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I notice that it is rubbish means it is bad, but can we say it is completely rubbish meaning it is completely bad in everyday English? Do native speakers of English say that, other than the obviously correct it is complete rubbish?

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If you want to emphasize that it isn't just rubbish, but is exceptionally rubbish-y, you can also say it is utter rubbish. –  Autoresponder Aug 28 '11 at 7:37
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5 Answers

In this instance, it's the noun "rubbish" being used as an adjectival metaphor, so the construction would be adv. + adj.

However, I think the phrase in British English is "complete rubbish", no? But you are correct, it is an idiomatic expression for "bad", which is an adjectival, not a noun. In that instance, you'd be using "complete rubbish" as adj. + noun, as a metaphorical adjective.

"Completely rubbish" would probably be most often used to refer to actual piles of rubbish, wherein nothing of value can be found.

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I am a native speaker who says both 'completely rubbish' and 'complete rubbish'. I suspect I use them interchangeable as in 'This is complete(ly) rubbish', but I think kiamlaluno hints at the distinction.

He was a completely rubbish manager

This book is complete rubbish.

The first example has rubbish as an adjective and completely as an adverb, the second has rubbish as a noun and complete as an adjective. However,

He was completely rubbish as a manager.

He was a completely rubbish manager.

He was complete rubbish as a manager.

all sound okay to me. 'This book is completely rubbish' sounds odder, but, like I said, I suspect I say it. 'complete rubbish' really doesn't seem to be used in the US, as sometimes people simply don't understand me when I say it.

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Complete rubbish is rare in the U.S. but not completely unknown. I’ve used it for years, as well as utter rubbish and unadorned rubbish, but it’s likely that I picked it up from reading when I was young. –  Brian M. Scott Aug 28 '11 at 20:05
    
@Brian M. Scott - Agreed. However, completely rubbish is in fact fairly unkown in the USA. Grammatically, I guess you'd say we sometimes use "rubbish" as a noun, but haven't taken the extra step the UK has of making it an adjective. –  T.E.D. Aug 29 '11 at 17:46
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Rubbish is also a verb meaning "criticize severely and reject as worthless," and an adjective meaning "very bad; worthless or useless"; in both the cases, an adverb can be used with rubbish.

He has pointedly rubbished professional estimates of the development and running costs.
People might say I was a completely rubbish manager.

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It should probably be mentioned that neither of these uses of rubbish in normally found in U.S. English. –  Brian M. Scott Aug 28 '11 at 20:02
    
It is also used only in informal phrases. –  kiamlaluno Aug 28 '11 at 20:43
    
E.g., when a polite substitute for ‘Bollocks!’ is wanted. –  Brian M. Scott Aug 28 '11 at 20:45
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"It is completely rubbish" means "it completely is rubbish". In here, completely is used to modify the verb is.

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To illustrate further, let's take a look at these not very uncommon expressions: It is completely chaos; It is completely luck; It is completely an accident. –  Albert Aug 31 '11 at 18:43
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Rubbish in both British and US English can be used as a noun in a metaphorical sense. Rubbish is stuff that you throw away (like "trash"), so saying something is "rubbish" is saying that it is worthless to the point where it should be thrown out.

However, in British English they take the extra step of making "rubbish" an adjective (a word that can be used to modify other nouns). In fact, this may well be the more common usage of it there. Thus "rubbish" can be used in some sentences in British English where it would make no sense in US English.

The phrase you gave is a good illustration of this. In the USA sense, "rubbish" is a noun, so it requires an adjective to modify it, like so:

This is complete rubbish.

Wheras in British English "rubbish" is preferred as an adjective, so it requires an adverb to modify it, not and adjective. So a Brit would instead say:

This is completely rubbish.

So the answer is that completely is good usage in British English, but not in USA English.

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protected by RegDwigнt Apr 20 '12 at 19:13

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