4

I have a question about words that describe feelings. Why is it you say "I am a little tired" or "I am very tired"? Why do you not say "I am a lot tired"?.

It seems to be this way for many adjectives that describe feelings: a little sad, hungry, nervous, unhappy. But it's always: very sad, hungry, nervous, happy.

Can you explain this to me please? Thanks!

7
  • 1
    Okay, but what about "I ran a lot". Isn't "a lot" an adverb there? It could be replaced with "I ran quickly" or "I ran tirelessly". - I just read the answer below and it answered this for me.
    – Kelsey
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 3:41
  • Or "I get tired a lot."
    – user3169
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 3:48
  • @Giambattista I know, I was just adding on to Kelsey's comment.
    – user3169
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 3:53
  • So you can say, "I get tired a lot" with "a lot" as an adverb, but you cannot use "I am a lot tired"? How is it not an adverb in the second one if it is in the first? Is it an issue where "a lot" has a different part of speech depending on how it's used. As in: "a lot = often = adverb", but "a lot = a large amount = adjective"?
    – Kelsey
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 3:58
  • 2
    @Kelsey - The use of a lot is idiomatic in English. This means that it often doesn't follow any rule. Compounding the issue here, the verb to get (like to be) has many idiomatic usages as well. In any language, there are some words and usages that you just have to memorize, and I think the many uses of a lot (which you will often see as the single word alot) exemplify this. Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 4:19

4 Answers 4

1

I'm a little sad.

This means you are sad, and the amount of that sadness is "little."

I'm sad a lot.

This means you are often sad. There's a lot of "events" where you are sad.

This is how you are supposed to use a lot.

I get tired a lot.

This means you often get tired.

I get a lot tired.

Technically, you can do this. I think tired can be considered a "post-positive adjective" of lot - if we consider lot a noun. Compare with "I wanted to buy a car painted" meaning you wanted to buy one that was already painted, or (from Wikipedia on "Postpositive adjectives") "every star visible is named after a famous astronomer".

Get is a copular verb so that means it's "object" can be a "subject complement" - which means an adjective can follow. So "I get tired" is fine, and I guess a lot could be considered an adverbial phrase that qualifies how (much) you get tired. Usually adverbial phrases begin with a conjunction but there is at least one that begins with a determiner - any time - and I don't think lest is a conjunction in e.g. "lest she forget" (reference).

But lot currently makes the most sense when it's used for countable things, e.g. a lot of X, even if they are implied in expressions like "I'm hungry a lot."

1

I have seen/heard "a lot" used in the way you suggest, but only in a joking way. "Are you a little tired?" "Oh, I'm a lot tired". The two phrases do appear to be symmetrical, which is what makes the above a joke, because in fact they are not. I don't have a good explanation, other than, as already said, it's idiomatic.

0

Like most "why" questions in language, the whole of the answer is "because that is the way it is". Sorry.

1
0

I believe most native English speakers (I can only speak about US English here) would understand an ESL speaker saying "I am a lot tired" to be equivalent to "I am very tired" or "I am extremely tired" while "I am tired a lot" means "I am tired frequently" or "I am often tired". I suggest "I am a lot tired" is poor (ambiguous) English and should be avoided.

1
  • Welcome to ELL and thanks for your answer. If you provide examples to illustrate your point, it will make your answer more useful to subsequent visitors. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 22:59

You must log in to answer this question.

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