What is the term for a word that alters the degree or severity of the subsequent word? In the example below, what is the term for "somewhat"?

Ex: He was somewhat unhappy.


The Wikipedia article Intensifier refers to them as degree modifiers, or more specifically degree adverbs (or adverbs of degree).


It's known simply as an adverb.

An adverb modifies or describes in some way a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. The following sentences have italicized adverbs, used in various ways:

He was inconsolably unhappy.

She ran quickly in the 100-yard dash.

I found his ignorance of the subject quite astounding!

Completely and blindly oblivious to the faux pas [not an adverb] he had just committed, he made us all feel very uncomfortable being there.

Teal green emeralds are simply and absolutely my favorite gemstones.


In traditional grammar, such words are modifiers. If the word or phrase modified is a nominal, the modifier is an adjective:

John had a severe headache.

Otherwise the modifier is an adverb:

John had an intolerably severe headache. (modifying an adjective)
John had a quite intolerably severe headache. (modifying another adverb)

Adverbs of this sort (“adverbs of degree”) may also modify verbs, but the language is usually not very happy with placing them before the verb:

? John severely suffered from headaches.
  John suffered severely from headaches.

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