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I know in general terms how to use "very much" but since my students started making specific questions and writing sentences like the one above I got very confused (I'm brazilian, and I just started working as an English Teacher).

I would say that the sentence would sound better if it was "I like to play volleyball on weekends very much", but I want to understand what positions it could be placed and how it would change the sentence's meaning.

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    Very much exists because one would like to use very to modify a verb phrase, but can't. Very can't modify a verb phrase -- only adjectives and adverbs. So one can't say *I very like that or *I like that very. Instead, one says I very much like that or I like that very much. – John Lawler Oct 1 '15 at 18:24
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As John says, "very much" modifies a verb phrase. It means the same as the more casual "a lot" or "a whole lot". It's most natural position is after the verb phrase that it modifies, just like "a lot", but unlike "a lot", it can also go before the verb phrase that it modifies or after the main verb of that phrase.

When "very much" modifies a preceding complement construction, there is often a distressing ambiguity about whether it modifies the main verb phrase or the complement verb phrase: "I prefer not to eat snails very much" could mean either that your preference for not eating snails is extreme, or that snails are okay if indulged in only occasionally. That ambiguity is resolved by moving "very much" to a position either immediately before or immediately after "prefer", because then "very much" can only modify the entire verb phrase with "prefer".

On the other hand, "a lot" cannot be disambiguated in this way, since it has to go after the verb phrase it modifies. I think that this sort of disambiguation is mainly what "very much" is useful for, at least in casual conversation.

When "very much" comes before the verb phrase it modifies, it follows auxiliary verbs or other adverbs:

I have always very much preferred fish.
??I have very much always preferred fish.
*I very much have always preferred fish.

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Adverbs are funny things--often, they can appear anywhere in a sentence and not affect meaning. Grammatically, there is no difference between "I very much like to do X," "I like very much to do X...," and "I like to do X...very much," though idiomatically, the first choice seems to me the best. Another issue worth addressing with your students, though, is when such adverbs should be used at all. For example, you might ask your students why they don't instead say "I love to play volleyball on weekends." Otherwise, someone might say, "I really love to play volleyball"--but does this convey more information than "I love to play volleyball," or does it simply add a word?

  • I see, thanks for the input! But I cant exactly ask them to use "I love to play" because they are at the very begining of their studies and the exercise asked them to use "very much"... also, they always want to understand how they should use things, wich is terrible because the school's method don't accept grammatical explanations (it's based on neuro linguistic programming) and so I should know the grammar and explain in some other way. – Letícia Wilhelm Oct 1 '15 at 20:14
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    I see what you mean. And adverbs are especially tricky. There are certain rules, but I think in the specific case you mention, it's less a question of grammar than idiom. Generally speaking, the closer an adverb is to the verb it is modifying, the better, BUT no one says "I very much love you"--they say, "I love you very much." In that sense, you are right to focus on what sounds better, though this can also be quite subjective. – surlawda Oct 1 '15 at 20:56
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When you use a verb as a transitive verb, the phrase "very much" usually goes after the object; we should not use it after the verb. So you usually say:

I like to play volleyball very much on weekends.

However, it's also correct if you use the "very much" at the end of the sentence or before the verb as follows:

I like to play volleyball on weekends very much.

I very much like to play volleyball on weekends.

I think it's unidiomatic to use the "very much" between the verb and the object such as:

I like very much to play volleyball on weekends. The infinitive phrase "to play football on weekends" is functioning as a direct object in the sentence.

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"I very much like to play volleyball..." is a rather formal, but completely correct, use of that phrase.

In common speech, I would suggest using other words, such as "I really like to play..."

But that may contribute to lessening our beautiful language; I don't know ;)

  • Welcome to ELL, Matt, and thanks for your answer. The questioner is a teacher, and she wants to understand how to teach the use of very much, so an answer with examples of its usage might be a little more useful. Please read our tour and Help Center pages. They will explain what we do here, and help you to write a good question and answer. We hope you'll write many more! – P. E. Dant Jul 17 '17 at 21:09

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