Qualifiers and Intensifiers: A Grammar Guide

My brother-in-law requested that I write today’s blog post.

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We all have a grammar rule or writing tool that gets under our skin when used incorrectly. My beef is with comic sans. His beef is with qualifiers.

“Why do you have to take away from the verb?” he says. “Just leave that word out.”

The reason why we add in that extra word is to further express our point. We need one more word that clarifies our true meaning, be it a positive or negative message.

In short, your intent changes whether that extra word is an intensifier or a qualifier.

So what’s the difference between a qualifier and intensifier? I’ll need more than an extra word to explain.

What is a Qualifier?

A qualifier is a type of modifier that clarifies the full meaning of the verb or phrase.

Let’s look at this example, with the second sentence featuring the qualifier:

Greg arrives to work by nine.

Greg sometimes arrives to work by nine.

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The first sentence is straightforward. The second sentence limits the amount of times that Greg arrives to work by nine.

And wouldn’t we all like to hear the stories about the other days when he doesn’t get to work by nine!

The second sentence, with the qualifier sometimes, changes the meaning of the first sentence by minimizing Greg’s consistent behavior of arriving to work by nine o’clock to an action he performs some of the time.

Who knows, maybe Greg arrives to work on the other days even earlier than nine!

A qualifier is added to a sentence either to qualify what you are saying or to express doubt. You include a qualifier in a sentence when you want to limit the meaning of the verbs and adjectives that they alter.

Example of Qualifiers

Think of a qualifier as a Debbie Downer. Its intent is to drag the chipper attitude of a sentence, be it limiting or reducing its impact within the sentence. There are more qualifiers than are captured here, but here’s the list of the most common qualifiers categorized by use and intent:

To Lessen the Impact of a Verb:

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  • May
  • Maybe
  • May be
  • Might
  • Could
  • Kind of
  • Sort of
  • Somewhat
  • Slightly
  • Hardly
  • Barely
  • Rarely
  • Infrequently
  • Seldom
  • Sporadically
  • Scarcely
  • For a short time


She might attend the company picnic next Saturday.

The weatherman predicted that rain could start this afternoon.

Jack and Judy are sporadically skilled at juggling.

To Reduce the Number:

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  • Few
  • Not many
  • A small number
  • A minority
  • Some


I invited a few friends to the holiday party.

I bought some shirts from the department store.

Not many students attended the winter dance last night.

To Create Doubt:

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  • Unlikely
  • Improbable
  • Doubtful
  • Possibly
  • Probably
  • Not likely
  • Undecidedly
  • Apparently


Vince’s application is not likely to be selected for the scholarship.

I probably can’t go to dinner with you if this meeting doesn’t end by five o’clock.

Dennis possibly could be chosen for the position if he works hard on his writing sample.

To Speak in Generalizations:

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  • Basically
  • Essentially
  • Generally
  • Pretty
  • Rather
  • Virtually


I find it rather concerning that the test wasn’t supervised by the teacher.

It’s pretty clear that Rachel should win the contest.

You’ll find the festival happening essentially in the downtown area.

What is an Intensifier?

An intensifier is a type of modifier that acts like a qualifier, but in the opposite way. Think of an intensifier in a sentence as an extra punch or a boost on syllabic power.

While a qualifier is used to weaken words or phrases, an intensifier is used to strengthen the words and phrase that they modify.

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I’ll give you an example:

QUALIFIER: I somewhat enjoy the roller coasters here.

INTENSIFIER: I absolutely enjoy the roller coasters here!

Examples of Intensifiers

Intensifiers are all or nothing. They are either emphatically positive or devastatingly negative. Unlike qualifiers, intensifiers can be categorized as two lists:

Positive Intensifiers:

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  • Absolutely
  • Completely
  • Very
  • Extremely
  • Greatly
  • Totally
  • Utterly
  • Highly
  • Strikingly
  • Terrifically
  • Incredibly
  • Astoundingly
  • Extraordinarily
  • Too
  • So
  • Rather
  • Really
  • Especially
  • Exceptionally
  • Particularly
  • Phenomenally
  • Outrageously
  • Fantastically


He particularly admired Teresa when she apologized to Walter for breaking his scooter.

I highly recommend Lloyd for the position.

We completely agree that chocolate cake is better than vanilla cake.

Negative Intensifiers:

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  • Never
  • At all
  • Dangerously
  • Seriously
  • Ever again
  • Bitterly
  • Dreadfully
  • Colossally


I will never trust you!

We did not enjoy that movie at all.

It is dreadfully cold out tonight.

To Increase the Number:

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  • Many
  • Most
  • Lots of
  • Numerous
  • Countless
  • A majority
  • Mostly
  • Various


I love you for countless reasons.

Numerous colleagues recommended that you win the Employee of the Month award.

A majority of apartment pools in the city stay open after Labor Day.

Expressing Frequent Occurrence:

  • Often
  • Frequently
  • Commonly
  • For a long time
  • Usually
  • Repeatedly


She usually picks us up at the mall entrance.

They frequently stop by the ice cream parlor on their way home from work.

I have repeatedly told you to leave me alone when I’m on the phone!

Qualifiers vs Intensifiers

To recap, qualifiers and intensifiers are both modifiers to convey the opposite effect within a sentence. A qualifier weakens or lessens the impact of a word or phrase in a sentence, while an intensifier strengthens or emphasizes the importance of a word or phrase in a sentence.


  1. […] Why? “A qualifier weakens or lessens the impact of a word or phrase … while an intensifier strengthens or emphasizes the importance of a word or phrase,” according to K.L. Wightman’s grammar guide. […]

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