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Is the statement below true about the difference between really and very when really means “very” in the example “It’s very/really hot in the summer”?

“Really” shows more involvement, even feeling, on the part of the speaker, thus is more personal sometimes. “Very” is more neutral. —englishforums.com

Thanks.

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Yes, that's really true. –  Amos M. Carpenter Aug 2 '12 at 3:34
    
@aaamos "True" is a non gradable adjective. –  RandomDuck.NET May 2 '13 at 1:45
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@RandomDuck.NET: I believe you mean non-gradable. I also believe that not all people get irony. And true is only non-gradable in the boolean logic sense. In practice, there are always degrees of truth.... –  Amos M. Carpenter May 2 '13 at 2:01
    
Really can modify any kind of constituent, but very can only modify adjectives and adverbs. In situations where they're both modifying the same word, there's no difference in meaning. –  John Lawler Sep 27 at 3:30

3 Answers 3

I don't agree with that distinction. If you look up really and very, they both can be used as intensifiers. (In your example sentence, they intensify the word "hot.") I don't believe one is more "personal" than the other.

I do agree, however, with Theodore Bernstein's entry on the word very in his book The Careful Writer:

...An aside on the word very... Inexperienced writers tend to use the word too much. Often its use is self-defeating; the writer intends to intensify what he is saying, but instead weakens it. He may write, "Hemingway's prose is very lean and very strong," not realizing that he would express his thought more forcefully if he wrote, "Hemingway's prose is lean and strong." If the word very seems to be necessary to strengthen what has been written, the writer should re-examine his original selection of words. Strong words usually need no such prop."

I believe the same is true for the word really.

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I very much agree with you, in very strong terms. Really. –  Bob Aug 2 '12 at 18:07

They can both be used to intensify, but they're not always interchangeable. I can say:

"I really like JLG's answer."

but I wouldn't say,

"I very like JLG's answer."

Correspondingly, I could say,

"I like JLG's answer very much."

but I probably wouldn't say,

"I like JLG's answer really much."

(That's just an example, even though I really do think it's a very good answer.)

That parenthetical statement brings up one other distinction: really can mean truly, as well as very. So, if I say,

"I'm really proud of my daughters."

that could mean two different things. It might mean, quite simply:

"I'm very proud of my daughters."

or, it might mean,

"No, I'm serious – I truly am proud of my daughters."

(The latter might be used in the case where, say, I had told someone that I was proud of my daughters, and they seemed somewhat incredulous, unaware that I even had a family.)

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Verily I say, I like J.R.'s answer, too. In my answer, I decided not to enter into a discussion of using "very" as a modifier for verbs and past participles, which as you know is not always successful and frowned upon by some editors. See the usage note in the "very" entry I link to in my answer. –  JLG Aug 2 '12 at 14:39

As others have said, very and really can both be used to intensify. A main difference is that we don't use very to modify verbs.

He very runs quickly. (incorrect)

He really runs quickly. (correct--really is used with verbs)

He runs very quickly. (modifies the adverb quickly)

He runs really quickly. (also correct--this is where very and really are interchangeable)

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