Marx – ladies and gents – was truly a "tough guy".

Is this sentence OK? I mean the postition of the indefinite article? Why is it not placed before the word "truly" as in the sentence "he was a very tough guy"?


The author does not mean that Marx was a truly tough guy (= a very tough guy) but that he was truly (in truth, in fact) a tough guy and not something else (which is presumably described elsewhere in the discourse—for instance, a sentimental do-gooder or an armchair theorist).

|improve this answer|||||
  • 1
    I think it would be at least very least "odd" to apply modifiers like truly, really, very, to the specific word tough in OP's cited context, because of the scare quotes - which to my mind imply the enclosed term should be treated as a single semantic unit (within which you can't naturally abstract one component for modification). Not that this would be apparent in speech, so essentially it's a matter of orthography. Offhand I can't think of any similar two-word collocation where this "indivisible semantic unit" principle would apply even if there weren't any scare quotes. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jul 23 '16 at 14:39

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.