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Are these correct ways to use very with a noun?

She is the very girl I want.

On the very year of 2012, comes the end of the world.

This is the very company everyone wants to work for.

What I understand is that very can be used to emphasize the importance of a noun.

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I think 'comes' or 'wants' in the 2nd or 3rd examples would fit better. Also, you're already being specific with 2012 so 'very year' does not really make sense imho. –  Alok Aug 18 '12 at 1:44
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Why make an effort to "understand" something? Look up the word in a dictionary, see usage examples. Learn. not speculate. –  Kris Jul 10 '13 at 8:10
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Actually, your 3 examples use "very" to mean "exact" or "specific" . . . replace "very" with either of these words to see what I mean. That usage of "very" is different than your understanding that it can be used to emphasize the importance of a noun. That usage can be found in this example: "The girl is very pretty" –  Kristina Lopez Jul 10 '13 at 17:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It is correct, and the dictionary gives a definition for "very" used this way:

precise; particular: That is the very item we want

so, "very" can be used to indicate that something is the right and exact thing you were looking for.

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It may help to know that "very" was once an adjective meaning "true" and that the adverbial form was "verily", or "truly". The meaning and usage have slipped over time. –  bye Jun 29 '11 at 6:09
    
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, I knew what it meant!" –  Thursagen Jun 29 '11 at 6:26
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I thought it likely that you did (it's hard to have been exposed to any of the Big Three -- Shakespeare, the KJV or the BCP without having noticed something going on). I was merely providing additional info to the OP. –  bye Jun 29 '11 at 6:55
    
BCP ? Bathocuproine? Business Continuity Planning? aha! 5th choice in Google: Book of Common Prayer! –  GEdgar Jun 29 '11 at 14:11

When in doubt, try using the reflexive noun instead of "very" + noun for emphasis. Both are correct, though. And as far as I am concerned, there is no difference in terms of formality.

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What is a reflexive noun? The girl herself, with an emphatic pronoun postfixed? –  tchrist Aug 18 '12 at 4:12
    
I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Can you use one of the examples to illustrate your point? –  KitFox Aug 20 '12 at 14:42

There is a difference between being grammatically correct and being in common usage. If you have to argue with someone about your language choices then the real problem is that you are not communicating effectively.

The problem with very is that it is primarily used as an adjective modifying other adjectives to indicate scale and scope. Most English language learners try to use it as a standalone indication of large or important. As a result, many will use phrases such as, "she is the very girl" instead of she is a very feminine (or beautiful) girl".

For American usage then:

The "very girl" is specifying that she meets what you are searching/hoping for. It fits but is not going to be understood by many "average" people as these sort of references are not used in common speech.

The other two examples will be considered wrong by those you speak with due to failure to establish context.

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"adjective modifying other adjectives" - I think you mean "adverb modifying an adjective". I would have thought that, although the usage is not common, neither is it uncommon, and that it would be understood by most native British speakers. But I agree with Alok that it is inappropriate in the second example. –  TrevorD Jul 10 '13 at 10:43

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