Section 4: Qualifiers

Prototypical qualifiers usually precede adjectives or adverbs in order to decrease or increase the quality signified by the words they precede. For example:

Before a big test, it matters if you’re a little bit nervous, quite nervous, or very, very nervous.

Some prototypical qualifiers can be phrasal: a bit, kind of, a little.

Use a variation on the adjective frame to identify most qualifiers:

  • The handsome man seems ________ handsome.
  • The handsome man seems very handsome.
  • The handsome man seems quite handsome.
  • The handsome man seems pretty handsome.
  • The handsome man seems less handsome

The most common qualifiers include very, quite, pretty, less, least, rather, somewhat, more, most, too, so, just, enough, indeed, still, almost, fairly, really, even, a bit, a little, a (whole) lot, a good deal, a great deal, kind of, sort of.

In peripheral cases, adverbs can occupy a qualifier position and perform a similar function:

  • The handsome man seems intensely handsome.
  • The handsome man seems excessively handsome.

Intensely and excessively remain adverbs. Note that unlike prototypical qualifiers, they can themselves be qualified: very intenselyquite excessively. In contrast, prototypical qualifiers like very and quite cannot take qualifiers: a little very and pretty quite do not parse.

Don’t confuse them though.Qualifiers are not adverbs!

To test your understanding of the concepts discussed on this page, begin with the link below for an example practice exercise:


For a bit more of a challenge, analyze the following sentence from Robinson Crusoe for qualifiers.

I told my mother that my intensely firm thoughts were bent upon seeing the very wide world that I should never settle to anything with resolution enough to go through with it, and my father should be giving me more robust consent than force me to go without it.

To review your answers to these two samples, check the QUALIFIER SAMPLES ANALYSES page.