Informal English: well as an intensifier

partsofspeechHave you ever come across sentences like ‘that’s well interesting!’ or ‘I am well aware of the consequences’?

You have probably heard similar sentences if you’ve ever lived in the UK. Indeed this particular use of ‘well’ is typically British and not common at all in American English.

WELL AS AN INTENSIFIER

In the above examples ‘well’ is used as an intensifier to mean ‘very‘ (‘that’s very interesting!’) or ‘fully‘ (‘I’m fully aware of the consequences’) with the aim of adding extra emphasis to what is being said.

When used as an intensifier, ‘very’ is followed by an adjective (interesting / aware).

Notice that this use is typical of colloquial and informal English. Don’t use it in formal writing!

a: ‘I’ve missed the bus by one minute and now I have to walk to work!’
b: ‘That’s well annoying!’

WELL AS AN ADVERB

Since we’re at it, it’s important to mention that in its most common use, ‘well’ falls into the category of adverbs like in the sentence ‘she can cook well’. In this instance, well is an adverb in that it describes the way an action (cook) is performed (well).

On a final note, ‘well’ can also be an adjective, that is a descriptive word, like in ‘I don’t feel very well’ or ‘I’m not well’.

So I hope that next time you hear someone using ‘well’ in this way it won’t puzzle you anymore.
I also suggest that you start using well as an intensifier every now and then, it will make you sound more ‘British’ 🙂
Talk soon,
Deb

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2 thoughts on “Informal English: well as an intensifier

  1. Ciao Deb… in italiano non esiste la parte del discorso “intensifier”, quindi “well” verrebbe classificato solo come avverbio (ad-verbum, vicino al verbo). Dal tuo post invece capisco che in “high-British” esiste una modalità “intensifier”… che dove si colloca nella grammatica? Al pari di avverbi, nomi, aggettivi e simili, o come sottocategoria degli avverbi?
    Traduci in English, se credi, sai che io non ne sono in grado 😉 e non mi offendo!
    F

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