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Classification of degree modifiers

Adjectives can be modified by intensifiers, which indicate the degree, or extent, to which such adjectives apply, such as baie very and erg extremely, as in:

Die komitee is baie bekommerd.
the committee be.PRS very concerned
The committee is very concerned.


in 'n erg vervalle toestand
in an extremely dilapidated condition

Intensifiers can also be adverbial degree words, such as betreklik relatively and ontsaglik immensely, as in:

Suid-Afrika is nog betreklik jonk.
South Africa be.PRS still relatively young
South Africa is still relatively young.


Hierdie toneel is vir ons ontsaglik waardevol.
this scene be.PRS for us immensely valuable
This scene is immensely valuable to us.

Categories of degree word modification

While adjectives can be modified by intensifiers (baie very) and adverbial degree words (uitsonderlik exceptionally), such intensification can be classified in accordance with three progressive degrees of intensification, although the demarcation between them may be somewhat fuzzy.


Amplifying intensifiers, or amplifiers, cause a high degree interpretation of the adjective:

Verbruikers moet baie versigtig wees.
consumers must.AUX.MOD very careful be
Consumers must be very careful.


Downtoning intensifiers, or downtoners, such as nouliks barely, cause a low degree interpretation of the adjective:

Sy is nouliks bewus daarvan.
she be.PRS barely conscious thereof
She is barely aware of it.


Neutralising intensifiers or neutralisers, such as taamlik fairly, cause a medium degree interpretation of the adjective:

'n taamlik deftige restaurant
a fairly stylish restaurant

Additional categories of degree word modification

Adverbial degree words can be questioned, e.g. by means of hoe how, as shown in the example below:

al was hy ook hoe versigtig
even be.PRT he also how careful
however careful he was

The adverbial degree can be universally quantified if the meaning of the adjective allows it, e.g. by means of heeltemal completely, as in the example below:

Die taxi's is heeltemal verwoes.
the taxi's be.PRS completely wrecked
The taxis are completely wrecked.

An approximate degree can be expressed, e.g. by means of amper almost, as shown in the example below:

Dit is amper onmoontlik.
it be.PRS almost impossible
It is almost impossible

Measure phrases

A small group of adjectives allows a more exact type of intensification in the form of a measure phrase, yielding an exact degree, or an unspecified measure of intensification.

Adjectives can be negated, as shown below:

My hare is nie rooi nie.
my hair be.PRS not red PTCL.NEG
My hair is not red.

A high degree can be evoked by means of the adverb so so:

Die patats lyk so lekker!
The sweet.potatoes look so tasty!

More often, though, so as is used as degree word in conjunction with soos as to express comparison:

Hy is nie so intelligent soos jy nie.
he be.PRS not as intelligent as you PTCL.NEG
He is not as intelligent as you.

In addition to so as, as illustrated above, comparison can be expressed by means of ewe equally, as in:

Julle is ewe oud.
you be.PRS equally clever
You are equally clever.
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