" has a different sense:

I'll give you more, even. ("even" as adverb)
This surface is more even. (adjective: meaning, this surface is less bumpy)


Now, to your last example:

I'll even give you even more.

I'm on an even shakier ground here, as a non-native speaker. I know that "even" belongs to "(additive) focusing modifiers". With a focusing adverb, different elements in the sentence may serve as its "focus", so there sometimes arises an ambiguity:

You can [only exit from this lane]. (this is the only lane you can exit from)
You can [only exit] from this lane. (the only purpose you can use this lane for is exit)

Similarly, in

I'll [even give you more].

..the focus is usually on "more", as opposed to

I'll [even give you] more.

..where the focus would be on the fact of giving - implicating that usually some other alternatives obtain. Maybe I usually throw the additional amounts of icecream at the customer, but this time, I will be so kind as to actually give it in a civil manner.

The risk of misreading the sentence this way is negligible, but it could be that it slightly increases then two "even"s are used:

I'll [even give you] [even more].

..because in an ideal grammatical world each "even" should probably have its own focus. Let native speakers decide if it's so.

But my guess is that in an informal situation the customer will understand it the right way, as an additional, possibly ungrammatical, emphasis:

I'll [even give you even more]. (both "even"s focusing on "more")

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Thank you! I didn't know this could be seen as more informal; that it's close to affecting the register is quite useful! It's not clear whether the comma makes a difference or is just a reflex of mine. There are different implications as you show. p.s. additive modifier... indeed... as in quantity, whereas there is imho also that qualitative use which is I think what the Collins' Learners was trying to describe. I may be wrong. Thanks! – user16335 Feb 10 '15 at 6:25
  • 1
    You're welcome, @Amphiteóth! It was interesting to read up on this issue! It would be interesting to read some further answers, so don't make your final vote just yet. (0: – CowperKettle Feb 10 '15 at 6:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy