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Intensifiers and mitigators in English

On this page, we will review and compare intensifiers and mitigators in English. As we have seen on the previous pages in this lesson, intensifiers increase the intensity of an adjective. For example, hungry can become very hungry, then absolutely starving.

On the other side, there are also mitigators, which are used to reduce the intensity of the adjective. Here’s a  list of mitigators used in English:

  • slightly
  • rather
  • pretty (note: this does not mean appearance)
  • quite
  • fairly
  • a bit (also ‘just a bit’ or ‘a little but’)
  • a little

Here are some examples sentences using the mitigators:

  • He was slightly annoyed that they had run out of his favourite snacks.
  • John said he was rather tired so would probably have an early night (NOTE: ‘rather’ is becoming old fashioned)
  • He was pretty happy with the result, but of course he had hoped to come first, not second.
  • This homework is quite hard so I’m going to ask my friend to help.
  • “What did you think of the film?” “It was quite good – I’d give it 7 out of 10”
  • He’s a bit old to be going to nightclubs, isn’t he?
  • Don’t worry about him – he’s just a little jealous because you got the best office.

So now our table from the previous lesson looks like this, with the strength of the adverb going from weakest (slightly interesting) through to the strongest (utterly fascinating).

Basic adjective with mitigator
That’s a slightly interesting story.
Basic adjective with mitigator
That’s a fairly interesting story.
Basic adjective
That’s an interesting story.
Basic adjective with basic intensifier That’s a very interesting story.
Basic adjective with 2 basic intensifiers That’s a very, very interesting story.
Strong adjective
That’s a fascinating story.
Strong adjective with extreme intensifier
That’s an utterly fascinating story.


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Intensifiers and mitigators in English

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Intensifiers and mitigators in English